Our trip to Sedona in September was part of our four-week USA road trip with visiting family from Australia.
Arizona featured heavily in that itinerary, and after a relaxing couple of days in Scottsdale we drove to Sedona before moving on to the Grand Canyon!
Airport Summit Trail
You might think of Sedona as a luxury destination with indulgent spas, art galleries, fine dining, and 5-star resorts.
It has all that, yes, but there are plenty of incredible things to in Sedona with kids too!
This is Red Rock Country and many of the activities revolve around the outdoors so they are free, or cheap, and involve immersing yourself in nature – one of our our favorite things to do in Arizona!
With 300+ miles of trails for hiking and biking, stunning mesas and canyons, a small-town atmosphere, and numerous other outdoor activities, we love this town as a family vacation destination!
Bell Rock Path
Unfortunately Caz wasn’t with us on this trip in September as she was in NYC at a travel blogging conference.
But, as you might know, six weeks ago we started our one year USA road trip in our RV and planned to visit Sedona for an extended stay to do all the things we missed on our first visit, and to show her all the things we loved!
We loved exploring this town. It’s one of the most beautiful destinations in America, if not the world, and we can say that after visiting 50+ countries!
Our kids still talk about it, and so do my parents and sisters family!
Our whole crew at the Airport Overlook
Although we only stayed for two days in September before our trip to the Grand Canyon, we squeezed plenty in to share with you below!
So if you planning a trip to Sedona with kids, this is what we did, or are planning to do.
Things to do in Sedona with Kids
Bell Rock Pathway Hike
One of the short walks we did was along the Bell Rock Path.
You don’t have to wonder too hard as to why it’s called Bell Rock, as the shape resembles that of a large bell, and the impressive Courthouse Butte sits right along side it.
The Bell Rock Pathway is one of the most popular hiking trails in Sedona and one of the easiest Sedona hikes, and it’s a stunning view as you get closer and closer to these iconic red rock formations.
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte
The trail is easy to follow and only 3.5 miles round trip, so depending upon your walking pace and how many photos you stop to take, you should be able to do it within 1.5 hours.
We didn’t climb up Bell Rock on this visit in September, but…
We just arrived back in Sedona (mid-January) and this time with Caz, and this time we climbed up Bell Rock!
Well, we made it half way up the rock, found a nice flat and safe area to sit and have a picnic and take in the incredible views.
I would consider the path up a moderate to easy climb, and the path quite easy to follow, plus there are several people doing it so it’s hard to lose your way!
We came to a large gap in the rocks you scramble through, which was fun for the kids, then we hiked around the rock about another 10-minutes before finding this flat area.
Just take your time, keep your kids close to you, and you’ll be fine!
This is definitely one of the fun kid-friendly things to do in Sedona, and close to the village of Oak Creek.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
First stop on our sightseeing drive was the impressive Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built into the red buttes.
If you only have time for one cultural site, make this it, as not only is the chapel’s position unique and interesting, but the surrounding views out over Verde Valley and Cathedral Rock are stunning!
The Chapel was designed by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude (a student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright) and it’s an easy 4 mile drive from Uptown Sedona.
You only need a short time here and probably best to plan a morning visit as there is limited parking and it’s very popular, so get in early!
Drive Red Rock Scenic Byway 179 and 89A
View of Bell Rock along SR 179
One of the best free things to do in Sedona with kids is to simply drive along Red Rock Scenic Byway 179 (SR 179).
It’s on this stretch of road we got our first glimpse of Red Rock Country and what was to come.
You jump on this stretch of road off interstate 17, but I think the best section is between the Village of Oak Creek towards Uptown.
We stayed in the Village of Oak Creek (see our hotel down below) and each morning drove 15-minutes into Uptown to meet my parents at their hotel.
Along this stretch you get views of iconic landscapes like Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Castle Rock and Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock and in the distance a glimpse of the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
In the morning the sun is positioned perfectly to shine brilliant light on these formations!
