As travel commences and the world returns to a state of near normalcy, we at Your Concierge NYC want to re-instate our travel blog to inspire our clients to begin exploring the world once again. While international travel is on the rise, some of the remaining COVID-19 testing requirements and tourist restrictions can feel less than relaxing. Therefore, we are eager to share some of our favorite domestic vacation locations that have all been personally vetted by our very own staff. First up? Stunning Sedona, Arizona!
Let’s start by talking about how to get to this desert paradise. While there is a smaller airport located within the city limits of Sedona that would be an ideal location for private aircraft to touchdown, we opted to fly into Phoenix and rented a car to have a mini-road trip amidst spectacular scenery.
I am partial to botanical gardens, so it was a given that our first stop would be Desert Botanical Garden within the heart (and heat!) of Phoenix. At first, most people wonder what could possibly be growing among the sand and tumbleweeds of the Sonoran Desert. However, these beautifully manicured 55 acres are home to thousands of colorful cacti species and other flora and fauna endemic to desert landscape. Depending on the time of year you’ll be visiting, you can look forward to Flashlight Nights where guests can shine light on the exhibits after dark to explore the night-blooming scenery otherwise unbeknownst to daytime visitors, Sonoran Sippin’ with locally sourced wines and brews with the region’s best DJ’s playing in the background, or even Las Noches de las Luminarias to experience a spectacular holiday light show extravaganza.
After spending the morning at the botanical garden, we continued along our mini road trip where the modern cityscape quickly blended into saguaro lined highways interspersed with traditional desert brush. We stopped for a quick bite to eat at Rock Springs Café – the oldest independently owned and operated establishment in the state – and considered by most to have the best pies this side of the Mississippi. We opted for some apple bourbon, pecan, key lime, and rhubarb to sample within their quaint outdoor garden area complete with tiny waterfalls and tranquil streams.
Make sure to pull over at any of the numerous lookouts along the highway for picturesque panoramas before arriving at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Here, you’ll be able to make a short “hike” – more appropriately termed a simple stroll along well paved walkways – where you will learn about the 12th century Sinagua people and their historic cliffside dwelling that is incredibly well preserved to this day. Make sure to bring your National Parks Pass if you have one!
And now … ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s the moment we have all been waiting for: stunning Sedona, AZ.
We opted to stay at the 5-star Enchantment Resort located in the secluded and ideal setting of Boynton Canyon, Sedona. This property is nothing short of amazing, with panoramic views of red rock formations within a natural canyon that serves to separate its guests from the hustle and bustle of downtown Sedona. Enchantment isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel with rooms packed in next to one another – instead each “room” is a standalone casita equipped with a modern marble bathroom, luxuriously comfortable bedding, and outdoor balcony where guests can sip early morning orange juice delivered daily to their door. It offers amenities such as a year-round heated pool and jacuzzi, two on-site award-winning restaurants with floor to ceiling glass windows ensuring unobstructed views of Boynton Canyon, and a Trail House offering equipment rentals and guided tours for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. However, the single most important aspect for us was access to Mii Amo Spa – voted best spa in the country multiple years in a row – that is only available to guests of the Enchantment Resort.
An added benefit that we didn’t learn about until we arrived was that the resort is in an International Dark Sky territory, which means it is well situated for stargazing. The resort offers complimentary stargazing with expert astronomers equipped with state-of-the-art technology perfect for astronomical photography (pun intended!); no reservations required!
Since we arrived after nightfall the day before, we were eager to get a glimpse the magnificent red rocks encasing our casita. Unfortunately, that would have to wait given our agenda involved getting to the Airport Mesa trailhead by sunrise, which meant departure from the resort before daybreak. The early wakeup call was worth it as we were reward of 360-degree cotton candy-colored skies from atop the extremely walkable trail. I was traveling with my mother who has somewhat limited mobility and she made it *almost* to the peak. The last 50 feet of elevation requires some skilled footwork and is outfitted with a rope railing to assist hikers in their ascent, but the views are impeccable without traversing this last section of rocks. This also marks our first encounter with one of the region’s famed vortexes – though somewhat mystical, these areas are said to be swirling bodies of energy emanating from the red rocks with healing, meditation, and self-rejuvenation properties. I’m not overly mystical myself, so I mainly appreciated the panoramic views, albeit in a very tranquil setting.
We had certainly worked up an appetite after that early morning hike and decided to stop at a fun local pastry shop known as Sedonuts. It was delicious – and I’m a sucker for puns so I especially appreciated the name! We each got two donuts to sample their craftsmanship and were not disappointed. These were quite literally the best donuts we have ever eaten anywhere, ever. Very light and not overly sweet. We could have easily eaten these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
After an impromptu breakfast, we popped over to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic church built directly into the buttes of the red rock mountains. Marguerite Staude, a local to Sedona inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building and in conjunction with Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, saw to its completion in 1956. It is consistently ranked as the top tourist site in Sedona and is incredibly accessible to those with mobility issues. Through the towering glass windows of the church patrons can enjoy unobstructed views of both Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, both considered to be very popular and short hikes within the area.
