Arizona

Arizona anaheimer Sun, 06/28/2020 - 11:43

nullThe state of Arizona is well-known for one of the World Natural Wonder, the Grand Canyon. But fun and adventure spots abound around the State. 

Interesting fact: Arizona was the last state - out of the contiguous 48 - to be admitted to the union. 

Grand Canyon West - SkywalkAlthough the southern part is known for its desert climate, there are a lot of green valleys, mountains, and forests - in the North - inviting visitors and residents for some adventure. 

A visit to Flagstaff will take you to an alpine forest and ski resorts. A short drive away will land you at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Not to be out-done, the Grand Canyon West Rim is worth a visit so you can walk on the Glass Bottom Skywalk or go on a Colorado River rafting adventure.

Tip: The West Rim is not part of the National Park system. So you will have to pay a separate fee to enter and another fee for the SkyWalk. Go here for the latest fees and rules.

Although Joshua Trees have a home in the California National Park, there is an even more impressive Joshua Tree Forest on the road to the West Rim. The best place to view this forest is at Grapevine Mesa point at the intersection of Pierce Ferry Road and Diamond Bar road. 

Grand Canyon West - Joshua Tree ForestFor a different landscape, go to Sedona with its red rocks and mystical vortexes. The red rocks jut out of the valley creating some eerie-shaped spires. Some claim that the Vortexes have health benefits.

For Western Cowboy movie buffs, a visit to Tombstone is a must. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Most people know it from the popular movie, but the events of the shootout actually happened.  

Interesting Facts: Sedona’s vortexes are a popular draw for many spiritual seeking visitors and new age thinkers.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon anaheimer Sun, 07/24/2016 - 14:25

nullOne of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a must-see for everyone. As soon as you enter this enchanted place, you will be amazed at the sheer cliffs and winding canyons. 

The sheer size of this natural wonder is mind-boggling. It is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. Looking down, you can be gazing at a depth of 1 mile from the top.

It took nature 2 billion years to build this marvel but you only need a few days to explore and appreciate its beauty.

You can read more about the history and geology of the Canyon at Wikipedia. 

How to get there

nullIf you are coming from a neighboring state, you will probably drive to the South Rim entrance. If you are coming from further away you can fly into Flagstaff, Arizona then rent a car or ride a shuttle to the Grand Canyon plaza.

You can always take a tour from Las Vegas or Flagstaff. On a recent trip, I stayed in Las Vegas and then drove to the south rim. Going this route, you get to see the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge.

Some tour operators offer Helicopter tours to the canyon and others offer you a whitewater rafting tour through the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.

Another way to get to the south rim is to ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. A historic train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon station. 

If you can, book the observation dome for breathtaking views along the way.

The South Rim is the destination for most visitors. But if you want to explore more of the canyon, consider going to the West or North rims.

South Rim

nullThe south rim is the most popular destination with iconic buildings, lodging close to the rim and challenging hiking trails. 

You can spend your time strolling along the rim, taking short guided tours or you can hike all the way to the canyon bottom and back. 

The Visitor Center

Start your journey at the National Geographic Visitor Center where you can find information about tours, maps, guides and an IMAX movie about the Canyon. 

Grand Canyon Tours from Las Vegas - Save on Tickets!

At the center, you can book adventures to explore the Canyon by, air, jeep or rafting. 

The companion website helps you plan your visit, book hotels and buy tickets before you arrive at the Grand Canyon. Go here the plan your visit. www.explorethecanyon.com  

While at the center you can enjoy a nice meal at the Explorer’s Café. They serve Pizza Hut pies and deli sandwiches in a relaxing atmosphere. 

The center received the 2016 TripAdvisor’s award of excellence acknowledging consistent great customer reviews. 

Around the Village

nullWhether you are staying at one of the village hotels and lodges or you just arrived on a bus, you can walk to many iconic landmarks and overlook.

You can visit the Hopi House which was built in 1904 and has a unique architecture that mimics the cascading cliffs of the canyon. The Hopi are the native Americans of the Grand Canyon. After admiring the building from outside you can go inside to visit a museum and some shops.

The Lookout Studio is also a walking distance from the village. It's perched at the edge of the canyon with commanding views in all directions. Inside you can view nature photography and buy gifts.

nullNext, you must visit Kolb Studio. This building clings to the cliffside and cascades down several levels. Inside is an art gallery and bookstore. 

Mather Point is one of the most popular canyon overlooks. It is close to the visitor center and is the first view that most visitors see when they arrive. If you have time avoid this overcrowded place and try one of the other overlooks.

A little further away you get the most amazing views from Bright Angel overlook. You will get the best views at sunset or sunrise. Get your cameras ready for most memorable photos.

Are you exhausted from the heat, but you want to see more of the Canyon? Then go to Yavapai Observation Station. From the air-conditioned indoor observation deck, you can still see some breathtaking views.  

While inside, learn about how the Canyon was formed over the millennia at the geology museum. 