You can pull over at several exits for more scenic vistas, and if you are staying in Oak Creek Village like I did you get to do this drive in both directions for a different perspective – recommended.
State Route 89A offers views of Coffeepot Rock, Thunder Mountain (Capitol Butte), Sugarloaf Mountain and Chimney Rock!
Sunset from the Sedona Airport Overlook
The Airport Overlook at sunset is another one of the most popular things to do in Sedona.
It’s a nice spot to watch the sun go down with stunning views of Thunder Mountain (Capitol Butte), Coffeepot Rock and the valley below.
Definitely do it at sunset, but I love this view at sunrise or even mid-morning as the position of the rising sun shines beautiful light on Thunder Mountain and Coffeepot Rock, but at sunset they were mostly in shade.
There are less people in the mornings too!
Morning view from Airport Overlook
Again, get here early at sunset to get a good spot, especially on weekend evenings!
Airport View Trail
We didn’t do the following airport hiking trails in September, but have just completed them with Caz after arriving back in town this week (mid-January).
If the small car park area is full at the trail head of the Airport Loop Trail, continue driving up hill and park at the airport overlook where you watch the sunset.
From there you can walk half a mile back down hill on the Airport View Trail (one of the easy hikes in Sedona) to the start of the Loop Trail and get these views!
Airport Summit Trail
At the beginning of the Airport Loop Trail on Airport Road, take the short climb to the top of the Summit Trail for sensational views out over the valley and back over Thunder Mountain (Capitol Butte).
Red Rock Country is regarded by Native Americans as sacred, and it continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal.
Many visitors come to experience the vortex energy centers. People travel from all over the world to experience the mysterious cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the red rocks.
The term Vortex refers to a place where the earth energy swirls and draws to it’s center everything that surrounds it like a tornado.
Although all of Sedona is considered to be a vortex, there are specific sites where the energy crackles most intensely.
This is one of the vortex sites, Airport Mesa, so sit back and breathe in some of that positive energy.
Airport Loop Trail
After tuning into the vortex energy on the summit trail, we headed off on this 3.2 mile Airport Loop Trail which circles the Sedona airport.
We headed clockwise from the trailhead which offers amazing views of the valley below and as you round the bend Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock come into view.
On the second half of the hike, you get more wonderful views of Thunder Mountain and Coffeepot Rock as you are hiking just below the Airport Overlook sunset point.
This is a moderate hike that is quite rocky early on with some steep drop-offs on the south side of Airport Mesa. Again, stay close to your kids and take it slow.
Bring plenty of water and some snack food. This hike took us about 2.5 hours with plenty of stops for photos and a picnic lunch.
Explore Uptown Sedona
Wander up and down both sides of the street (SR 89A) in downtown Sedona checking out all the stores!
My kids loved shopping for candles at Candle Magic (tell Angie we sent you), and picking out their favorite crystals to either wear as a necklace or bracelet, or place beside their bed.
There’s art stores, galleries, home decor, souvenir stores, boutique shopping, plus Native American jewelry, arts & crafts and much more.
Be warned, this is NOT one of the free things to do and you could easily go crazy on the shopping here!
Sunset Drinks at Canyon Breeze
Late afternoon we found ourselves here, sitting on the patio with these stunning mountain views of the red rocks!
Our kids all enjoyed an ice cream from Sabrina’s Ice Cream shop, whilst the adults an adult beverage, or two!
Canyon Breeze is right in the middle of Uptown and is a bit of an all-in-one restaurant serving up pizzas, burgers, a full bar, and ice creams.
It’s a relaxing spot to kick back at the end of the day and enjoy family time with views!
Cathedral Rock Hike
I think this is more of a rock climb than a hike, but we walked a little of the way towards Cathedral Rock and you can still appreciate how impressive it is.
We did make the mistake of visiting in the middle of the day, and it was hot and the lighting quite harsh for photos, so again probably best earlier in the morning or late afternoon, like most hikes.
