We began planning our Summer vacation to Arizona last year. I guess you could say that we’re the type of people who likes to plan things out in advance and pay overtime. We also planned the exact week, knowing that it would be the week of our 15 year anniversary. We found an Airbnb that we loved and booked it last year. We purchased airfare tickets, reserved a rental car, and made a list of what all we wanted to do once we got there. Now all we had to do was travel… 🙂
What we didn’t plan on was the boys and I getting sick with a stomach bug right before the trip. I knew our terminal would be right beside the Chick-fil-A, so I had “planned” on getting all of us chicken biscuits for breakfast (it’s one of the boys favorites!) Instead, we were sipping Powerade and doped up on Dramamine. Ha! Needless to say – the first 24-48 hours of travel and vacation was pretty miserable. Sometimes “plans” don’t always go accordingly. Enough about that…just keeping it real folks 😉 (Everything isn’t always as happy-go-lucky as it may seem.)
We flew into Phoenix and drove about 2 hours to Sedona, where we would stay for the week. We saw countless cactuses along the way! For as many pine trees as you see in Georgia, there must have been that many cactuses! (I was careless enough to walk too closely to them – all for some pictures! The cactus spines pierced all the way through my clothes and pricked my skin. Ouch!!)
It was my first time visiting and I sure hope it’s not my last! It’s kind of like a “Gatlinburg in the Desert.” They have the cutest shops/cafes and literally everywhere you look is a beautiful view of the mountains. It’s almost as if you’re looking at a panoramic picture – there’s a pretty view every where you look! A friend from Micah’s work, who has also been to Sedona, said it best…”The rocks change colors throughout the day.” We found that to be so true! The rocks look completely different based on how the sun shines on them. Crazy huh?!
What to Do
Sedona and the surrounding area is an outdoor lovers paradise! There’s so much to do that’s either free or only a parking fee is charged! If you’re unsure of what you would like to do, I recommend stopping by the Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center to pick up some brochures! Isn’t it the cutest little center you’ve ever seen?! It’s so tiny! Sedona has a whopping population of only 10,341 – which is smaller than the town I live in Georgia. If you know where I live then you know… 😉
Grand Canyon National Park: $35 per carload – this price is good for a weeks admission! With it being our first time, we decided to play it safe and just hike the Rim Trail, although there is so much more that you can do there! 17, 715 steps later, 6.6 miles, we did it! (round trip) The canyon is so vast that there’s no way possible to capture its magnitude. It was an experience that I don’t think any of us will ever forget! The sky and sun shining at different times of the day gave the canyon a different look, similar to the rocks in Sedona that I mentioned, as crazy as that sounds! You may notice in the photos how the lighting looks different in some versus others.
Cathedral Rock: $5 parking – no admission fees. This was a fun hike, but a little difficult as you literally hike up the mountain using your hands and knees. You must have good hiking/tennis shoes – sandals or any type of shoe with no grip on the bottom are a no-go! Lastly, if you hike after 5:30 pm (like we did) you’ll want to make sure you have a flashlight for the hike back down. It was dark by the time we made it back to the car. The views are gorgeous here!
Side note: a photographer friend/mentor of mine and her husband flew out to join us for this particular hike and made some family photos for us, as well as some photos of Micah and I since it was our 15 year year wedding anniversary week. I’m so glad they were there with us! She is from Arizona, so she knows all the trails and prepared us well on what to bring! If you could have seen all of us hiking with a change of clothes, shoes, changing tent, etc, you would have laughed! Looking back, I can’t believe we did all that! Ha! I’m excited for our photos with the epic scenery though! #sneakpeak #behindthescenes
Chapel of the Holy Cross: I’m not sure how much parking/admission is here, as we only drove by to see it on the outside. You can visit the inside as well if you choose to. It’s so pretty the way it’s built into the side of the mountain!
Horseshoe Bend: $10 parking – no admission fees. This is an easy hike – about 3/4 mile. Beautiful view!! Only a small section has guard rails, so if you have small children, you’ll definitely have to keep them close!
Antelope Canyon: This was the most expensive tour that we did. The Canyon is owned by the Navajo Indians – so their restrictions are a little bit different. Masks were required on tour. Aside from that, it was one of the coolest places that I’ve ever been too! You take about a 15 minute ride in a 4×4 through the desert to get to the canyon. Once inside, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before – the sunlight beamed down into the canyon and illuminated the walls so beautifully!
(Antelope Canyon is only about 5-10 minutes from Horseshoe Bend, so it’s nice to see both during the same day!)