Biking

nullBiking around the south rim is fun and easy along the mostly paved rim trail. You can rent bikes at the visitor center and start exploring. 

The trail is about 13 miles and mostly paved and level. There are areas where biking is not allowed. You are expected to dismount and walk your bike. This mainly to accommodate predestines in narrow and crowded areas. 

If you get tired at any point along the route, you can hop on the free shuttle – with available bike racks in the front.

Alternatively, you can start on the Schulte bus and go to the furthest stop then bike back to your starting point.

Transportation

nullOnce you get to the Grand Canyon, leave your car behind and use the free shuttle system to get around.

The shuttles buses come around to each stop every 15 minutes and have routes that will take you to all the important landmarks and overlook points.

The routes are color-coded:

Blue Line

Connects the visitor center to lodges, campgrounds, and attractions around the village.

Orange Line

This route takes you from the visitor center and stops at 5 viewpoints: Yavapai Geology museum; Mather point; South Kaibab trailhead; Yaki Pint and Pipe Creek Vista.

Red Line

This a longer route that takes visitors from the village to Hermits Rest with 9 stops along the way including Hopi Point, Mojave Point, and The Abyss.

Purple Line

The is a seasonal line that runs during the summer season only. It connects the town of Tusayan at the outskirts of the state park to the visitor center. 

During the busy season, you can avoid long lines at the entrance by parking at Tusayan and riding the Purple Bus.

Hiker Express Shuttle

If you want to start your hike early and avoid the crowds you can take this early morning shuttle from Bright Angel Lodge to South Kaibab trailhead. 

The shuttle leaves as early as 4 am – Depending on the season. During summer months it leaves at the early times and during spring and winter, it leaves later.

Go here for full shuttle schedule and routs.

Hiking

For a more detailed guide on hiking the Grand Canyon, go to OutsideHow

Rim Trail

nullThis is the easiest way to enjoy the Grand Canyon. The trail is on a flat road and has many points of interest along the way.

Tip: Getting tired? Just hop on the shuttle to go to the next stop or back to your car or lodge. The trail is accessible from any of the shuttle stops.

The trail is about 13 miles long and will take the whole day to complete. Especially because you will be stopping a lot along the way to admire the views.

The trail starts from the South Kaibab trailhead and continues to Hermits Rest. Along the way, you will see some of the most popular viewing points like Pipe Creek Vista, Yavapai Point, Trailview Overlook, Hopi Point and The Abyss. 

Tip: Best time to view the canyon is during the Golden Hours. One hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset. This is when the canyon walls to turn every shade of gold.

You can get a trail details and map here.

You can customize this hike to your needs. For example, you can start from the Village and go south or north for a shorter hike. You can then double-back or take the shuttle back.

If you prefer a more strenuous hike, don’t worry, you can choose one of the many moderate to difficult trails.

Bright Angel Trail

nullThis hike is not for beginners. It is a 9.2-mile trail going down all the way to the canyon floor. You will be descending about 4000 feet so expect to climb them back up to the rim. 

Tip: Always bring lots of water with you, especially in hot weather. Water is available at several rest stops on the trail and at the Indian Garden.

Obviously, you don’t have to hike all the way down. You can set a goal of reaching some of the rest stops along the way and then doubling back. You can stop at the Mile-and-a-half Resthouse (about 1.6 miles) or the Three Mile rest house (about 3.1 miles from the trailhead.

nullSome people prefer to hike down one day, camp at one of the campgrounds then hike back up the following day.

You can camp at Indian Garden Campground or at the Bright Angel Campground, but you have to reserve a spot way ahead of time. 

Finally, if you want to enjoy the amazing views along this trail but you don’t feel like hiking, you can always book a mule ride.

You can find a good detailed trail description and map at Wikipedia.

You can also hike down to the campgrounds from the South Kaibab Trail. Here is Wikipedia’s description.

Rim to Rim Trail

nullIf you are willing to push yourself to your limits and go on this hike will be rewarded with the most amazing and exclusive views and experiences.

Most Grand Canyon visitors stay at the south rim and never venture down the canyon. And out of those who make it to the canyon, only a fraction sees the north rim.

So if you are up to it, and after long planning and training, start your trek from the North Kaibab trailhead (North Rim) and start descending 6000 feet for about 14 miles. 

When you reach the bottom of the canyon you will have to spend the night (or more) at the Bright Angel campground or the Phantom Ranch lodge.

After a much-needed rest and some exploring at the bottom of the canyon, you will connect with the Bright Angel trail and start climbing to the south rim.

nullThe climb is hard and takes up 4500 feet, but there are rest stops and some shade along the way. 

Hopefully, you planned ahead and made arrangements for your return trip. Are you getting a ride back to your starting point at the north rim? Or are you crazy enough to make a round trip hike?

Along with planning for your return trip, you will need to book the campground or the lodge at the bottom of the canyon way ahead of time.