Cathedral Rock is one of the most-photographed sights in Arizona and a famous natural landmark.
I’m sure if you took on this hike and climb to the end, the views would be spectacular – on our list for our return visit!
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
This arts and crafts village has been a landmark since the 1970’s.
Wonder around the village and take in the collection of galleries, shops and dining options, and admire the courtyard fountains and vibrant colors of its gardens.
We didn’t eat here, but grabbed some shakes and ice creams from “How Sweet It Is”. But I liked the look of the menu at the Secret Garden Cafe, and the Oak Creek Brewery is here too!
Other things to do in Sedona recommended by others:
Below are several other activities suggested by locals or friends who have visited that we have on our itinerary for our next visit:
Pink Jeep Tours
We didn’t do this during our visit in September due to time and being focused on activities of a slower nature, but everyone we spoke to said you must do one of the Pink Jeep Tours Sedona!
They are hard to miss when in town, and are known as one of the best Sedona activities and a thrilling way to explore Red Rock Country!
But it’s at the very top of our list during our return trip, with the Broken Arrow or Schnebly Hill Pink Jeep Tour highly recommended.
Our partners, Get Your Guide, offer Pink Jeep Tours including the 2-hour Scenic Rim tour with hotel pick up, the highly recommended Broken Arrow 2 hour Tour, or the Vortex Tour.
More Sedona activities on our list:
- Devils Bridge Trail – largest natural sandstone arch in Red Rock Country
- Verde Canyon Railway – 20 mile journey through 100 years of history and red rock canyon walls.
- Slide Rock State Park– a water slide created by nature (warmer months).
- Red Rock State Park – features a red sandstone canyon
- Ruins of Palatki and Honanki – largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 – 1350
Places to Eat in Sedona (and drink)
This place came highly recommended. Formerly the Oak Creek Tavern, it has served as a meeting place, pool hall, grocery store and saloon.
More than 50 movies were filmed in this region and many of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars have stepped inside what is now called the Cowboy Club.
It serves up steaks, burgers, and seafood. Plus some famous unique dishes like Cactus Fries and Grilled Rattlesnake & Wild Boar Sausages.
I enjoyed my Bison Burger, Kalyra her ribs, and the salads and vegetable platters are great too! It’s casual and family-friendly, but with a full bar.
You feel like you have stepped back in time with the Country and Western decor, plus on display is the second largest set of Longhorn horns in the US and Cowboy Artists’ works.
Typically busy in the evenings, we decided to stop in for lunch instead. And if it’s full inside, they offer patio seating outdoors too!
Looking for delicious burgers in a casual setting? Look no further!
The Outlaw Grille was a top insiders tip from a local in the know, and we’re glad they pointed us in this direction.
Located down a lane way off the main strip in Uptown, you won’t get those classic red rock views from here, but you’ll get tasty burgers made with fresh ingredients served up by friendly locals.
I went with the Outlaw Classic burger – there’s plenty here for the kids too!
Wildflower Bread Company
If you like sandwiches and soups, consider the Wildflower Bread Company.
When we arrived at lunch time, the line was virtually out the door. It was good food without being great. But what is great is the views from their patio, so if you can grab a seat outdoors in warmer weather do so!
They also do breakfast dishes and various pastas.
I’m hesitant to add this as a place to eat, as the quality of the food was just ok, but it served it’s purpose as a cheap and casual place with the kids after a long day to grab some pizzas, wraps, sandwiches, salads and ice creams for a treat.
But as mentioned above, at least stop in here for the beer/wine and that view!
Pink Java Cafe
I asked around the locals for a good coffee suggestion, and the feedback was not that inspiring and that this town is not known for great coffee – and coming from Australia we are a bit fussy!
Whilst the Pink Java Cafe didn’t wow us with their lattes, they did wow us with their views!
So if you’re ok with just a decent cup of coffee, come here and sit back and take in those spectacular red rock views on the patio in the sun!