No trip is complete without some good shopping and, in this case, even better food! Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village in Village of Oak Creek is an aesthetically pleasing outdoor promenade filled with Southwestern mosaics and upscale boutiques perfect for souvenirs and gifts. Every turn offers distinctly Mexican architecture so stunning that it is considered a premier wedding venue within the region. Our favorite stops included Azadi Navajo Rugs for handwoven authentic textiles, Mountain Trails Gallery for exquisite wildlife and western inspired pieces, Caravana Jewelry for locally sourced gemstones, and Feliz Navidad for the quintessential Christmas ornament souvenir – a staple on all our trips! We stopped at Oak Creek Brewery for a local bite to eat and feasted on the “Red Rock Reuben” and a “Sounds Good” woodfired pizza. But the best part? The “Seven Dwarves Sampler” complete with seven 5-oz miniature beer steins for patrons not sure which locally brewed ale is up their alley. Pro-tip: two people can easily split this mega sampler, which will save you money and keep you standing upright after lunch!
Up next: Devil’s Bridge. Easily the single most popular hike in Sedona, Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch formation in the Coconino Forest region. It is commonly labeled as “easy” within the online hiking and travel communities. In reality, this hike kicked my butt. I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means an avid outdoor enthusiast, but I am young and in decent health. There is an initial section on uneven ground that can be bypassed by an all-terrain vehicle, effectively cutting the overall length of the hike in half. Luckily for us, the famous Pink Jeep Tours offers an exclusive Devil’s Bridge privately guided hike for guests of the Enchantment Resort, allowing us to bypass this first section safely and be led by an expert mountaineer to the bridge itself. A few words of caution here: please do not attempt to maneuver this terrain if you are not experienced in off road driving. We passed many stranded vehicles along the route. Also, while this tour cut off the first section of the hike for us, it did become challenging towards to the top which required a small scramble on our hands and knees to get to the bridge. My mother elected to stop right before this scramble and watched us walk out on the bridge from this vantage point. If you want to avoid the 30+ minute wait to walk out onto the bridge for the Insta-worthy photo-op, you want to start this hike first thing in the morning (which will also help you beat the heat)!
For a less strenuous but equally aesthetically pleasing activity, try an aerial view of this surreal Southwestern landscape. One of our favorite activities was a small group hot air balloon ride offered by Red Rock Balloon. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to add this excursion to our itinerary at the last minute as these usually book months in advance. It requires another early morning alarm but is incredibly convenient as the company picks you up directly from the Enchantment Resort and chauffeurs you in style to an open field where the giant balloons are inflated right before your wide eyes. They do offer dedicated private reservations just for your group, but we opted for a small group tour which only had two other families within a rather spacious basket and were very pleased with how it turned out. After a few hours enjoying aerial views of the red rocks and diving between canyon walls for up close sights of wildlife grazing alongside waterways, we experienced firsthand the knowledge involved in landing such a contraption without any motorized technology whatsoever. Don’t worry – we landed safely and dryly next to a small lake! The morning ended in picture perfect fashion sipping mimosas from custom engraved champagne flutes overlooking one of the canyons.
Another quintessential Sedona activity is the world-renowned Pink Jeep Broken Arrow tour. Unlike the Devil’s Bridge privately guided hike mentioned above, the Broken Arrow tour is offered to any guests of Sedona (though you can book a private Jeep, if you so choose)! These expertly guided open-air Jeep Wranglers are custom built to handle the extreme terrain of the Broken Arrow trail that takes guests to Submarine Rock, Chicken Point, and down the near vertical natural staircase known as the Road-of-No-Return. Check out the pictures below to understand just how epic this terrain truly is – most definitely not for the faint at heart or those with a fear of heights. Pink Jeep is the only tour company legally licensed to commercially traverse this trail, so if you have any interest in adding this activity to your itinerary, make sure to investigate it early!
Last, but certainly not least: the most visited National Park in our beautiful country. Any stop out west in driving range of the Grand Canyon warrants a visit in our book, so naturally we opted for hiring a private guide to show us the best spots within Grand Canyon National Park. I specifically wanted to be able to descend into the canyon, so I chose to work with All Star Grand Canyon Tours as they are one of the few groups licensed to guide tourists into the canyon itself. I was blown away by the hospitality and expertise of this company. Once on the tour, the owner and lead guide led us with eyes closed into position so that our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon was nothing short of astounding. Not only did he know the history, geology, and politics of the region – he was also incredibly personable and down to earth. At one point, we were directed to take a stroll along the canyon rim while he set up a picnic lunch for us. Let me just take a moment to explain this thoroughly: it was more like a Michelin-starred spread than a picnic, complete with a white linen tablecloth, china, and every topping imaginable for the gourmet sandwiches we had pre-selected prior to embarking on the journey. I’m not sure if the icing on the cake was the secret forest he took us through to emerge at a secluded point along the canyon
rim where we were completely alone and so far removed that we couldn’t discern the traffic on the distant road, or the dessert and prosecco spread perfectly timed to view the setting sun above the magnificent Colorado River.
As I’m sure you have gathered by this point, Sedona is a world-class vacation destination located in the heart of the American Southwest. If reconnecting with the great outdoors while simultaneously being immersed in 5-star luxury with privately guided tours and chauffeured excursions sounds like something you and your family might be interested in, please feel free to reach out to Your Concierge NYC here to get in touch with our expert travel planners. We hope this trip report has inspired you to get out and explore the natural beauty this world has to offer. And as always, we are more than happy to square away the details of your itinerary to turn your trip into the experience of a lifetime.