Obviously, you can start your hike from the south rim and go up the north rim, but starting from the north is a little easier.

Another option to consider is hiring a mule service to carry your gear. 

To avoid the hassle of planning every detail of your hike, you go with an experienced outfitter like OARS.

For a more detailed guide on hiking the Grand Canyon, go to OutsideHow

Grand Canyon West and Skywalk

Grand Canyon West and Skywalk anaheimer Sun, 06/28/2020 - 08:31

Grand Canyon WestMany years ago, I went on a Grand Canyon West airplane tour. After enjoying great views from above, the plane landed on the west rim, and we disembarked for breathtaking views of the deep canyons.

Later, we enjoyed a barbeque lunch prepared by the Hualapai tribe - then flew back to Las Vegas.

Fast forward to 2020, I decide to relive this experience with my family but was surprised with a totally different place.

Instead of the pristine Grand Canyon experience, we were herded through a large gift shop/visitor center, bus ride to rim locations, and wnt on the glass-bottom Skywalk.

Tip: The West Rim is not part of the National Park system. So you will have to pay a separate fee to enter and another fee for the SkyWalk. Go here for the latest fees and rules.

Grand Canyon WestI had mixed feelings about this progress. On the one hand, it is much more organized with more services like cafes and restaurants. On the other hand, it is way too commercialized with a lot of opportunities to spend money.

The Hualapai tribe gets most of their income from tourism to the West Rim, so it is understandable they would like to encourage us to spend more money.

Once you pass through the visitor center, you have to take a bus to the first of two observation points.

Eagle Point

If you have never seen the Grand Canyon before, this first glimpse of the deep canyons and red-colored ridges will take your breath away.

Venture to the edge of this short walkable rim to get a feel of how deep the bottom of the Canyon is. Look around to spot the Colorado River in the distance.

And after this initial view of the Canyon, head to the Skywalk for a different kind of experience.

Skywalk

This 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not of anyone with a fear of heights. But if you can stomach it, pay the fee and walk on the bridge to nowhere, Look down and enjoy the views 4,000 feet below Grand Canyon West - Skywalkyou.

There is no time limit on your experience. Spend as much time as you like admiring the views all around you and below.

Pose for photos by professional photographers and remember to check them out as you exit.

Tip: You are not allowed to bring your own cameras or phones, so you have to use the photographers and buy the photos if you want a record if this adventure.

Guano Point

Grand Canyon West - Guano PointThe second bus stop is at Guano Point. This area has more stunning views and a lot of opportunities for hiking and rock scrambling.

As you exit the bus, you can walk along the rim. You will soon notice that you are literally on a point jutting into the Canyon.

Tip: Unlike the South Rim, there is no railing along this rim. So walk carefully and avoid getting too close to the edge.

The hike terminates into a high outcropping of rocks with a 360-degree view of the

Canyon and the Colorado River. You will have to scramble up the rocks to get the best view, but it is worth the effort.

Other Adventures

Grand Canyon West - Joshua Tree ForestThe West Rim is also the launchpad for more adventures at the Canyon.

You can go on a White Water Rafting experience, ziplining, or on a helicopter tour. You can also rent cabins at the Hualapai Ranch. Go to the website for full details and prices.      

On the Way

While driving to the West Rim we came across the Joshua Tree Forest.

Although California has the well-known Joshua Trees National Park, I think the one in Arizona is more impressive.

The best place to view this forest is at Grapevine Mesa point at the intersection of Pierce Ferry Road and Diamond Bar road. 

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona anaheimer Sat, 05/26/2018 - 13:38

Sedona - Oak Canyon - Cathedral RockWhat the heck? You want to take me to the desert? What kind of vacation is that? 
That was my wife’s first reaction when I said let’s go to Sedona, Arizona. I quickly explained that yes, Sedona is in the middle of the desert, but it is much more than desolate landscapes and sand. 

So we packed our bags and embarked on an unforgettable road trip. The first leg of this journey was through familiar California towns, palms trees and windmills. But once we entered Arizona, the landscape started to change into stark rock formations and rare lonely bushes here and there. And to complete our desert experience, we encountered a ferocious sandstorm. 

After spending hundreds of miles on the road and many pit-stops along the way, we finally Sedona - Oak Canyon - Cathedral Rockcame into a green, verdant valley with imposing red rocks, jutting out like cathedrals, and deep canyon

walls.  

Sedona and the valley surrounding it is perched at a 4500 feet elevation, which makes it much cooler than the Arizona desert. The valley is so hospitable to life, it attracted the attention of prehistoric people and natives since 11,500 BC.  

Interesting Facts: The canyon walls of Sedona show nine layers of stone from different geological periods that span over hundreds of millions of years.

Today, it is a thriving tourist town and retirement community with many resorts, shops and restaurants. The tranquility of the scenery, beautiful red rocks and lush greenery attracts tourists from around the world. 

