At the 70-acre Enchantment Resort, distinct rock formations above Boynton Canyon provide a striking view. Geologists say the iron oxide in the sandstone creates the reddish hue.Photo courtesy of Enchantment Resort

Wanderings: An Artistic Oasis in the Desert

In 1932, sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude was deep in thought as she walked by the Empire State Building during construction. Two steel beams in the fledgling structure appeared to form a holy cross in her mind’s eye. The image so impacted her that she decided she would one day create a modern church embellished by a giant cross. After moving to Sedona, Arizona, she found the ideal spot to implement her vision. By 1956, the architectural feat was realized as the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a cement and steel Catholic sanctuary with a 90-foot cross rising from its red rock foundation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the landmark is a chief attraction and one reason why millions flock to this iconic town.

Embark on an open-air flight with Red Rock Balloon Adventures. The company launches hot air balloons daily, beginning at sunrise. Photo courtesy of Red Rock Balloon Adventures

Tiny Sedona, measuring only 18.3 square miles, is located in the northern interior of Arizona. While you can tap into its natural beauty and artistic flair instantly, getting there is another matter. One must be patient. To access this art colony, fly into Phoenix International Airport. From there, board a shuttle or rent a car and drive two hours north on Interstate-17. Or fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, a 40-minute drive from Sedona.

Entering the Chapel of the Holy Cross can be a powerful experience. The Roman Catholic chapel invites all to visit and linger.


It took two years for sculptor James Muir to create the 33-foot-tall bronze of the Crucifixion inside the chapel. A local model was bound by rope on his wrists to pose for the artist. Photo courtesy of Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Originally inhabited by the Navajo, Yavapai, Hopi, and Tonto Apaches, among other Native peoples, Sedona eventually became an agricultural community and was named in 1902 after Sedona Schnebly, the wife of the community’s first postmaster. By the mid-1900s, news of the surreal red rocks with shapes resembling angels, battleships, and coffee pots lured both tourists and artists alike.

The Casita King at the Enchantment Resort is one of 218 newly renovated rooms. The resort features views of the red rocks throughout, a full-service spa, on-site dining, and approximately 140 weekly activities.

Enchantment Resort is so exclusive that dining is only open to registered guests. The restaurants, Che Ah Chi and Tii Gavo, offer modern American cuisine with Southwest flavors. Photos courtesy of Enchantment Resort.

Since then, international and domestic travelers have paid homage to Sedona’s monoliths and mountains. In Sedona, the key to a good time is not watching the sun go down but watching the rocks light up with flaming red and orange hues right before dusk. Famous sandstone formations include Snoopy Rock, Bell Rock, and Cathedral Rock.

When you locate L’Auberge de Sedona’s Duck Beach, you’ve found an idyllic spot to read a book, hold hands, or swing on a hammock. Feeding the ducks is a morning ritual here. Photo courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

Family-owned El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano prides itself on Arizona-style Mexican cuisine. This take on fusion dining has kept customers returning for more than four decades. Photo courtesy of El Rincon Mexicano

Aficionados also converge for world-class art. The Southwest destination pulsates with festivals, workshops, and meet-the-artist receptions. The city features a public art program that stays fresh with new commissions. Take a personal art tour by downloading a map of the more than 30 public sculptures and murals on the Sedona Visitor Information Center’s website,

Wilde Resort and Spa is where you can achieve total relaxation whether you choose the signature massage with aromatic juniper oil or a star butter wrap. Don’t forget to take advantage of soaking in one of the spa’s outdoor tubs. Photo courtesy of Wilde Resort and Spa.

The grounds at L’Auberge de Sedona provide an easy escape into nature. Photo courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

Meanwhile, the Gallery District in this small community tantalizes with window displays from every art genre. On the first Friday of the month, galleries are open at night, and everyone is welcome to engage with artists and gallery owners. Be mesmerized inside Exposures International Gallery, Sedona’s largest gallery at 20,000 square feet, featuring contemporary, traditional, and Southwestern art.

