December Travel: Last week, we stayed at Amara Resort & Spa in the beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Sedona’s majestic red rock backdrop everywhere you turn just leaves me in awe of its beauty. I had visited the area once before years ago, and it’s even more breathtaking than I remembered. It’s absolutely one of my favorite places in the US.Travel Tips: Getting to Sedona isn’t difficult. I usually find quite a few options for inexpensive flight options to the PHX airport (Phoenix, AZ) and then we rented a car to drive north (under two hours) to Sedona, AZ. The whole mountainous drive is gorgeous and it feels more like 25 minutes! For reference, we stayed for two nights, three days in Sedona. We then drove back to Phoenix after check-out to enjoy an afternoon and evening there before the next morning’s flight home!
Stay: We were so grateful to be hosted by the urban chic, Amara Resort & Spa, situated along the banks of Oak Canyon Creek and surrounded with red rock beauty. I was so excited to be visiting before Christmas time; I just knew it would feel extra cozy with the holiday decor and Edison lights. We were in the heart of Sedona and a 5-10 min drive from everywhere we wanted to go! Uptown Sedona, made up of little cafes, restaurants and shops, felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie with all the holiday cheer and festive feels!
Property Amenities + Special Touches: Upon arrival, we truly felt so warmly welcomed by both valet and concierge. The valet had our vehicle out in seconds each time we walked out front. Check-in was so smooth, and the kindest woman working at the front-desk made sure we knew all that we needed to on the events taking place on the property, how to get to our hikes, and what we may be interested in during our stay.A few of my favorite resort details:
Heated Infinity Pool & Hot Tub With a View (Acceptable to walk to in robes 🙂 )
Complimentary Yoga in the Studio: Daily 7:45a & 8:30a
Illy Coffee Bar in Lobby: 5:30a-9a
Daily Wine Hour in Living Room: 5p-6p (white & red and SO perfect)
Spa Services Available Upon Request, Gym Access, Comfy Robes & Yoga Mat in Room
Adorable Post Card-Writing Corner: Amara takes care of postage
Top-Rated Saltrock Kitchen Southwestern Restaurant off Lobby: Also had seating on the gorgeous and heated patio overlooking the red rocks, with water falls + lawn seating)
Comfortable, Spacious Suites with Balcony Seating: Clean, up-dated, mini-bar, turn-down service, the shower products smelled amazing!! Need to find out the brand they use!
Saltrock Southwestern Kitchen: Tasty and Fresh Southwest Inspired Flavors, quickest, and superb service. Our dinner server was awesome and so friendly!Itinerary Suggestions:
SaltRock Kitchen: at resort brunch/lunch/dinner/drinks
Sedonuts: the name- it’s a must! coffee, donuts
Creekside Coffee & Bakery: breakfast sandwiches/avo toast
Creekside American Bistro: Breakfast
THE HUDSON: Lunch/cocktail/burgers/pasta
MARIPOSA: Epic View, sunset drinks, dinner
Devil’s Bridge Hikes 1.8 miles-3 miles
Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping: great art, shopping, and jewelry
Airport Mesa: Solid scenic lookout in our opinion
Bell Rock Hike: Easy hike
Helicopter Ride: Various time options, we used Sedona Air Tours
Pink Jeep Tour: They also have Grand Canyon
ATV Tour: $299 four hours around the ruins
Golf: Hilton Sedona Bell Rock Course
Javelina Leap: Vineyard and Bistro
DA RANCH: Newer winery, beautiful, good wine
Page Springs: Winery (could be crowded in peak season)
Exhausted after an early six-hour flight from JFK followed by 2-hour drive from PHX, we checked in and kind of planned out what we’d be doing the next day with the front desk’s map help! We then explored the property and enjoyed the lawn’s views along with the heated pool! It was time for wine hour conveniently so we just got to relax and get settled in Amara’s cozier than cozy couch area of the lobby!
