Cities That Surprise: Sedona, Arizona

Disclaimer: if you’re averse to anything considered “New Age,” Sedona may not be the right vacation spot for you. Strike that, everyone should go there.

I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is about a 2 hour drive to Sedona. Scottsdale is about as artificial as you can get when it comes to cities, which is why Sedona, one of the country’s spiritual hotspots, seems like an escape to another universe. If you’re New Age phobic, you should still go there; just avoid the crystal shops, the vortex solstice prayer circles and vegan, raw food eateries, and focus on hiking the too-good-to-be-true red rock trails instead. Whether you’re a believer in the mysterious or not, I’m confident you’ll leave Sedona with a feeling of peace and well-being. Here are some of the things I did on my most recent pilgrimage to this spiritual city…

Over the years, I’ve stayed at a number of resorts there, and all were perfectly nice, but if you want to splurge, I suggest the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa. My room was impeccable — with a two person rain shower and an electric fire place. Need I say more? No, I needn’t, but I will. They sent me a complimentary bottle of champagne for my birthday. Want more? OK. There’s a full-size heated pool and hot tub, free yoga in the morning and complimentary appetizers in their restaurant from 4p.m. to 6p.m. OH. And their spa. If you really want to splurge, do yourself a solid and book an appointment there. I got a massage that was to die for and when I was done, I got to take a “clothing optional” swim in a private, outdoor hot tub. Here’s a picture of me post-massage, post-private skinny dip, enjoying my complimentary champy:

I think the look on my face tells you all you need to know about what Sedona will do for your inner peace.

After enjoying your complimentary champagne, you’re probably going to want to eat — or at least, I did. Directly across the street is one the of the best Italian restaurants in Sedona, Dahl & DiLuca. Inside, it’s part throwback era dining (you get serenaded while you eat), part Italian villa. I ordered one of my favorite dishes that I only eat like once every 20 years, Veal Piccata. You should make a reservation in advance because the place was packed. I’ll take a moment here to say that I think something you’ll notice when you visit Sedona is that the people there are so incredibly nice. I would mention how wonderful our waitress was — and she was! — but every single customer service person I came in contact with was just as nice. It’s like a utopia!

I never thought I’d be hungry again after my Huge Italian Dinner, but before a long day of vortex hiking (more on that later), I needed fuel. Just a few doors down from the hotel is a famous breakfast spot, The Coffee Pot Restaurant, home of “101 Omelettes.” Trust me, I wanted to try all 101 of them, but I settled on one — cheddar cheese, green chiles, avocado and salsa — and bought a set of these amazing coffee mugs to take home. They sell them in the gift shop.

Now, let’s get to the bread and butter of WHY people visit Sedona in the first place: the red rocks and the vortexes (actual plural, vortices). Here’s a picture I took at Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built by Frank Lloyd Wright protege, Marguerite Bruswig Staud, nestled right into the mountain.

No filter, I promise. The view is Holy Shit Amazing in person.

I explain more about what a vortex is here, but the quick version is that they are energetic points on the earth’s surface that are said to promote prayer, healing and meditation. There are four main vortices and three minor ones in the city of Sedona. I hiked Bell Rock Vortex and Cathedral Rock Vortex while I was there this holiday season. In the past, I’ve hiked Airport Vortex and visited the Amitabha Stupa (not a vortex, but a spiritual hotspot nonetheless).

The trails are all very accessible and you can go with a guide or on your own. I did Bell Rock with a tour guide. If you’re going that direction, I recommend Sedona Red Rock Tours. Fair warning: if you hike the vortices with a guide, he or she will probably be an aging hippie with a medicine pouch and a feather-adorned hat. I happen to love this vibe, which includes New Age lingo, guided meditation and talk of spirit animals, but not everyone does. The biggest pro of hiking with a guide is that they are very knowledgeable about the history of the city, the culture of the vortices, and they know lots of off-the-beaten trail spots to stop and set intentions with blue cornmeal. Hey…when in Sedona! My thought is this: you can completely enjoy hiking these mountains without a guide, but you get more meaning out of it if you opt for a guided excursion. Either way, if you want to romp around in some of the most beautiful, natural landscapes this country has to offer, you’re going to be in awe no matter how you do it. Below is a picture of me with my tour guide, Akal at Bell Rock Vortex. He was wonderful.

The following day, I went and hiked Cathedral Rock alone. It was a slightly more challenging hike worthy of some good hiking shoes, depending on how far up you want to venture. It was a sunny day and lots of hikers and their kids were out, so even though the views were breathtaking, it wasn’t quite as conducive to spiritual introspection (read: lots of shrieking and photo taking), but it was a decent workout and the vista was insane. Here’s a picture of my view:

Last but not least, you’re going to have to do some looking at art. Because of its spiritual lure, Sedona attracts artists from all over the world. The Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts village is a great place to look at the local art. It has everything from knit hats, to fine art, to hand-crafted Native-American jewelry, to pottery, to homemade fudge. You can seriously spend all day there. There are even restaurants if you get hungry. I walked away with two, beautiful, hand-crafted bracelets and an owl carved out of a deer’s antler from a store called Ninibah.

If you’re not all shopped out and want to get your hands on some crystals and other New Age sundries, you’re in the right city, let me tell you. You can buy a tourmaline pyramid to help ward off your negative energy, get a tarot reading, your aura photographed or pick up some meditation beads on almost any corner. I liked the selection of New Age goodies at Crystal Magic. I didn’t get my aura photographed, but I walked away with a few crystals for my collection. You know, to keep my chakras open until the next time I visit Sedona, which will hopefully be very, very soon.