After just arriving back in town, the very friendly business owner at the Candle Magic store highly recommended Creekside Coffee for good coffee.
Well, we went there on Sunday and had high hopes after the line was out the door, but unfortunately we thought the coffee wasn’t any better than Pink Java, and it was lukewarm – you should not be able to skull coffee!
But the views were brilliant. And the pastries were good, like their flour-less chocolate brownie and strawberry shortcake.
So again, if you are ok with ok coffee, go there for the views!
Other Sedona restaurants suggested to us that we haven’t eaten at yet, but are on our list:
- Memories Bakery & Cafe – loved by locals!
- Elote Café – cuisine inspired by the markets of Mexico
- Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill – Go for lunch and sit outside. The 360 views are matched by an out of this world menu.
- 89agave – Mexican in the heart of Uptown
- The Hudson – Upscale yet family-friendly American eatery.
- Indian Gardens Café & Market – an historic general store in lower Oak Creek Canyon
Where to Stay in Sedona
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock
My two kids and I stayed at the Hilton Resort at Bell Rock.
Situated in the Village of Oak Creek, the Hilton Sedona Resort was a lovely place to come back to and recover and relax after our daily activities in and around the region – and it’s just a 15-minute drive back into Uptown along the gorgeous Red Rock Scenic Byway 179!
We had stunning red rock views from the balcony of our two queen suite room all the way to Bell Rock, and resort amenities include three sparkling pools, an expansive athletic club and spa, and championship golf course.
What my kids loved, and what was great for me during breakfast and dinner time, was the nearby games of cornhole, table tennis, and jenga – I could actually sit and relax during a meal whilst they were entertained, lol.
There’s also fire pits to sit around, and you can dine out on the resort porch area with distant views.
Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas
If you want to stay in the heart of Uptown without spending a fortune, consider the Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas.
My parents and sisters family stayed here. My sister is a detailed travel researcher and planner and she chose that one herself.
They stayed in one of the Creekside Villas and loved the space and location.
Book early because of this hotels proximity to Uptown. I also looked at staying at this Best Western a few months out from our visit in September but it was booked solid.
Luxury Sedona Resorts
If you’re looking for luxury, consider the L’Auberge de Sedona which is situated on the banks of Oak Creek in the heart of Uptown and is an unmatched luxury resort and nature spa with award-winning dining.
Sedona Boutique Hotels
Another popular choice is Orchards Inn, which offers panoramic red rock views and is centrally located among Uptowns finest shops, galleries and restaurants.
There are plenty of other great places to stay in Sedona depending upon whether you are looking for Downtown Sedona hotels, Sedona family resorts, or other hotels near Sedona AZ.
For a complete list of options for all the best hotels in Sedona, visit our partner Booking.com.
Besides a Pink Jeep Tour, below are other recommended tours and Sedona attractions from our partners at Get Your Guide:
- Horseback Ride, Jeep Tour and Dinner Show
- Helicopter and Jeep Combination Tour
- Vortex Tour
- Ancient Ruins Tour
- Winery and Jeep Tour
- Grand Canyon Classic Tour
Getting to Sedona
So where is Sedona?
It is located in the northern Verde Valley region of northern Arizona.
How far is Sedona from Phoenix? It is approximately a 90-minute to 2-hour drive from downtown Phoenix to Uptown Sedona.
Flagstaff to Sedona is 45-minutes, and Sedona to the Grand Canyon is approximately 2-hours drive.
Flagstaff Airport is the closest small commercial airport, but most people would fly into Phoenix Airport then grab a rental car.
I hope this blog post inspired your trip and helps plan your own Sedona Arizona family itinerary.
Red Rock Country really does offer some of the most picturesque hikes we’ve ever done. Plus the numerous other family-friendly activities on offer have us planning to make this trip to an annual family vacation!
Stay tuned, we’ll be adding more tips to this blog post after we leave town next week (end of January).
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Do you have any tips on what to do in Sedona AZ? Or have any questions? Please share in the comments below!