Wilde Resort and Spa, opened in 2021, is home to 105 guest rooms, a swimming pool, a healing garden, and Rascal restaurant. Stargaze as you warm your hands in front of a firepit or, during the day, play lawn games at this pet-friendly property. Photo courtesy of Wilde Resort and Spa

The vibe of Sedona is quite “New Age,” where many place faith in the power of crystals, Native American healing practices, and alleged energy-emitting vortex sites. At Red Rock State Park or Slide Rock State Park, you may see pilgrims performing a drumming ritual in addition to sightseeing hikers. If you want to experience the red rocks from a different perspective, fly the skies with Red Rock Balloon Adventures, explore off-road with Pink Jeep Tours, or take a comfortable bus ride with Scenic Sedona Tours.

Sip a signature cocktail at Village Terrace inside the Enchantment Resort. The cobblestone patio is so picturesque it’s often booked for events. Photo courtesy of Enchantment Resort

The curious come from all walks of life. And in Sedona, you’ll encounter every flavor of lodging from modest Airbnb rentals to bust-the-budget resorts. For the ultimate marriage of luxury and nature, book the Ambiente, A Landscape Hotel. Opened in May 2022, the architecturally fascinating project consists of 40 freestanding atrium glass cubes nestled amidst the scarlet desert.

A dinner at Cress on Oak Creek at L’Auberge de Sedona means you will dine outdoors as close to the water as possible. The menu features local ingredients in classic Mediterranean-style preparations. Photo courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

Meanwhile, Enchantment Resort, overlooking gorgeous Boynton Canyon, boasts refreshed casitas and suites in modern Southwest motifs. Spa and exercise buffs can visit the tennis and pickleball courts, full-service spa, and pool. Over at L’Auberge Sedona, the creek-loving resort touts its own art curator and extensive art programs. And the Amara Resort and Spa, within walking distance to Uptown, serves up bliss with an infinity pool, fire pits, and a spa highlighting deep tissue massage.

L’Auberge de Sedona offers extensive art experiences and an artist-in-residence program. Explore the grounds to enjoy its changing array of sculptures and paintings. Photo courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

Once you get your bearings, wander Uptown to explore trinket shops, eateries, and galleries. In this neighborhood, you’ll find the historic Sedona Arts Center, where you can discover distinctive wares from some 100 local artists.

For more creative inspiration, take a drive out to Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village, which is really not a village but a boutique enclave filled with handmade goods. You’ll discover Mountain Trails Galleries, which focuses on Western art. And nearby is Hillside Sedona, a plaza complete with galleries and shops.

At Ambiente, Sedona’s newest hotel, the glass cube serves as the architectural motif. Rooms include a soaking tub for two, a mini-fridge filled with snacks, luxury linens and bedding, and motorized blackout shades. Photo courtesy of Ambiente

While in town, sample regional cuisine and splurge on special occasion hotspots. Head to Oaxaca Restaurant for lively Mexican specialties. Step inside the Cowboy Club for cactus fries, rattlesnake meatballs, bison brochettes, and classic steakhouse fare. For a romantic dinner, reserve a table by the water at the Cress on Oak Creek restaurant in L’Auberge resort. Or dine outdoors at Rascal for local organic fare and Arizona artisanal cheeses.

Pink Jeep Tours offers off-roading adventures. Rollercoaster fanatics can opt for the Broken Arrow trip, which lasts two hours and is the most rugged and bumpiest ride on Sedona terrain. Photo courtesy of Pink Jeep Tours

Art, architecture, shopping, food adventures: From vortexes to vespers, it’s all here, in tiny Sedona.


Ambiente, a Landscape Hotel;

L’Auberge de Sedona

Enchantment Resort

Amara Resort and Spa


Cowboy Club

Cress on Oak Creek

El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano

Oaxaca Restaurant

Rascal at The Wilde Resort and Spa

Touring companies

Pink Jeep Tours

Red Rock Balloon Adventures

Scenic Sedona Tours

Art galleries and shops

Exposures International Gallery

Hillside Sedona

Mountain Trails Galleries

Sedona Arts Center

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

Annual Events

Red Rocks Music Festival: Sept. 3–Dec. 17

Sedona Arts Festival: Oct. 8–9

Sedona Gem and Mineral Show: Oct. 15–16

Sedona Plein Air Festival: Oct. 22–29

Kathy Chin Leong
is an award-winning travel writer whose work has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Her recent book, San Francisco’s Chinatown (Heyday Books), has garnered rave reviews.

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