Where to stay

Sedona Rouge Hotel and SPASedona is well established as a tourist destination, so you can find accommodation for every taste and budget. You can find a hotel or motel room, live in luxury at a resort and spa or find seclusion at a retreat. 

If you want to get very close to nature and enjoy a night under the star, you can camp for free at Sedona. If you did not bring any camping gear with, rent a tent through Airbnb.
A very good resource to help find your perfect stay in Sedona is https://www.sedona.net/where-to-stay. 

What to do

The mystical side

Many residents and visitors swear they encountered UFOs, Aliens and other strange events inSedona - Arizona - from Wikipedia Sedona. I myself did not experience any of the above, although I was more than willing. 

The Sedona mystics claim there are magnetic vortices running through the area that give it an otherworldly significance. Many tour operators are willing to take you hunting for Bigfoot or aliens. Staying overnight in the National Forest is not allowed, so these tours only go until dusk. In my opinion, the best sights are yet to come – when it gets totally dark. Read about our Vortex tour here.

Interesting Facts: Sedona’s vortexes are a popular draw for many spiritual seeking visitors and new age thinkers.

Stargazing

Sedona - Stargazing - provided by Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau Low light and perfect weather make Sedona a great place for stargazing. Just step a few feet away from town and you can have a clear view of the heavens. For a better view try to go behind one of the famous red rock formations facing away from the city. You will be plunged into total darkness with only starlight to guide you.

Get some tips on Stargazing at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.

Tip: When you go on one of those stargazing excursions, it is recommended that you take a red flashlight or headlight. The red light allows you to find your way on the trail but doesn’t create a lot of light pollution.

I inquired about the best stargazing sport from a ranger at the visitor’s center in uptown Sedona. She gave me some great ideas:

Thunder Mountain: It is in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a. Take Dry Creek road to Thunder Mountain Road, go about .6 miles then turn into the trailhead to the left. Take a short hike which will take behind the red rocks for total darkness.

Sugarloaf Summit: Also in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a, but the road to the trailhead starts from Coffee Pot drive. The trailhead is actually on Buena Vista Drive. Another short hike takes to one of the best star viewing spots.

Astronomy clubs: Another way to experience the Sedona starry night it to attend an event hosted by the area Astronomy clubs. Go to the Astronomers of the Verde Valley at http://www.astroverde.org/ to get more information and to check their event calendar. You can also try Sirius Lookers.

We recently went with Sedona Stargazing on their tour into the night skies. Read about it here.

Stroll around town

For a nice stroll through Sedona, go to the uptown area along the main highway 89a. Sedona - UptownUptown shops and restaurants start at the intersection of 89a and 179.

This is the historic part of town where Sedona started. Many of the buildings here are on the registry of historic buildings. 

You can also find the Visitor’s Center at the corner of 89a and Forest road.

Tip: Parking is mostly free in uptown around the side streets. On Hwy 89a, there are metered parking spots with a 3-hour limit.

Sedona - UptownClose to the visitor’s center, there is a shopping plaza which has some great souvenir shops and excellent restaurants. We especially liked Wildflower Bread Company, where we enjoyed breakfast and lunch on two different days. This establishment bakes everything in-house and only uses locally sourced fresh ingredients. The food was diclinous. 

Walking through the rest of the street you can find many art galleries, hotels, restaurants and great views of the red rocks. 

Interesting Facts: The sun shines over 300 days out of the year which is more than Florida.

This area is also the hub of tour activity. If you haven’t already booked your tours, you can find tours for every taste and adventure level. Some of my favorites are Red Rock Western Jeep Tours, Pink Jeep Tours and Red Rock Balloons.

Jeep tour through Schnebly Hill RoadSedona - Pink Jeep Tour

On a recent visit, we went with Pink Jeep tours on a 3-hour Scenic Rim wild ride. After getting out of town on highway 179, we entered a rough and bumpy dirt road that took us deep in between the majestic red rocks. 

You can actually use this road, which is called “Schnebly Hill Road” to reach Flagstaff, but only if you have a sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicle – and willing to punish your ride. The road is very rough with many cracks and rocks.

Jeep Tours in Sedona

Sedona - “Schnebly Hill Road”Despite being rattled to death and almost thrown out several times, we enjoyed the views and the wealth of information from our driver and guide. 

The jeep kept climbing from Sedona at 4300’ to the “Mogollon Rim“ at around 6500’. Along the way we gazed at the 7 warriors rock formation guarding the valley below, we hiked to a bluff with a panoramic view of the Verde Valley and Sedona and we rested at the rim with even more dramatic views far below.

Hiking

The best way to enjoy the red rock formations around Sedona it to take one of the hiking trails close to town. My favorites were Cathedral Rock and Crescent Moon Ranch State Park – explored below. For a very good guide to Sedona, Trails go here.  

Cathedral Rock

Sedona - Cathedral Rock HikeOne of the most iconic landmarks at Sedona, you can get to it through a short but difficult trail – or you can go the long way for better views while climbing gently to the top.

