This week, The Escape Home begins publishing “Itinerary,” an occasional feature offering exactly that. We’ll break out the day-by-day, play-by-play of destinations, and also mix it up with some places to go off the beaten path. We’re trying to make this feature easy to read/scan and also tell you the details we often wish were included in travel summaries.
We begin with an intergenerational tour of Sedona, a trip recently undertaken by Escape Home co-founders S. Mitra Kalita and Nitin Mukul, and their family.
A Sedona itinerary for the ages (11 to 85, to be exact)
By S. Mitra Kalita
Who went: One 85-year-old senior with a cane and prosthetic arm; one 18-year-old woman home from college break; one 11-year-old female middle-schooler; one 53-year-old artist and avid hiker; one 46-year-old mother in mediocre shape who curates vacations for instant joy and long-lasting, memories and bonding moments (that’s me).
TL;DR: Call ahead to book tours and restaurants as soon as you have your dates. Please note many of them do not answer the phone so you’ll need to use OpenTable. One hack is to check every morning for cancellations and take what you can get; then use the platform to email the restaurant for accommodations like a bigger party, high chairs, special events, etc.
Landed late at night in Phoenix and stayed at the Hampton Inn in Anthem. We intentionally chose a hotel with breakfast slightly closer to Sedona to make the drive the next day shorter.
I am the cheapskate who makes peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches at breakfast to eat later in the day. I also pack hard-boiled eggs into to-go cups for the low-carb (read me) travelers.
We stopped at Montezuma Castle, which preserves Indigenous culture and ways of life. We also bought our parks pass here (a senior pass is just $20 for the year), which enabled us to get in, park here and all the other sites we’d go onto in Sedona. This is a very doable site for seniors and young ones alike; there are picnic tables and plenty of places to sit along the short trail.
We checked into our hotel: the Sedona Real Inn & Suites. We had two rooms, and they accommodated my father-in-law with a ground-floor, handicap-accessible room. We chose this hotel because it’s central, relatively affordable and includes hot breakfast.
It was late afternoon so we, sans senior, decided to do a simple hike at Fay Canyon. Thanks to a sudden cancellation that morning, we were able to get a reservation at Mariposa, one of Sedona’s nicest restaurants with a glorious view of red and orange panoramas. Warning: The dress code is business casual or “resort evening attire.”
We ended the evening with star-gazing at Two Trees Observation Area (it’s confusing, but just park your car by the side of the road, let your eyes adjust and look up). The formal tours felt terribly expensive to us so we did our own. However, I did find astronomer Dennis Young of Sedona Starlight willing to take us on a tour for about $25 per person. Our schedules never lined up but I really wanted to do this.
Nitin started his morning at 6 a.m. by doing the Cathedral Rock hike and emerged with the most glorious photos (I regret not going but was worried the rock-climbing would be too much; he told me later that I would have been fine). The rest of the day was spent on the Pink Jeep Tour; we chose Broken Arrow and the Scenic Rim.
After the tour, we had lunch at Wildflower, Sedona’s bustling version of Panera.
Again, sans senior, we rushed to do the Devil’s Bridge hike before sunset. Because of the timing, something unexpectedly glorious happened: We had the place virtually to ourselves.
We had to make our way back to the parking lot in the dark (we got a night hike in!). Wiped from the day, we just ordered in from Famous Pizza. Real Inn has tables in the lobby and set us up by the fireplace so it felt more cozy, less cafeteria. The night ended with half of us in the hot tub.
It’s always good to plan for a rainy day. Ours also ended up being one of togetherness as we found accessible activities for all. We went to the Church of the Holy Cross and lit candles. Then it was off to the Amitabha Stupa, a Buddhist monument and park which — if you call ahead — can arrange for you to drive your car straight onto the premises. For everyone else, it’s a short hike up a dirt (muddy) path.
Our teen loves thrifting (that was the subject of her college essay so we don’t knock it) and we headed to Twice Nice thrift store, which had a lot to offer and deals in fleece, boots and bags. We also went shopping at Tlaquepaque, a cool, upscale market of local vendors and artisans. I bought cloth napkins from Cucina Sedona, glass-blown coasters and handmade soaps from other shops.
We picked up takeout lunch from Thai Spices, and tried to catch the sunset vistas at Airport Mesa (it was cold and didn’t quite work but hot tea warded off the complaints). We went straight to dinner at Elote, the restaurant everyone told us we must try. Reservations are nearly impossible but I saw an opening for two and snagged it the night before, then emailed the restaurant using Open Table’s platform to let them know we were actually a party of five.
Our last day in Sedona started out with an early morning hike, sans senior and children, to Soldiers Pass (the 7 Sacred Tubs were full and gorgeous thanks to rain from the previous day). Then we returned for one last breakfast, checked out of the hotel and did as much of the Bell Rock hike with the kids as we could muster. The climb here is steeper than I anticipated with places you really have to hoist upward (it might have just been the route we took).
During my research into hotels, I was impressed with L’Auberge but could not justify the prices on our budget. So instead, I booked us for lunch at its Cress on Oak Creek restaurant, and am so glad we did. The food was great but even better was the setting: rustic, woodsy and quiet. The front desk gave us food to feed the ducks, which no kid is ever too old to do.
On our way out of Sedona, the family insisted we stop at the only McDonald’s with blue arches and they took photos and ordered a McFlurry for the road. We ended up at another thrift shop, Red Rock Resale, and bought wool hats, sage and records to take back home.