Devils Bridge: Free! It was a 4 mile round trip hike. Whew! This was the hardest hike out of them all for me. As you near the top, the hike is pretty steep and narrow. Take plenty of water and sunscreen, as it gets really hot! You’ll also need a flashlight if you hike later in the evening. A compass isn’t a bad idea either – as we didn’t have any cell phone signal for a majority of the hike. Not to scare you though, it’s completely doable and worth it to see the views from up top!
Slide Rock: $20 parking per carload – no admission fee. The park is exactly what the name says – it’s a natural, God-made slide! I didn’t take many photos here, as I just enjoyed watching the boys have fun.
Route 66: Since we were so close, we decided to drive to through historic Route 66. It was such a cute little area, and definitely worth stopping by! They have some really cool photo opps, gift shops, & restaurants. We ate at Cruiser’s Cafe 66 while there.
Montezuma Castle National Monument: $10 per adult, kids are free! This national park is closer to Phoenix, so we visited here on our drive back to the airport at the end of our trip.
We’ve visited a few places out west, but we saw more wildlife here than we have most places! It was pretty cool seeing a roadrunner and the wild horses!
Our favorite Restaurants & Coffee Shops
The Coffee Pot – wonderful breakfast served here! Several celebrities including “Ironman” aka Tony Stark has eaten here. (The boys thought this was cool!)
Cowboy Club – located in downtown Sedona, you can enjoy some authentic cactus fries and rattlesnake sausage. The cactus fries was a favorite! Micah and I got the bison hamburger – very good! The portions are really large, so I would recommend splitting a plate.
Don Diego – great authentic Mexican food here – their street corn is really good!
Dellepiane – this place has delicious hamburgers and empanadas – it’s known by the locals for the “best hamburgers in town!” Micah and I split one of the Gaucho hamburgers and the chicken pot pie empanada, and it was more than enough.
Canyon Breeze – the food was good here, but I especially liked it for the amazing views! They have an outdoor dining area that everyone should go to just for the experience!
Pisa Lisa – rated as “The best pizza in Arizona!” We tended to agree!
Big John’s Texas Barbeque – located in Page, AZ – we stopped here the day that we toured Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Delicious!
Black Cow Cafe – this is such a cute little cafe that serves ice cream, pastries, & coffee. Everything we tried was good, including the Prickly Pear ice cream, which is made from the pink flower of the cacti!
Sedonuts – locally owned donut shop and oh-so-good!
Oak Creek Espresso – they roast their own coffee here, and you can definitely taste the freshness! One of the best coffee shops in town!
Coffee & Crystals – they get their coffee beans from a local farm and their coffee is delicious! Get the Vanilla Iced Latte! Even Mark and Kaleb liked this coffee shop because of the owner’s adorable little dog. 🙂
Firecreek Coffee – another favorite! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend getting the Campfire Iced Coffee!
The View Coffee Cafe – good coffee with amazing views! It was my favorite place to sit and sip 🙂
Amped Coffee – we stopped here on our drive back to the airport. Loved the aesthetic of this coffee shop!
I didn’t get as many photos of the downtown shopping area as I would have liked to, but if you can imagine shops surrounded by a beautiful view – that’s exactly what shopping in Sedona is like! Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, was charming as well! While there, we enjoyed a cactus cupcake and some pretty Flamenco music.
Last but not least, our Airbnb was amazing! It was in a quiet, private neighborhood and only minutes to downtown shopping and restaurants. As far as the house itself, I’ve stayed in other Airbnb’s that I liked better as far as the interior decor, but the outdoor living area and the surrounding views were incomparable to any others! You could see a beautiful view of Cathdedral Rock that we hiked from the house, as well as the Chapel of the Holy Cross. (Note the view from the living room and outdoors!) ❤️
I’ve been to many places in my life, but Arizona definitely ranks as one of my top 5! Can’t wait to visit again!
Side note: For those who have asked about the most affordable way to travel…just sharing what has worked for us personally. Purchase your airfare in advance (if you’re traveling long distances) and use airfare reward points if you have them! We’ve gotten tickets as cheap as $11 per person when we use our saved points! Reserve your accommodations in advance and pay for the total over time if that’s an option. It usually has been for us. Also, we set aside a certain dollar amount each month in our “Adventure Fund” to go toward our food, gas, and souvenirs. We try not to go over that budget once we are at our destination. Go to state and national parks! They’re usually free or a parking fee is required at the very most! This system has worked well for us – budget is key! 🙂
Also, the sun just shines differently in AZ. Ha! There isn’t a lot of shade, so sunscreen, water, and shades will be your best friend! We appreciated our rental car having good AC, as it was 108° the day that we left. 🙂