With its raw beauty, luxury resorts, rejuvenating spas and top-notch restaurants, you’ll want to experience Sedona’s wealth of activities and attractions. But sometimes you’re on a budget.
Or maybe you want to balance out pricier (but well worth it) excursions such as hot-air balloon rides and backcountry Jeep tours. Regardless of the reason, here are 10 free things to do in Sedona.
Sedona’s clear skies and dark nights are ideal for stargazing, whether you want to get a glimpse of Mercury rising or spot Orion’s Belt. As an international dark sky community, the city keeps light pollution to a minimum. That makes it easy to find a pitch-black place, let your eyes adjust and see what glitters or glows (Sedona has a reputation for UFO sightings, and astronomy tourism is big here.)
Bring a flashlight if you plan to hit the desert trails at night. You can save the $5 parking fee at popular trails by heading off the beaten path to places like the Jordan Road Trailhead at the end of West Park Ridge Drive. If you want to take your stargazing to the next level to see deep-sky objects – star clusters, nebulas and galaxies – hook up with the Sirius Lookers, a local amateur astronomy club.
2. First Fridays in the Galleries
With more than 80 galleries, plus public art lining city streets, Sedona showcases a multitude of mediums, from photography and painting to glass-blowing and sculpture. On the first Friday of each month, select members of the Sedona Gallery Association host art exhibits, events and receptions (with refreshments), inviting guests to discover Sedona’s art scene.
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3. Meditation wheel
For a peaceful place to meditate in the desert, head to Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. Situated in West Sedona, this spiritual place among the pines and junipers is backdropped by Chimney Rock and Thunder Mountain (also called Capitol Butte). Spin the prayer wheels next to the 36ft Amitabha Stupa, then wander the pathway behind the Buddha to get to the meditation wheel.
This sacred Indigenous site features a wheel composed of stones representing the circle of life. Enter at the medicine wheel’s east opening, then continue strolling to the other points in a clockwise direction.
4. Red Rock Scenic Byway
Sedona’s natural splendor is everywhere, but driving the Red Rock Scenic Byway (State Route 179) is a great way to get acquainted with the sandstone formations towering right over the road. Driving through the Village of Oak Creek, you can’t miss the iconic Bell Rock, which rises almost 5000ft, and its neighboring Courthouse Butte, which stands even higher. The scenic route continues north to another landmark edifice, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is built right into the cliff.
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5. Sedona Wetlands Preserve
It’s not unusual to see wildlife in Sedona, where the desert supports species such as javelina, coyotes, mule deer, black-tailed rattlesnakes, tarantulas and a ton of lizards. But the Sedona Wetlands Preserve is probably the best place to go birding. The Northern Arizona Audubon Society offers free seasonal field trips here to see hundreds of birds in their natural habitat. Wander the trails and watch for skittish Gambel’s quail, leggy herons and an array of raptors: osprey, bald eagles and even turkey vultures.
6. Chapel of the Holy Cross
You won’t find outsize architecture in Sedona, with one exception: the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The 250ft Catholic Church is situated within the red rock at 1000ft. Both the chapel and its 90ft concrete cross built into the front façade (it functions as both symbol and structural support) are visible from the Red Rock Scenic Byway (State Route 179). Yet thanks to its modernist design, there are no sky-piercing spires or ornate embellishments detracting from its vertiginous position. Peek inside the 1956 chapel for a look at the 33ft bronze crucifix commissioned by a local artist, which was installed in 2018.
7. Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village
There’s always something happening in this living arts community modeled after a Mexican village. Along with an array of artisan boutiques and restaurants, the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village hosts ongoing activities, from flamenco dancing in the courtyard to the lighting of 6000 luminarias at the annual Festival of Lights holiday event.
8. Posse Grounds Park
Sedona’s first city park covers 79 acres, offering plenty of room to play with dedicated areas for various sports, from softball to sand volleyball. This West Sedona park’s wide-open spaces are all about unwinding. Posse Grounds Park is non-stop action, where you can bash the ball around the two tennis courts (one has lines for pickleball), shoot some hoops or head to the grassy spot to play bocce ball. There are even mini-parks for practicing skateboard tricks and bike skills (there’s a loop here for young kids too). Join in the action or relax at one of the 10 ramadas, which are ideal for shady picnics.
9. Vortex sites
Spirit seekers, or those just curious about the metaphysical world, can hike to one of Sedona’s vortex sites. These natural areas are said to radiate energy (considered masculine, feminine or a balance of the two) from the earth, drawing people to meditate, practice yoga or engage in other spiritual and wellness activities. Four vortex sites, each accessible by trail, are scattered around Sedona: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon and Airport Mesa. Some say Chapel Rock is the site of a fifth vortex, but it is less powerful than the others.
10. Sedona Heritage Museum
Got a library card? Bring it to the Sedona Public Library to get a culture pass for free admission to the Sedona Heritage Museum (plus other participating cultural institutions in Arizona.) The former homestead is a cool place to learn about Sedona’s orchard industry and Hollywood's heyday. The culture pass is good for two adults and has to be used within a week.
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