By Gwen Wunderlich-Smith
A wonder of the world, a true gift to the eyes during the holidays or really any time of year, the Arizona desert is amazingly beautiful. It’s packed with wild cactus, painted canyons, and some of the most dramatic sunsets in the world. Noted for its vibrant arts community and soaring red rock formations (half tucked in a blanket of snow over the holidays) that cradle an array of resorts, spas, art galleries and boutique wineries, Sedona walks the line between soul-nourishing remote desert and pampered lavishness.
We checked in at the serene Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, and were tempted to simply relax in the sophisticated grey and blue oasis. The calming atmosphere of our rooms was further enhanced by the crackle of the fireplace and a private balcony beckoning us to take off our coat and stay awhile, but the Verde Valley Wine Trail awaited. We visited five wineries with six different tasting rooms, each boasting a unique personality and skillfully crafted wines to satisfy even the most discerning palate, along with a lesson in production and the history of Arizona wines.
It was the perfect teaser to our delectable dinner at the hotel’s signature eatery, The Grille at Shadowrock. We adored the fresh southwestern menu and mouth-watering desserts, particularly relishing the chilled shrimp and avocado cocktail, seared salmon, and the “too tall” carrot cake. Having dessert by the outdoor fire pit made the perfect ending to a delicious meal.
Adventure awaited us when we sprung out of our Serenity Beds the next morning (there’s a reason they call them Suite Dreams Mattresses). After an herbal tea overlooking the breathtaking vistas from our patio, we set off for a private red rock off-road jeep adventure. Whether seeking rugged adventure, Native American history and culture, nature, geology, or panoramic views, there is a tour for you. (We recommend Pink Jeeps’ exciting “Broken Arrow” Tour.)
To recover our Zen after the wild morning, we headed to body and soul-restoring eforea spa, tucked away inside the Sedona Athletic Club. Complete with whirlpool tubes, saunas, steam rooms, and clothing-optional sundecks overlooking green mesas and red rocks, we quickly slipped into a plush robe and relaxed on chaise lounges in Stillpoint, a tranquil oasis reserved for guests receiving treatments. We opted for High Desert Renewal massages, using cedar and sage to ground you as you are cleansed, polished, and wrapped in a hazy cocoon. Much like the father in “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” we confess it was not long before we found our way to the sundeck, curled up with a blanket, and just settled down into a long winter’s nap.