Arizona is no stranger to the snowbird market, as destinations like Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson draw cold-fleeing visitors with their stellar resorts, spas, and year-round golfing. But about a two-hour drive from Phoenix, up in the high desert and under the rim of the Colorado Plateau, Sedona showcases a different side to Arizona—one of four seasons, red-rock backdrops, and small-town charm. Artists find inspiration in its stunning natural beauty, active types revel in hiking and biking the rugged terrain, and healers and wellness-seekers have long been drawn by the soulful, uplifting atmosphere—which many attribute to the ancient energy “vortexes” that dot the rocks. Whatever the reason, there’s something instantly relaxing about being in Sedona, and many travelers are catching on to its unique appeal. Bonus: an emerging (and high-quality) wine scene is adding to the chill vibe.
Most of the recent increase in Sedona’s visibility has less to do with an influx of new hotels and activities than with serious upgrades to existing ones. In 2012, the 70-acre Enchantment Resort (from $415; 525 Boynton Canyon Rd; 844-244-9489; enchantmentresort.com) completed a $25 million renovation of its 218 rooms and suites (many of which have patios or balconies overlooking Boynton Canyon) and has since added over 100 activities, like photography and art classes and the “Over-the-Top Grand Canyon Adventure,” with private plane transfers to the natural monument. Guest can hit the links at the Tom Weiskopf–designed Seven Canyons Golf Course, or check in to the onsite Mii Amo destination spa (which has 16 separate casitas) for one of the lauded three-to-seven-day wellness retreats, which balance a wide range of fitness and spa activities with healthy portions of gourmet food and wine.
Set on the banks of Oak Creek, L’Auberge de Sedona (cottages, from $585; 301 Little Ln; 800-905-5745; lauberge.com) followed up a recent refresh of its 62 luxury cottages (each now equipped with open-roof cedar shower) and the launch of its natural ingredients-driven L’Apothecary Spa with more multimillion-dollar work. Late-2015 saw the launch of three new restaurants, including fine-dining Cress on Oak Creek from award-winning chef Rochelle Daniel, who incorporates foraged finds into her creative menus. In mid-2016, the resort introduced the redesigned Creekhouse (from $2,000), a two-story, 2,500-square-foot exclusive-use retreat with five bedrooms, extensive living and dining spaces, and a 640-square-foot terrace overlooking the creek. Thanks to a new partnership with the noted Goldenstein Gallery (70 Dry Creek Rd.; 928-204-1765; goldensteinart.com), the Creekhouse, guest rooms, and public spaces feature a rotating collection of works by local artists; guests can also connect firsthand with painters and sculptors—and watch them in action—via the weekly Artists in Residence program. Soak up more of the Sedona art scene at the monthly First Fridays gallery event (the Sedona Trolley provides free transport between galleries), or during the Sedona Visual Arts Coalition’s annual Open Studios weekend, featuring over 50 artists working in a variety of mediums.
Though wine has been made in parts of Arizona since the 17th century, vintners have, over the last decade, rediscovered the fertile, river-fed Verde Valley around Sedona, resulting in the arrival of several vineyards and wineries within a short drive from town. Two of top spots—both earners of 90 points or more for their vintages—include Page Springs Cellars (1500 N. Page Springs Rd.; 928-639-3004; pagespringscellars.com) and Burning Tree Cellars (1040 N. Main St., Cottonwood; 928-649-8733; burningtreecellars.com); both offer tasting room experiences and weekly live music, while Page Springs also boasts a massage cabin, yoga studio, and an in-house chef who whips up gourmet treats to pair with flights of Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier.