When it comes to going away for the holidays, Sedona, Arizona, often isn’t a place that comes up on people’s lists. But did you know that the area is quite magical during the winter? In fact, many don’t realize that it can snow in Sedona. At certain times of the year, locals look forward to the snowy season when the land gets a dusting with red rocks peeking out, creating an incredible and unique view (you’ll want to bring your camera to capture family photos with the scenery in the background). While the majority of the country is freezing, Sedona remains at a comfortable, crisp and cool temperature, making it perfect to explore the great outdoors and take in the natural surrounding area.
When night falls, the sky turns into your personal festive holiday light show. Light pollution is very low in the area, which brings out millions of stars that cannot be seen in most parts of the country. Sedona is one of only 27 certified Dark Sky Cities in the world. Plan a stargazing tour or visit one of the secluded spots known for watching the stars. It’s one of the best socially-distanced activities during the season. Opt to stay in one of Sedona’s hotels to take advantage of outdoor fire pits and enjoy the perfect weather. Or use the hotel’s hot tub to be enveloped in warmth while admiring the scenery of the red canyons or the starry skies.
Go where the holiday action is at – Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. Here, the entire shopping district is lit up with festive holiday lights and there’s plenty of room to wander as well. If you join Facebook @Tlaq and @VisitSedona on Dec. 4, for the virtual tree lighting at 5:30 p.m., a favorite holiday tradition. The mayor of Sedona will declare the start of the holidays with a pre-recorded tree lighting before Santa Claus reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Go into town a few hours early before the lighting of the tree to get some holiday shopping out of the way. Tlaquepaque is known for its impressive assortment of shops selling artisan goods and locally made arts. You can find everything from textile rugs to jewelry made with gemstones found in the region, to pottery made by local, Indigenous people. There are over 50 galleries and shops in the Village alone.
Those who are unable to catch the tree lighting on Facebook can still catch the in-person Visit With Santa on Dec. 5 at Posse Grounds Park Pavilion. The organizers have reimagined the event into a socially-distanced, safe experience where face masks are required and 12 family “pods” will be available. Stevie the Elf will greet you and your little ones for an outdoor visit with Santa and a free treat bag.
All the holiday shopping may also give you an appetite; luckily, Sedona is a haven for foodies, especially during the holidays. Many restaurants in the area take pride in their sweeping views of the red rocks, and during this special season, you can enjoy the scenery with a warm meal. You could say this is the type of place where your taste buds have room to indulge as well. Chefs of Sedona are serious about their holistic approach to cuisine, and visitors will find menus full of seasonal dishes and drinks. For example, award-winning Elote Cafe usually serves pumpkin flan and butternut chile rellenos, and Creekside American Bistro will whip up a holiday cocktail concoction made with maple and apple whiskey. Burn off those calories with the annual Sedona Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. The 5K begins at Posse Grounds Park at 9 a.m. Nov. 26. Even if you’re not jogging or walking this year, cheer on the racers from the sidelines with some hot cocoa.
While you can explore the magical wonder that is Sedona on foot or by car, you’ll get to discover more rugged landscapes by train. Consider Verde Canyon Railroad, just outside Sedona, which will take you across rivers, bridges, canyons and peaks that are inaccessible by car. The train has both indoor and outdoor seating so spectators can go outside to enjoy the open-air ride. The train ride is four hours. During the holidays, the train has The Magical Christmas Journey Dec. 4-24, when decorated cars take children to the “North Pole,” which consists of a series of life-size buildings outfitted with luminarias and holiday decor. Riders are given warm holiday drinks and snacks as a treat. Once families arrive at the destination, they get to partake in festivities like Reindeer Flight School and Ugly Sweater Factory. Before the night ends, the esteemed jolly man in the red suit comes out to greet the families with his elves, marking the end of an unforgettable night full of wonder.