Seeing Red: Exploring Sedona, Arizona on a Budget

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The small Southwestern town of Sedona, Arizona, 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 Sedona on a budget.

Sedona, Arizona

Along with booking accommodation early to get the best prices 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 budget-friendly couple of days in Sedona in the summer.

Free and affordable things to do in Sedona, Arizona

Walk around downtown Sedona

Sedona, Arizona
How CUTE is Sedona??

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.

Sedona, Arizona

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

Sedona, Arizona

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 cost $15 per tour (or $25 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

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel built right into the rust-red buttes just outside Sedona. The chapel was commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, and was completed in 1956.

Sedona, Arizona

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

Sedona, Arizona

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 vortex 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

Sedona, Arizona

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

Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, Arizona

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, Sedona, Arizona

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 State Park, Sedona, Arizona

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.

Eat cheap

Sedona, Arizona

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, Arizona

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.

Where to stay in Sedona on a budget

Sedona has a reputation for being a bit pricey, but the truth is you CAN find hotel rooms here for under $150 per night there, which is pretty affordable by US hotel standards. Budget-friendly hotels in Sedona (that still have decent reviews) include:

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!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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64 Comments on “Seeing Red: Exploring Sedona, Arizona on a Budget

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  1. I can’t believe I haven’t been to Sedona yet!!! I really want to go and stay at a new agey spa 🙂

      I can’t believe it either! You’re not very far away at all in Vegas! You definitely should go. I really loved it.

    Slide Rock Park looks awesome! I hadn’t ever really thought about visiting Sedona. It’s totes on the radar now.

      I hadn’t really thought about it either; my sister and I were totally planning on staying in Flagstaff between the Grand Canyon and Vegas. But then a few people suggested Sedona instead, and, after reading a bit about it, I was sold!

    I was just at the Chapel of the Holy Cross and it was so amazing! As I lit a candle for my grandmother, three visitors started to sing a hymm acapella. It was beautiful.

    Of course the rest of Sedona ain’t too shabby either 😉

      Aww, what a great experience that sounds like! I don’t think they could have built a chapel in a more beautiful spot!

    I only drove through on my way to the Grand Canyon but would love to go back and spend a few days in this beautiful, weird town.

      Beautiful and weird are perfect descriptors, I think! I really loved Sedona. It was a great spot to relax in between the Grand Canyon and going to Vegas.

    Looks bright and colorful. Sedona looks like a quiet sleepy place with lots of sunshine which I love!! This is a very informative post with beautiful pics.

      Thanks, Arti! Yes, Sedona definitely gets lots of sunshine – but that means it gets HOT in the summer, so beware!

    Great photos Amanda – looks like a really quaint place that lights up with the sun =)

      Thanks, Toni! And yes, the sun on the red rocks is really a sight to see!

    Incredible lookout spots! We spent some time in Paradise Valley which was spectacular, however never made it out to Sedona (which looks as though it’s worth a trip even if only to take in the incredible landscape). Well be sure to spend some time there next time we find ourselves in Arizona. Thanks for sharing!

      Sedona is definitely worth a trip just for the landscape. But the great thing is that there’s lots more to do there, too!

    Wow looks like a great place to visit.

    I am in total awe of the landscape around the area so would totally visit – Great photos Amanda. 🙂

      I really liked Sedona a lot. I knew it was going to be a nice road trip stop, but I didn’t know just how much I’d enjoy it!

    What a strange place to put a chapel!! The slide state rock park looks like fun though!

      Strange, but beautiful! It sure makes for some very pretty views.

      And Slide Rock State Park was SO fun!

    The vortex hikes sound interesting…great post – looks like a wonderful spot!

      If it hadn’t been so freaking hot, we probably would have hiked to one of the Vortexes. I would have liked to see if we could feel anything!

    Beautiful photos. Looks like a pleasant quaint kind of town. Makes me wish we’d had time to explore Arizona while in the US.

      Thanks, Sam! Arizona was one of my favorite states my sister and I visited on our road trip. It’s definitely an area I’d like to go back to and spend more time exploring!

    Sedona was one of our favorite stops on our South West Road Trip last year. Loved driving towards these bright red rocks. Your photos are gorgeous!

      Sedona was soooo pretty. I could totally see myself living in that part of the U.S. someday…. you know, if I won the lottery. Lol.

    Stopped in Sedona when I drove out to Colorado for a summer internship a few years ago–loved it! Such a gorgeous place.

      Gorgeous indeed. I was blown away by the scenery there! We sure don’t see anything like that where I’m from.

    We went to Sedona (amongst other places) for our honeymoon. Slide Rock was one of our stops and well worth it! However, we parked precariously on the side of the road a little ways down and skipped the $20 fee per car 😉

      Haha, you’re not the only one who opted out of the $20 fee to drive into Slide Rock! Sounds like a fun honeymoon, though.

    I’ve never been here, but I totally see myself going now that I read this! Thank you 😉

      Awesome! I’m sure you’d love it. It would be hard not to!

