The small Southwestern town of Sedona is not know as being the most affordable place to visit in Arizona. According to a cost of living index, the cost of living in Sedona is roughly 10% higher than the Arizona average, and 13% higher than the national average in America. Which suggests that it's probably not a very budget-friendly destination for travelers.
But, despite Sedona's expensive restaurants, golf clubs and hotel rooms, it IS possible to visit this beautiful town and not burn a hole in your wallet.
Along with booking accommodation early to get the best prices (or maybe giving Couchsurfing a try?) and avoiding the really pricey restaurants, there are plenty of things to do and see around Sedona that are free, or at least really affordable. You can easily spend a few days in this beautiful town at a cost comparable to other cities in this region of the U.S.
Here are some suggestions for how to spend a couple of days in Sedona in the summer:
Walk around downtown
The cheapest thing you can do in Sedona is just stroll down its main streets. Uptown Sedona (where all the cute shops and restaurants are) is relatively small, and, even in the 100-degree heat of summer, is very walkable.
Most of the souvenir and clothing shops have misters outside their doors to help you cool off, and there's plenty to look at without spending any money. Sedona is in a beautiful spot, too, so even just sitting outside a shaded cafe can be a great activity here.
Take a trolley tour
If you want a narrated tour of Sedona and the surrounding area but don't want to shell out for a Pink Jeep Tour (they're supposed to be great, though), consider a Sedona Trolley tour. Sedona Trolley refers to itself as “The best first thing to do in Sedona,” which I think is a pretty good tagline. The company offers 2 separate 1-hour tours, which cover Sedona and some nearby attractions like Dry Creek Canyon and the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Tours run multiple times throughout the day, and only run $12 per tour (or $22 for both of them). This is a great option if it's stifling out and you don't want to do a lot of walking on your own.
See the Chapel of the Holy Cross
If you decide not to do a narrated tour that includes this chapel, I highly suggest driving out to see it on your own. From the inside, the chapel isn't anything amazing. But it sure is located in a striking spot.
Visit a Vortex
For the spiritual (or even just the curious), a visit to one of Sedona's famous “vortexes” is a must. Sedona went through a big New Age movement in the 1980s, and four spots became popular to visit for spiritual reasons. These “vortexes” are said to have been created by spiraling spiritual energy that can facilitate prayer, meditation, and even healing. There are tours that will take you to all 4 sites (located at Bell Rock, Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, and Boynton Canyon), or you can visit them on your own. But, be warned: most of them require a hike, which can be unpleasant in the height of summer.
Drive to a lookout
The closest Vortex to the center of Sedona is located at Airport Mesa, which is along Airport Road. Even if you have no desire to visit a vortex, driving to the lookout on Airport Road is well worth you time. From here, you can get a bird's-eye view out over the town and the nearby red rocks.
Splash around at Slide Rock State Park
If the summer heat becomes too much, consider driving a few miles outside of town to Slide Rock State Park. It will cost you $20 per car to enter the park, but I promise it's worth every penny. Not only can you enjoy some hiking here in Oak Creek Canyon, but you can also go swimming in the river — and get to know the park's namesake a bit better.
Slide Rock State Park is named after what has been dubbed “Slide Rock,” which is a natural water slide that has been carved into the riverbed by Oak Creek. I promise, it's great fun for all ages!
Slide Rock sees high visitor numbers in the summer, however, so I'd suggest visiting in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Sedona does indeed have some very expensive hospitality services. But you don't have to spend a ton of money to eat great here. My sister and I got delicious taco salads at an Uptown food court for $9, and I had the best sandwich I have ever eaten at Sedona Memories Bakery Cafe for less than $7. Simon's Hot Dogs is also supposed to be a fun, affordable place to grab a bite to eat.
Visit Red Rocks State Park
We ran out of time to visit Red Rocks State Park, but it's another of Sedona's top destinations, along with Slide Rock. This park has tons of great hiking options, including even some guided nature walks. The contrasts of red rocks, blue creeks, and green fields makes this park a photographer's paradise (or so I'm told). This, too, will cost you $20 per car to enter during the summer months. It's on my list for “next time.”
Sedona may indeed be one of the pricier places to visit in Arizona. But, as this little guide proves, you definitely don't have to spend a lot to enjoy all that Sedona has to offer.
Have you been to Sedona? If not, is it a place you can see yourself visiting?
Note: Big thanks to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce for helping us out with our stay here and suggesting a lot of great things to do!