If you choose the short .7-mile trail, you will be climbing quickly to a height of 600 feet. The trail is well marked and takes you to a plateau where you can rest and enjoy the view.  

If you have more time, I recommend taking the longer trail. You can take the Easy Breezy trail from the Cathedral Rock trailhead, keep going until you hit the HT trail. Turn right on HT trail which starts to climb gently until you hit the Templeton trail.

Interesting Facts: More than 90 feature films and countless videos and commercials have been shot in the Sedona area including Billy the Kid and 3:10 to Yuma.

As you climb gently along the Templeton trail you can enjoy views of the rocks from all angles and end up at the top Plateau with all the other hikers. You can then hike down the steep trail back to the trailhead. 

Crescent Moon Ranch State Park

This Park is part of the Coconino National Forest and adjacent to the Red Rock State Park. Secona - Crescent Moon Ranch - Oak Canyon CreekThe facility offers cabins that can house up to 10 people, but it is also open for day-use. 

From the parking lot, you get to the easy trail running along Oak Creek with commanding views of Cathedral Rock. The trail is mostly shaded with many benches and relaxing spots along the way.

To get better photos of the running water and the looming red rocks in the background, leave the main trail and venture closer to the creek.   

Visitors can have a picnic or a barbeque then go fishing or swimming in the creek. It is also a launching pad for many hiking trails in the area. 

Soldiers Pass Trail

Sedona - Devils Kitchen sinkhole - Soldiers Pass TrailThis is a moderate hike that starts close to town but ends up at the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. The trail offers a diverse experience with many surprises along the way.

Along the way, you will pass "Devils Kitchen sinkhole", "Seven Sacred Pools", natural arches, through a Wash and up to the Brins Mesa. One at the top you will enjoy great views in every direction. 

 

Where to Eat

During our Sedona trips, we tried many restaurants. Some with amazing views and others just for the food. Some are upscale and expensive like Cress Oak Creek at L'Auberge Sedona, while others were simple neighborhood eateries like Cafe Jose. Read more about are our favorites here.

Close by

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon - Kolb Studio - from WikipediaSedona can also be a launching pad for more adventure. The Grand Canyon is about 2-hours away by car. You can make it a one-day trip and enjoy the stunning views from the South Rim. Read more here.

Many tour operators run day tours from Sedona to the Grand Canyon. 

Grand Canyon Tours from Sedona

Flagstaff

Flagstaff is only about 50 minutes away from Sedona and offers a world of discovery. The road from Sedona to Flagstaff is itself a destination. You will be going through Oak Creek Canyon most of the way with great views on either side of the road. 

Read about our new Sedona adventure here.

Sedona Dining

Sedona Dining anaheimer Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:57

During our Sedona trips, we tried many restaurants. Some with amazing views and others just for the food. Here are our favorites.

Cress Oak Creek (L'Auberge Sedona)

Sedona Dining - Cress Oak Creek - L'AubergeBy far this restaurant was the most enjoyable dining experience. The food and service were above par, and the sounds of the creek next to us were soothing and relaxing.

This upscale restaurant is located in Uptown inside the L'Auberge Sedona hotel. They offer a Prix Fix menu at the Creekside or Ala Cart indoors and at the bar.

Tip: Valet parking is free with your dining receipt.

The Prix fix menu has many choices for starters, main dishes, and dessert. I picked Asparagus, Cornic Hen, and Black Velvet for my meal. My wife chose their Cress Salad, Seafood of the day, and Maze all day for hers. Each course was delicious and satisfying.

The Hudson

Sedona Dining - The HudsonThe Hudson is another excellent place for a meal with a view. It sits on top of a hill in downtown Sedona with a commanding view of the Red Rocks. They also have a large patio with heaters for cold weather.

We had lunch here and enjoyed a Pastrami Reuben and a Jucy Cheeseburger. Both were excellent. We also tried their draft beer.

After lunch, we walked down to the downtown markets and enjoyed a stroll before driving back to the hotel.

Airport Mesa Grill

Sedona airport is not a very busy place. It is mainly used by the occasional private plane Sedona Dining - Airport Mesa Grill at Duskand some helicopter tours. But it sits on top of wide mesa with great views in every direction.

We decided to grab dinner during sunset at the Mesa Grill. The food was about average, but we were there for the view. We tried the fish & chips and the petite filet. The filet was cooked right and tasty, but the fish was very dry and chewy.

Thai Palace

Sedona Dining - Thai PalaceThai palace is a lucky accidental find. We were walking around in Uptown after a tour and looking for a good place for lunch. We came across a small strip mall with a small sign advertising the Thai Cuisine.

We both love Thai, so we followed the sign to a small maze that took us outside the mall to a parking lot and then to the restaurant. They had a patio, so we decided to sit in the fresh air and enjoy our lunch next to the zen garden.

