It’s the traditional February break for school kids, a tradition that dates back to the 1970’s when schools would close for a week in the winter to help defray heating costs. If you’re stuck at home in a snow globe (and don’t happen to be fond of wind chills that are 20 degrees below zero), February break can be a tough pill to swallow. By Tuesday, you’ve done all the indoor and outdoor activities you and the kids can handle and you’re ready to ship them back to school. The solution: travel!
Our destination is Arizona – first Scottsdale and now Sedona. I’ve got one of my favorite travel companions along for the ride: my 12-year old son. We’ll be checking out what this area of the country has to offer for the almost teenage set. This age group can be tricky: they’re too old to enjoy activities for younger kids, they’re aging out of most kids clubs (which typically end at 12) and their appetites often exceed portions on kids menus. Plus, prying their electronic devices out of their hands can get exhausting. We’re in search of interesting, active and interactive activities that can hold the attention of an almost teen.
Here is the perfect 3-day Sedona itinerary, leaving from the greater Phoenix area:
Depart Phoenix after a leisurely breakfast at your hotel. If you leave by 11:00 am, you’ll have plenty of time to make a 1:00 one-hour trail ride at M Diamond Ranch, including a stop at Sunset Point Rest Area for photos and the beautiful views. M Diamond Ranch is the real deal: friendly ranchers and simple trail rides. It’s a bit off the beaten path (at one point I was sure I was lost on a one-lane dirt road), but just stay the course and you’ll be rewarded with an authentic trail ride experience.
The drive from the ranch to Sedona is about 45 minutes at this point.
Check in at the Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas
In a rock star location in Uptown Sedona, Best Western Plus is steps from restaurants, shops, tour operators and galleries. Many value-added extras are included in this property such as a free hot breakfast buffet, free Wi-Fi and Clubhouse access with in & outdoor pools, whirlpools, steam room, sauna and a game room. Rooms are simple but feature many extras too: 46” flat screen TV’s, DVD Player, pillow-top mattresses, in-room coffee makers, refrigerator and microwave. All at a price point that won’t break your budget.
For dinner, you can walk to Sound Bites Grill which is located in a shopping plaza next to the Hyatt Pinon Pointe, a gorgeous Hyatt Residence Club. Sound Bites Grill is a music themed restaurant and entertainment venue – think Hard Rock Cafe, but more authentic and with much better food – featuring top quality live entertainment with amazing red rock views. The food is outstanding and the service very personable. Don’t miss the Stevie Ray Rita – a prickly pear margarita with salt and a lime (you’re walking, remember?) and the Fleetwood Mac and Cheese with sweet bay shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, creamy smoked gouda, cavatappi pasta all encrusted under a blanket of panko and parmesan. It’s crunchy, creamy and smokey all at the same time. The chicken lettuce wraps is a stunning dish that is a more virtuous choice offering butter lettuce cups, grilled chicken teriyaki with two sauces and all the trimmings. The flourless chocolate cake, not so virtuous, is an over-the-top ending to a perfect meal.
Enjoy a leisurely (included) breakfast at your hotel. Hot and cold breakfast favorites, including one or two dishes with a southwest twist, are served buffet style in a separate building a short distance from the main hotel. It’s a little bit further of a walk if you’re staying in one of the creekside villas.
Walk a block or two into the heart of uptown Sedona. Wander among the shops, restaurants and bars. Take an hour-long Sedona Trolley Tour to orient yourself with the area. Choose tour A which visits the south side of town, the upscale Gallery District, the famous Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village and a stop by at one of Sedona’s highlights: the Chapel of the Holy Cross. At $15 for one tour and $25 for two tours, Sedona Trolley Tour is one of Sedona’s best bargains.
Grand Canyon National Park
Toss some warm clothes in the car (you’ll need them for your evening activity) and drive about 20 minutes south to the Village of Oak Creek. Have dinner at the busy and popular Pago’s Pizzeria & Italian Cuisine where you’ll find pizza and Italian specialties in a traditional Italian eatery atmosphere with red and white checked tablecloths.
From Pago’s, you’re only a short distance from your meeting place for your evening activity: an Evening Sky Tour with Sedona Star Gazing. These popular tours must be booked in advance as they often sell out. The meeting place will be divulged to you upon receipt of your payment. You’ll be guided by professional astronomers using custom built state of the art telescopes and high powered laser pointers to guide you around the night sky. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the show that nature puts on every night. Everything is provided for you: chairs, blankets and parkas.
Teen tip: “I liked looking at a different galaxy. Very knowledgeable astronomers will answer any questions you have. ”
Mom’s tip: Dress warm!
Enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast then check out of the Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble.
Today’s adventure, Out of Africa Wildlife Park, is located in Camp Verde, about 30 minutes south of Sedona as you head back towards Phoenix. Plan to arrive when the park opens to make the most of your visit. On any given day there are 5 shows plus the African Bush Safari Tour, so you can easily spend an entire day here. Consider this itinerary:
9:45 – Arrival, parking, ticketing
10:00 – African Bush Safari tour – A great way to get oriented to the park and have a very up close and personal encounter with a giraffe! (I won’t give all the secrets away – you’ll just have to experience this one for yourself!)
Arizona Foothills Magazine
11:00 – Not for the faint of heart or scared of heights, the Predator Zip Line will challenge any adrenaline enthusiast. For me, the scariest part was stepping off the platform of each zip and knowing I’d be soaring 75 feet above the cages of wild animals. So much fun and the guides are spectacular.
1:15 – Tiger Splash™Show – You’ve never seen anything like this show, where the tigers and their trainers interact in an exciting way that respects the animals.
2:15 – Giant Snake Show
3:00 – Wonders of Wildlife/Predator Feed (on alternating days)
By 3:30, you’ll be headed back towards Phoenix in time for dinner.
Where to stay:
Enchantment Resort – Enchantment may be a bit off the beaten path, but you don’t come to Sedona just for the kitschy tourist shops. You come for the rocks and trust me when I tell you that you won’t find a better place to stay if you want to be immersed in those rocks. Surrounded by Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort is designed to take advantage of Sedona’s scenery with private, one-story adobe accommodations with private viewing decks. With hiking, tennis, swimming, outdoor whirlpool spa, multiple onsite dining options, golf and croquet, you never need to leave the resort. Have lunch on the terrace at Tii Gavo for one of the best spots to view the red rocks. Don’t miss the hand made artisan sodas (ginger and green apple is my favorite combination) and the Poblano Mac & Cheese. The Sedona Salad with jicama, manchego cheese, candied pecans and cilantro citrus dressing is delicious and a healthy choice too.
Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Sedona Michele Mcintyre
Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment – If you’re traveling with adults only and you’re looking for pampering or healing through mind, body and spiritual treatments, you’ll want to stay at Mii amo. It’s a resort within a resort concept that has a feel of exclusivity with only 16 spa casita guest rooms.
Amara Resort and Spa – We love Kimpton hotels for their morning coffee and tea bar, hosted evening wine hour and hip and trendy decor that is always unique to the environment. The Kimpton in Sedona has warm and inviting rooms surrounding a courtyard that leads to a zero-edge saltwater pool that tricks the eye into thinking it drops directly into nearby Oak Creek. It’s a fun property in an indigenous, stunning environment.
Michele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness, beauty and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. Michele blogs about the spa and travel industry. When she isn't writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better!