We’ve visited Arizona more than other destination -– 4 times so far! Why do we keep returning? Simply because we just really love it. It has dependable weather, incredible hiking, delicious food, and all around relaxing vibes. If it wasn’t unbearably hot in the summers, my husband might convince me to move there. If you’re searching for a babymoon destination (as we were years ago), this is where you should go – there’s warm, dry heat and no Zika! As a family destination, it’s even better. There are hundreds of family friendly hiking trails, plenty of outdoor spaces to explore, and incredible museums for when the sun is starts to warm up a bit too much. This ultimate travel guide to Sedona and Scottsdale has everything you need to know to plan a family getaway -- here you'll find information on where to sleep, eat and play in these two spectacular cities.
For your Planning Purposes
Getting there: Phoenix International Airport is just 20 minutes away from Scottsdale, and 2 hours from Sedona. There are also smaller airports closer to Sedona. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is 45 min away. Or, you can fly private into Sedona Oak Creek Airport.
Getting around: Renting a car is going to be the best option! While there is a shuttle from Phoenix to Sedona, you will need your own car to more easily access hiking trails and restaurants.
When to visit: There are 300 days of sunshine in Arizona! The high season consists of March-May, and September-December. January is popular for baseball training, spring is known for the desert blooms, and fall enjoys perfect temperatures. If you’re brave enough to come in the summer, you’ll find incredible hotel deals!
What to do in Sedona and Scottsdale
Highlights if you're in a hurry!
- Hike Pinnacle Peak: Scottsdale has an abundance of hiking trails, but make sure to start early or depart late in the afternoon. It heats up quickly, and some local friends told us it is not uncommon for a helicopter to “pluck tourists” off the mountains. I’ve seen every “hiker type” on Pinnacle Peak -- from hard core runners to moms (and dads) fashioning their baby-wearing carriers. It’s a hilly hike, but has expansive views of the valley, and cacti dotting the whole landscape. The trail takes 1.5-2 hours to complete (if you walk the full length and back). If you’re with young kids or just want to do a quick hike, it only takes about 15 min to reach the first overlook.
- Hike Soldiers Pass/Brins Mesa/Jordan loop trail: I've hiked many trails before, but the Soldiers Pass loop is one of my favorites in the world. The views are worth the effort. Admittedly, I trekked it at 7.5 months pregnant, so it was mostly my husband pushing me up the hills. It takes about 4-5 hours to complete the full loop (or at least for a pregnant gal to complete it).
- Pink Jeep Tours: I signed up for the famous Broken Arrow tour on my second Sedona visit, and the experience definitely lived up to reviews and expectations (plan to endure a very bumpy drive). As part of the experience, you'll cruise over the red rocks to hidden nooks and crannies of the Sedona landscape. You'll have the vistas all to yourself -- it's a super exciting experience and one of my favorite memories.
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Luxury Accomodations in Sedona and Scottsdale
- Four Seasons Scottsdale- Tucked between saguro cacti, and dramatic desert valleys, Four Seasons Scottsdale is a desert oasis for luxury travelers. There are 3 pools, 2 world class golf courses, a relaxing spa, and restaurants that reflect southwestern cuisine. You're just steps from Pinnacle Peak, and right in the middle of the Old West charm.
- Enchantment Resort - Set amongst the red rocks of Boynton Canyon, a stay at Enchantment Resort will allow you and the family to easily connect with nature, and relax together. There is a stunning heated pool, access to multiple hiking trails, and cozy casitas to curl up in all together. This is one of the best family resorts we’ve visited!
I Also Considered These Hotels
- The Phoenician - Known as one of Arizona’s premier luxury resorts, The Phoenican is a popular favorite for families. I can personally attest to this — I used to visit as a little girl and loved the waterslide! Set at the base of Camelback Mountain, The Phoencian is located in one of the best spots in town. Guests can also enjoy casita/suite options, 8 onsite restaurants, a 3 story spa, fitness center, tennis/pickleball courts, and golf.
- The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch - I can already envision my 3 year old asking to go here! Set at the base of McDowell Mountains, the Hyatt Gainey Ranch has everything your family needs for an adventure vacation. Choose between a 2.5 acre water playground, 3 story waterslide, and giant pool to cool off in after playing in the sun. Then head over to one of the 6 on-site restaurants.
- Mountain Shadows -Originally built in the 1950’s, the entire hotel was redesigned, rebuilt, and “reintroduced” in 2017. With sleek interiors and desert surroundings, it has become a fan favorite for travlers looking for a more boutique experience.
- Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - This hotel has nicknamed itself a “desert wonderland,” and I completely agree! You could arrive at this resort, stay a few days, never leave the property and you’d experience a new adventure everyday. Hang at one of the 3 pools, spend an entire day at the immaculate spa, play a round of golf, dine at the 5 restaurants, and check out the boutique shops. If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to check out the ice skating rink.
Hotels for an Adults-Only Escape
- Royal Palm Resort (Scottsdale) - This would be my pick for a kid free vacation! The focus of this resort is on calm and relaxation. I have visited the spa and can attest to the services being A+. The resort also has a small pool well acclaimed restaurant.
- L’Auberge de Sedona - Although this hotel does welcome kids, it would be my pick as a babymoon, girls getaway, or couples vacation instead. It has a more intimate atmosphere, with a fine dining restaurant located next to the babbling Oak Creek. Every element of the hotel’s design has a purpose, and the relaxing nature will help you unwind and relax.
The Most Memorable Restaurants in Sedona and Scottsdale
Sedona or Scottsdale are foodie meccas! Here are some of my favorite spots and other popular restaurants you’ll want to check out for yourself.
- If you’re craving Mexican: La Hacienda, Elote, and Tamaliza are all excellent choices with very different vibes. La Hacienda and Elote both feature sophisticated signature Mexican dishes. They are also family friendly. If you’re looking for casual on-the-go, Tamaliza in Sedona is known for its homemade empanadas.
- For some killer All-American Fare and Brunch: Proof at Four Seasons features comfort classics like Lobster rolls. You can enjoy views of Pinnacle Peak as you finish off your fries. Other popular options in Scottsdale include Gertrude’s in the Desert Botanical Garden and Prep and Pastry. In Sedona, I recommend Che Ahi Chi for brunch where you can order mesquite waffles as you gaze at the Boynton Canyon. Later, head into town to eat at The Hudson. This American eatery has delicious food, great cocktails, and super fun vibe. All of these options are family friendly too.
- Need a date-night? Pizzeria Bianco is a James Beard award winning restaurant, serving up incredible wood-fired pizza. While also family friendly, it’s a great option for a more casual date. Other popular and intimate choices in Scottsdale include T.Cooks and Mowry and Cotton. When you make your way to Sedona, don’t miss Mariposa, a latin inspired grill. This one is a personal favorite. The views at this restaurant are unbeatable! You’ll have front row seats to the red rocks of Coconino National Forest.
Tips for traveling to Sedona and Scottsdale
- Staying in Scottsdale will help break up the trek to Sedona: If you’re flying to AZ from the east coast – especially with kids – stopping in Scottsdale for a few days will be worth it 100%. From NYC, Phoenix is a 4-5 hour flight, and then Sedona is an additional 2 hour drive. That’s a lot of transitions and car seat shenanigans for one day. You won’t be disappointed that you took the time to stop and smell the saguaro blossoms.
- Experience the Grand Canyon on your own: While I think a trip to the Grand Canyon is worth it, I don’t necessarily recommend seeing this gem through the eyes of a tour company. It will require advance planning to map out your own excursion, but I think it’s better to experience this masterpiece at your own pace. You can read my full review of the tour I signed up for here. There were some advantages to using their services (I was 7 months pregnant and wanted to be extra safe), but if I was returning in a more mobile state, I'd opt to map out my own adventure.
- In Arizona, you can expect sun…and sometimes snow: Scottsdale is usually always sunny and warm. Sedona’s weather can vary. When I traveled there on my babymoon, it was the first week of April and 75-80 degrees everyday. When I returned the following year in April again, it was 80 degrees one day and then 55 degrees the next. In fact, it started lightly snowing during one of our hikes! Make sure to pack layers.
- Don’t miss seeing a Sedona sunset: The sunsets in Sedona were one of the vacation memories that will stick with me forever. The rays light up the rocks a deep red, golden color – the whole valley appears to burst into flames at any second. My favorite sunset spot was Crescent Moon Park. You can read some of my photography tips here.
That's a Wrap
Scottsdale and Sedona offer something for every type of traveler. Both cities are foodie centers, showoff scenic hiking, and pamper to those who want to just relax. I know I could visit Sedona again and again, and have a completely novel experience each time, especially as my daughter gets older. Next time, I want to check out the city of Jerome, and the West Fork hiking trails — I hear that’s a great spot for kids.
I hope this article has inspired your own family getaway to Sedona and Scottsdale. If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below. Also, don't forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.
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