We tried the Curry Rice with beef and Panang Curry. Both dishes were delicious. Thai food is known for being spicy. In this place you can decide how spicy on a scale from 1 to 5. I chose 4 and my wife 2. Both came out just right.

For dessert, we shared a Banana Wrap. It looked like a Sushi Roll but with tasty banana and sweet sauce.

Café Jose

For breakfast we walked to this corner café in a large shopping center. It was hard to find Sedona Dining - Cafe Josebecause it was hidden behind a McDonald’s.

We ordered their Huevos Rancheros, and Build-Your-Own Breakfast Burrito. For the burrito I had many choices of fillings like bacon, sausage, or veggies. We had our breakfast with plenty of coffee.

Coffee Pot

The café was a walking distance from our hotel – and opened very early, so we ended up having breakfast here many times.

The coffee and food were great, but we really enjoyed the ambiance and the friendly service.

They also offer half-plates so won’t have leftovers to carry around. My favorite dishes were the build your own omelet and the Waffles.

Wildflower bread company

Sedona Uptown - Wildflower Bread CoConveniently located in Uptown Sedona, this restaurant offers sandwiches, soups and freshly baked goods made with locally sourced ingredients.

For breakfast, we tried the Roasted Tomato & Feta and the cinnamon brioche French toast, and for lunch, we tried the Roasted Sweet Potato and the Reuben sandwich. All were very tasty and satisfying.

Tii Gavin restaurant

Sedona - view from Tii Gavin restaurant - Enchantment ResortThis restaurant is tucked away between the red rocks at the Enchantment Resort and SPA. You will have to drive through a winding road to get to this place, but it worth the effort.

The resort is nestled between canyons and red rocks, and the restaurant offers a great view and delicious food. While we are enjoying this amazing view at sunset, we enjoyed a New York Steak and Street Shrimp Tacos.

Interesting Facts: John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley, Johnny Depp, and Robert Deniro have all starred in movies shot in the Sedona area.

Creekside American Bistro

Another restaurant with great views. Sitting on the balcony overlooking Oak Creek, we enjoyed our leisurely dinner with more red rocks to admire.

Our curried lamb adobo and wild Alaskan kings were cooked to perfection and very tasty.

Reds at Sedona Rouge Hotel and SPA

Sedona - Sunset - from WikipediaIt is always a great convenience when you find a good restaurant and bar at your hotel. Just walk a few steps for dining or a few drinks.

The food here was excellent, but the drinks were just average. The official drinks menu was minimal, but when we asked, the bartender was willing to make anything we asked for.

I recommend the Eggs Benedict for breakfast and the Grilled Angus burger for lunch. During their happy hour, you get drinks and small plates for half price.

Phoenix Dining

If you flew in through Phoenix, then you should try one of those places for your dining pleasure. 

Compass Room at Hyatt Downtown

Phoenix Dining - Compass Room - HyattWe arrived early in Phoenix and did not want to drive straight to Sedona, so we stopped at the Compass room for breakfast.

This restaurant is located on the top floor at the Hyatt hotel in downtown and has a commanding 360-degree view of the Phoenix skyline. 

While we were admiring the views we ordered the Huevos Rancheros and the Breakfast Quesadilla. Both were excellent and filling. The service was exceptional and the coffee kept flowing. Phoenix Dining - SanTan - Airport

SanTan Brewing at Sky Harbor Airport

On the way back and once we passed the security check, we had some time to kill and were hungry, so we stopped at this sit-down restaurant in terminal three. 

We were pleasantly surprised. We ordered draft beers, Chandler Club, and Brewhouse Nachos. The beers were refreshing and tasty and the sandwiches very delicious. 

Sedona Stargazing

Sedona Stargazing anaheimer Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:33

Last year we hiked in the dark to see the stars and visited places like Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf Summit.

This year we decided to go with professionals on a Stargazing tour. Sedona Stargazing runs an excellent tour using their huge telescopes to allow us to gaze into distant planets and stars.

We met the tour guides at a high school field in the absolute darkness and were guided with flashlights to our parking spots. This location is about 20 minutes away from the center of Sedona on Highway 179.Sedona Stargazing tour

Once everyone was assembled we walked a short distance on the school’s field to where the huge telescopes were set up.

Our guide was very knowledgable and seems to love talking about astronomy. He started by pointing out some constellations and then showed us a few heavenly objects with the telescope.

Desert nights can get very cold. Although we had our coats we were freezing. The tour operator provided us with additional parkas and blankets to stau warm. 

Unfortunately, the sky was hazy on that night. So objects were not very clear. We got o see Saturn with its rings, a binary star and the cratered face of the moon.

Sedona Stargazing has a policy of total refind if they can’t complete the full program 6 celestial objects. So at the end of this tour, they issued a refund without anyone asking for them.

Other ways to Stargaze

Low light and perfect weather make Sedona a great place for stargazing. Just step a few feet away from town and you can have a clear view of the heavens. For a better view try to go behind one of the famous red rock formations facing away from the city. You will be plunged into total darkness with only starlight to guide you.

