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|Kara Pound • 3/28/18|
The Short Version: Sedona is a desert town in northern Arizona surrounded by natural formations such as red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls, and pine forests. The town is also known for its mild climate, vibrant arts community, spas, and boutique shopping. The city, founded in 1902, boasts a population just over 10,000 and no shortage of activities to do with your other half. Sedona is consistently acknowledged as one of the most beautiful places in the country to visit. It’s a perfect place to explore and connect with the land, your body, your spirit, and loved ones.
When USA Today’s Weekend Magazine compiled a list of the most beautiful places in America, the folks who live, work, and play in Sedona, Arizona, weren’t surprised when their hometown claimed the top spot. Sedona is nestled among a geological wonderland that many refer to as Red Rock Country.
“We’re known as the most beautiful place on Earth,” said Jennifer Wesselhoff, President and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “It’s a really romantic place for a lot of different reasons. Not only because of the scenic beauty that you get to experience, but also the feeling you get when you’re here.”
A visit to Sedona can awaken a connection to both nature and your significant other that you never knew existed. Situated at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, a river gorge often described as the smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon, Sedona is blessed with four mild seasons, abundant sunshine, and clean air.
With a history rich in rural ranching, Sedona was incorporated in 1988 and has since become a 19-square-mile city with a vibrant community of art-loving, thrill-seeking residents. They’ve built this small Arizona town into a one-of-a-kind scenic destination that attracts more than 3 million tourists annually from around the world.
Although Sedona is relatively small in size and population, it’s the site of thousands of outdoor activities that can keep any adventurous couple’s dance card full. From ATVs and biking, to hiking and horseback riding, Sedona’s natural beauty is at the forefront of any trip to this desert city near Flagstaff.
“One of the things that sets Sedona apart from a lot of other romantic destinations is that it’s generally pretty quiet here,” Jennifer said. “It’s easy to get out on the land. You don’t have to hike 10 miles to find peace, hear yourself breathe, listen to the birds, or have a deep conversation with your spouse.”
Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest and boasts more than 300 miles of trails perfect for hiking and biking. Visitors often check out Pedego Electric Bikes Sedona, Trail Sports, Over The Edge Sedona, and Absolute Bikes to rent cycling and mountain bikes.
There are also plenty of hiking apparel and gear shops, including The Hike House. Four Season Guides and The Wildland Trekking Company provide up-close-and-personal sightseeing excursions.
“A trip here offers an opportunity to do something healthy, and the only thing aside from looking at nature and following the trail is connecting with each other,” Jennifer said. “Sometimes my husband and I just get out on the land and have a sunset picnic with a bottle of wine and some appetizers, and just watch the sun go down.”
Other outdoor adventures to put on your getaway wish list include fishing in Oak Creek Canyon, hot air balloon rides in Verde Valley, sunbathing at Slide Rock State Park, and golfing at one of the many 18-hole courses in the area. You can also visit national monuments and historical parks like Montezuma Castle National Monument, Tuzigoot National Monument, and Jordan Historical Park.
For every stunning sunset and peaceful plateau that Sedona has to offer, a talented artist has captured that view and thousands more. Sedona’s vibrant arts community has helped the city quickly make a name for itself as one of the top places to enjoy museums, art galleries, and annual art-centric events in the Southwest.
“Sedona attracts really interesting people — most of whom are not from here, but have moved from New York or Chicago or Los Angeles to escape busy everyday lives,” Jennifer said. “Art is important to us, and we’re working on a couple of cool events for next year that are focused on photography and other art forms.”
For art-loving couples, the sky’s the limit. Since Max Ernst, a surrealist painter, sculptor, and pioneer of the Dada Movement, arrived in Sedona in 1946, artists have taken note of the ever-changing landscape and light that can create instant art.
Check out institutions like the Sedona Performing Arts Center and the Sedona Arts Center as well as more than 80 fine art galleries peppered throughout downtown. There are also open art gallery nights and art festivals such as the Illuminate Film Festival, the Red Rocks Music Festival, the Sedona Arts Festival, the Sedona Plein Air Festival, and the Fall Arts & Crafts Fair at the Sedona Heritage Museum.
While trekking through narrow canyons can be exhilarating and perusing local art good for the soul, every couple needs to schedule some rest and relaxation when planning a romantic getaway. From winery tours and wine tastings to upscale dining, Sedona is the ideal locale to treat your favorite someone.
“We have amazing restaurants with scenic views for picturesque dates,” Jennifer told us. “The restaurant at L’Auberge de Sedona resort and spa, Cress on Oak Creek, is right along the banks of Oak Creek and features white linen tablecloths, amazing service, and wonderful food. It’s just a world away from everything.”
Other notable dining spots include Red Rock Café (where breakfast is served all day), Maria’s Restaurant & Cantina, Hiro’s Sushi and Japanese Kitchen, Creekside American Bistro, and Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, which has been a mainstay in Sedona for more than 20 years.
Aside from the city’s annual wine festival, Sedona Winefest, held every September, Sedona is also home to microclimates that echo some of the most famous wine regions of the world. The Verde Valley’s abundant sunshine and dramatic nighttime cool-downs — combined with rich volcanic soil — create an ideal environment for hearty varietals.
Check out nearby wineries and wine tastings at Burning Tree Cellars in Cottonwood, Page Springs Vineyards & Cellars and Javelina Leap Vineyard in Cornville, and Secret Garden Café in Sedona.
Couples looking to relax in the beauty of nature flock to Sedona to recharge and reconnect both physically and mentally. But the area is also closely associated with spirituality.
Sedona has amassed a worldwide reputation as a destination for some of the top healers, intuitives, artists, and spiritual guides. There are dozens of spots to visit when it comes to retreats, spas & salons, fitness and yoga houses, healing therapy locales, and more.
“The Native Americans believed that Sedona was a sacred land, and I think that’s why people feel a special energy here,” Jennifer said. “We have become known as a healing destination, so if you’re looking to find a deeper connection with someone, where better to do that than a place that’s considered sacred?”
Visitors often head to Sedona locales such as Mystical Bazaar, Awakenings Yoga Studio, Stressless in Sedona, and Sedona Healing & Hypnotherapy in search of enlightenment. Some of the area’s most popular spas and salons include the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, The Spa at Poco Diablo, and Nature Elements.
“Sedona is a place that allows the opportunity for connection,” Jennifer said. “Connect with the land, connect with your body, connect with your spirit, or connect with your spouse. It’s a place to develop those important aspects of understanding each other and communicating with each other.”