    My husband and I visited Sedona a few years ago and LOVED it. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and I would love to go back.

      It definitely is really, really pretty. I’d love to go back sometime, too!

    If it weren’t for some of the craziness going on in AZ, I would seriously consider moving there. They have some of the most amazing nature I’ve seen in my life. I wish we could have spent more time there on our road trip.

      I totally agree! Their politics scare me a bit… but the scenery is amazing! I might be willing to compromise with Utah, though. 😉

    These are all postcard perfect shots! The views are fantastic! Thank you for sharing… Happy Holidays!

    I’m really glad I came across your blog! I will be in Phoenix next week and have been contemplating whether or not to take a day trip to Sedona. Do you think a day would be enough time to do the trolley tour and maybe check out the Airport Mesa vortex and lookout? You really provided some great information here, thank you!

      Hey Larissa! I highly recommend Sedona as a day trip! And yes, one day would be plenty of time for the trolley tour and one of the vortexes. Sedona isn’t very big, so you can actually see most of it in a short amount of time!

        Ahh, unexpectedly had to cut our trip to Arizona short (will only get to spend some time in Tuscon) but your posts inspired me to start thinking about a future Sedona+Grand Canyon road trip. Thanks again for all the info.

          Aww sorry to hear that you’ll have to cut your trip short. But awesome to hear I’ve got you thinking about a Grand Canyon/Sedona road trip! I highly recommend it!

    Neat stuff. The river through Oak Creeek canyon is really gorgeous. But to really enjoy it you have to get out of the tourist trap at Slide Rock.

      Tourist trap though it may be, I really had fun at Slide Rock!

    I love Sedona…it’s a fantastic place. Great pics! I was able to capture some rare footage of slide rock without a soul in sight, you can see the video at: http://www.MikesRoadTrip.com/slide-rock

      I remember watching that video last year before our trip, Mike! Rare footage indeed. Though, we didn’t really run into a crowd either, since we went later in the day. SO FUN, though! Definitely want to go back to Sedona.

    The hotels in Sedona seem to be way over priced and run down. You can stay in Flagstaff and save over $100/night and stay in a way nicer place! Just a tip.

      I’ll agree with you on the overpriced part. Though the hotel we stayed in was far from run-down! It was quite nice. And staying in Sedona meant less driving (important since we were on a big road trip and driving a ton anyway).

    Pink Jeep tour was awesome. I did it when I was there a few years ago and loved it! A little pricey but so worth it. You go just before sunset so that you are up there while the sun is getting really low and just illuminates the rocks. I’m doing a story on it on my travel blog now, I can send you the link when I’m done if you’re interested in reading about the jeep tours. I love Sedona!

      I definitely would want to do a tour like that next time!

    I love this post because most of the best things in Sedona really are free. You can eat in expensive restaurants and play golf anywhere, but having world-class hiking trials all to yourself is extremely rare almost everywhere except Sedona.

      So true! We didn’t spend a lot in Sedona, but had a fantastic time!

    It’s so strange to see posts like this about Sedona. Even though I live in Arizona I sometimes forget its a major tourism destination, especially Sedona! I live in Phoenix and Sedona is the first place I head to to get out of the Phoenix heat, I never thought of it as expensive (but then again I never booked a hotel there.) It’s pretty right on there price wise with most of Phoenix, and maybe Scottsdale. If you ever go back, I suggest going to the ranger station and picking up a red rock day pass for $5, that’ll get you into most scenic areas and is a great deal on parking. Also try going to the Natural foods grocery store (Not sure if it’s still Frontier or Whole Foods now) but they have a great salad bar and deli where you can pick up good food for a reasonable price (compared to restaurants).

      Thanks for the tips, Heather! Sedona is definitely a place I would love to revisit someday!

    I was just there again this past spring with some family. Awesome. I love the contrasting colors of deep green and red rocks. Sunsets and sunrises are absolutely amazing, as well. What an awesome place!

      Such a stunning part of the US! I definitely need to plan a trip back to Sedona.

    Arrgh!! Love your snaps. Sedona is definitely one of the best adventure destination in the country. Can’t help but help promote it online.

      It’s so beautiful! One of my favorite stops in Arizona, for sure.

    Where can we get discounts to any park? And do they have reasonable grocery markets ?

      I don’t know of any discounts to the state parks in this area. And while Sedona does have grocery stores, I’m afraid I can’t speak to food prices there as I did not shop at any.

    this was very useful to read . as I’m planning a trip down there in the spring . I hope to get to check out slide rock that looks pretty cool and fun too!!

    Nice list. We love Sedona, visiting there about once a year. Slide Rock park has become a lot more crowded in recent years. Try to plan for a weekday if possible. There’s nice scenic drives that loop around near the high school also.

      It’s not a surprise that Slide Rock has become so popular – so yes going on a weekday is a great tip! I’ve only been to Sedona once, but I keep saying I need to go back!

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