Get some tips on Stargazing at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.

Tip: When you go on one of those stargazing excursions, it is recommended that you take a red flashlight or headlight. The red light allows you to find your way on the trail but doesn’t create a lot of light pollution.

I inquired about the best stargazing sport from a ranger at the visitor’s center in uptown Sedona. She gave me some great ideas:

Thunder Mountain: It is in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a. Take Dry Creek road to Thunder Mountain Road, go about .6 miles then turn into the trailhead to the left. Take a short hike that will take you behind the red rocks for total darkness.

Sugarloaf Summit: Also in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a, but the road to the trailhead starts from Coffee Pot drive. The trailhead is actually on Buena Vista Drive. Another short hike takes you to one of the best star viewing spots.

Astronomy clubs: Another way to experience the Sedona starry night it to attend an event hosted by the area Astronomy clubs. Go to the Astronomers of the Verde Valley to get more information and to check their event calendar. You can also try Sirius Lookers.

Sedona Take Two

Sedona Take Two anaheimer Sat, 11/16/2019 - 16:11

Sedona - Oak Canyon - Cathedral RockWhat the heck? You want to take me to the desert? What kind of vacation is that?

That was my wife’s first reaction when I said let’s go to Sedona, Arizona. I quickly explained that yes, Sedona is in the middle of the desert, but it is much more than desolate landscapes and sand.

That was last year. This year my wife was very excited to revisit this wonderful desert oasis. 

Last year, we drove through familiar California towns, palm trees, and windmills. And in Arizona, we encountered stark rock formations, rare lonely Sedona - Arizona - from Wikipediabushes, and a ferocious sandstorm. This year we decided to fly into Phoenix and drive for one hour and a half to Sedona.

Read about our first journey to Sedona here. In this article, we will share our new experiences with Sedona’s Red Rocks, Stargazing, Ancient cliff dwellers site, and great dining.  

Where to stay

Sedona is well established as a tourist destination, so you can find accommodation for every taste and budget. You can find a hotel or motel room, live in luxury at a resort and spa or find seclusion at a retreat.

ISedona - Green Tree Innf you want to get very close to nature and enjoy a night under the star, you can camp for free at Sedona. If you did not bring any camping gear with you, rent a tent through Airbnb.

An excellent resource to help find your perfect stay in Sedona can be found here.  

This time we stayed at Green Tree Inn on the west side of Sedona. Our experience was mixed. The hotel suite is spacious with a living room, a kitchenette, and a King Size bed. The bed was comfortable and the staff was great. We just had a few problems with the equipment.

In general, if you like to stay in a quiet neighborhood, then pick a place in West Sedona or further out in the valleys. If you like to be in the middle of the action, then Uptown Sedona is the place for you.

What to do

During this visit, we went on a Stargazing tour, visited the Cliff Dwellers Heritage Site, went on a Vortex tour, watched the sunset from the Airport Mesa, and tried several restaurants with amazing views. Continue reading for more details on our adventures.

To learn about our earlier Jeep tour and Red Rock hikes visit the first article here.

Vortex Tour

Sedona - Rachel's KnowllMany residents and visitors swear they encountered UFOs, Aliens, and other strange events in Sedona. I myself did not experience any of the above, although I was more than willing.

The Sedona mystics claim there are magnetic vortices running through the area that give it an otherworldly significance.

Although I am a skeptic, I do have an open mind, so I decided to go with Safari Jeep Tours of Sedona on their Vortex Tour.

During the tour, we visited Rachel’s Knol, which is supposed to be an active Vortex and the Buddhist Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, and enjoyed dramatic views of green valleys and Red Rocks. Read more about this tour here

Stargazing Tour

Sedona - Stargazing - provided by Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau Last year we hiked in the dark to see the stars and visited places like Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf Summit.

This year we decided to go with professionals on a Stargazing tour. Stargazing Sedona run an excellent tour using their huge telescopes to allow us to gaze into distant planets and stars. Read more about our experience here.  

Palatki Heritage Site

Sedona - Palatki Heritage Site - CliffsNative Americans made this area their home thousands of years ago. Many different people lived here and left their mark on the sheer Red Rock walls.

Between 1100 and 1400 BC, the Sinagua people built their homes right into the walls of the canyons. They became known as the Cliff Dwellers.

The heritage site is about a 30-minute drive from Sedona. The distance is actually not that long, but most of the road is rough gravel. So unless you have an off-road vehicle, you will need to drive very carefully.

Tip: To protect the site from overuse, you will need to make a reservation and check-in at the visitor center.

Sedona - Palatki Heritage Site - Cliff DwellingOur drive to the site was very thrilling – passing hiking and biking trails, green valleys and amazing views as we approached the cliffs.

When we arrived at the site, we were greeted by a volunteer who checked us in and gave us instructions on our hikes.