I did my research ahead of time when it came to restaurants and sights! Between consulting with some of my AZ friends and TripAdvisor, I decided we’d just stay at Amara and enjoy a dinner at the SaltRock our first night. We had an amazing dinner! From their hand-crafted cocktails ( I had a seasonally-spiced margarita) to the chips and queso and steak mini taco appetizers! We loved every bite. I think we shared a chilean sea bass entree that was also noteworthy! It was early to bed after a long travel day!
Due to the convenience of the location and the delicious-sounding menu, we decided to grab breakfast back at SaltRock. We surprisingly caught the sunrise behind the rocks, enjoy a delicious farm -to-table style big breakfast, and grab a coffee in the lobby before we were off to our first hike: Airport Mesa! I was told this was the best view of Sedona and it was all of a 5-minute drive from the resort. Parking can be tight there, but there are lots of options to park on your drive up the hill. Once you’re there, you can venture around the 3-mile trail or just take in the sights from Airport Mesa! Absolutely gorg.
Initially, we had planned to hike Devil’s Bridge, but since it had snowed the week prior, we also had some concerns with slipping and decided to just forego the risky trail and revise ze plan over some very large pieces of toasted zucchini bread and iced oat milk lattes uptown in Pink Cafe.
We somehow managed to sign up for a helicopter ride whilst strolling around the Christmas town haha, so ventured over to Bell Rock to hike until our ride time.
If you only have about an hour and want a beautiful and easy trail- Bell Rock Hike is your best bet! Friendly to hikers of all ages, we truly enjoyed this one. Every few minutes I would find myself just turning around looking out, saying “WOW!” I do that a lot in Sedona. Every painted sky (and mountain) is a canvas of God’s Grace! (One of my very favorite songs: “So Will I” by Hillsong United)
It was time to check-in near the runway which was at the top of Airport Road (not ironic lol) for our helicopter ride! It was both Tony and I’s first helicopter experience and it was fantastic. We were reminded that Walt Disney had a house in Sedona for a very long time, and he even created Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom modeled after this very place. We flew through canyons and valleys; the pilot pointed out Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and more. The rate was decent too, and it was under 20 minutes so it didn’t take up too much our time that we wanted to explore. I believe the company we used was Sedona Air Tours. This company also does Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as well. If we were in town longer I definitely would’ve loved to adventure to either of those spots by car but we just didn’t want to spend the entire trip en route!
Thanks to my AZ friend, Carissa, we made reservations about a week in advance at the fan-favorite: Mariposa, which is a latin-inspired grille. Folks enjoy the epic views from Mariposa for afternoon cocktails, as well as probably their most popular time: sunset. The surrounding rocks LIGHT UP before the sun begins to set AND there was a full moon brightly lighting up the sky as we sat outside in wonder. The entire property was stunning and there were a few other groups beside us who had the same idea. We then were taken to our table which was right next to their floor-to-ceiling glass windows, still gazing out at the incredible scene. At Mariposa, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. In addition to Mariposa, Chef Lisa Dahl also owns Butterfly Burger and Dahl & Diluca, offering the freshest cuisine whether it be Latin, Italian, or American! Even if it’s just for cocktails, go around sunset to Mariposa–no regrets!
Everyone said Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village was a must, and they weren’t wrong. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque, meaning the “best of … Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is that very special place. Most stores closed at 6, however, we were able to catch a few jewelry stores (with pieces crafted from Africa and Spain, OMG I found the cutest bracelets!) to wander around, and the Christmas decor and lights were just so merry! This village was so magical, I loved it.
Since we had to make the trek back to Scottsdale, we packed up and headed back over to Tlaquepaque to see it during the day, grab a coffee from the famous Cake Couture Coffee & Desserts, and a bite to eat at the warmest, Pump House Station (Urban Eatery and Market). Their portobella benedicts- UH-mazing. The Christmas decorations were ON POINT, and I appreciated every detail. Before hitting the road, we strolled around seeing the Christmas trees with chai lattes and some treats from the bakery!
Needless to say, we had the best time. We look forward to returning again soon, Sedona. Thank you for your partnership, Amara Resort & Spa. Hosted by Amara Resort & Spa.