The guide explained that we have to take two hiking trails going in opposite directions. We were expected to go with the group to reach the first site with Cliff Dwellings.

At the first site, another guide explained the history of the dwellings and the type of people who lived there. In this one structure, about 60 to 80 people made it their home. It is unknown if this was one big family or a ruler’s family with servents.

We then hiked back and into the second trail to visit the caves with the pictographs and petroglyphs. The archaeologists discovered that the drawings on the cave walls belong to several people over the ages going back 6000 years ago.

The sites are awe-inspiring and got me thinking about the kind of life those people lived. In some way, it was very simple and peaceful, but in others, it must have been filled with hardship.

Airport Mesa Overlook

Sedona - Airport Mesa Grill - at duskSedona has a small airport serving private aviation and tour operators. At the airport, there is an excellent restaurant with great views. We went there for an early dinner, but on the way, we noticed two overlook spots. We decided to visit on the way down.

Right next to the airport, there a large parking lot for the first overlook. We parked and walked to the edge of a cliff overlooking the city of Sedona and the rock formations in the background. The best part about this spot is when the sun approached the horizon and reflected on the red rocks.

A little lower towards highway 89A, we found another spot with a similar view, but the main attraction was a trail climbing a rock. The view from the top is stunning.

Sedona - Red Rock State ParkBe warned, though; both overlooks are very popular and crowded – especially around sunset.

Red Rock State Park

This park by Oak Creek is a respite from the bustle of town. It is a few miles outside of Sedona with many hiking trails and great views of the Red Rocks.

Our favorite trail is Kiva Trail which mostly runs along Oak Creek. It is an easy hike and runs for around 1.3-miles.  

Sedona Dining

During our Sedona trips, we tried many restaurants. Some with amazing views and others just for the food. Some are upscale and expensive like Cress Oak Creek at L'Auberge Sedona, while others were simple neighborhood eateries like Cafe Jose. Read more about are our favorites here.

Sedona Vortex Tour

Sedona Vortex Tour anaheimer Sat, 11/16/2019 - 16:14

Sedona - Rachel's Knoll - Vortex Tour  Many residents and visitors swear they encountered UFOs, Aliens and other strange events in Sedona. I myself did not experience any of the above, although I was more than willing.

The Sedona mystics claim there are magnetic vortices running through the area that give it an otherworldly significance.

Although I am a skeptic, I do have an open mind, so I decided to go with Safari Jeep Tours of Sedona on their Vortex Tour.

The tour operator offer rides from your hotel, but we decided to drive to Uptown Sedona to enjoy a stroll after the tour.

Sedona - Rachel's Knoll - Valley view - Vortex Tour  After check-in, we jumped on one of the sturdy jeeps with our guide Bo. Bo had a wealth of information for us about Sedona’s famous vortices and their effect on well-being.

Our first stop was at Rachel’s Knoll, which is supposed to be an active and strong Vortex. Rachel bought the land in the 1970s and decided to share it with the community. Many ceremonies celebrating peace and harmony were held at the Knoll. Go here for more on Rachel Knoll’s history.

The knoll is a high rock formation overlooking 7 converging valleys with lush green views from the top and the sheer red rocks in the distance.

The view is truly stunning and relaxing, but I didn’t see any otherworldly phenomena. Our guide Bo believes that the confluence of the seven valleys, underground running water, and iron-quartz filled rocks create an electric current that affects people.

In an experiment, he asked us to hold out our hands close to the red rocks for a while. I did feel a tingle in my extremities, but I am not sure if this was proof of magnetism or electricity or a Vortex.

I remain skeptical of such claims, but I still enjoyed the experience.

Sedona - Buddhist Amitabha Stupa - Vortex Tour  On Rechel’s passing, she sold the land to a developer with the stipulation of keeping the Knoll accessible to the public. Today, anyone can visit the Knoll for a small fee of $3.

We continued our journey through Sedona’s Vortecies by driving to the   and Peace Park at the base of thunder mountain and under the shadow of Chimney Rock.  

The stupa is an imposing 36-foot building dedicated to meditation and enlightenment. It is said to be at the center of several alignments, giving it some significant spirituality.

Sedona - Buddhist Amitabha Stupa - Wheel - Vortex Tour  A little closer to thunder mountain and above the Stupa, Budha sits in contemplation towards the city of Sedona.

A charming Buddhist tradition is to hang prayer flags for the wind to activate and prayer wheels for people to spin as they pass by. True believers also think that if you meditate in this Vortex spot you will be granted your deepest wishes – even if you don’t know what those wishes are.

The two Vortex spots we visited were fascinating with great views, but the drive in the jeep through all those valleys and cliffs is even more thrilling. Our guide kept us entertained and we shared our impressions of those locations with each other.

We had a self-proclaimed psychic in the group and it was interesting to hear her perspective on the whole Vortex claim. She seemed to be more in-tune with nature and more accepting of the phenomena.