Southwest

Sedona vs. Scottsdale | An In-Depth Desert City Guide (By a Local)

Aug 28, 2023

Southwest

Sedona vs. Scottsdale | An In-Depth Desert City Guide (By a Local)

Aug 28, 2023

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Living in Scottsdale and having traveled to Sedona countless times, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the distinct charm both cities bring to Arizona’s vast desert landscape. From Scottsdale’s chic urban vibe to Sedona’s tranquil red rock splendor, the Southwest offers a rich tapestry of experiences.

Amidst the backdrop of sprawling cacti, ancient Native American heritage sites, and the unmistakable hue of the desert, these two Southwest cities shine brightly. Sedona and Scottsdale offer a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural allure, from mesmerizing desert sunsets to enchanting local attractions.

If you’re torn between these two Arizonian gems, you’re not alone. Let me guide you through the heart of Sedona and Scottsdale, drawing from my personal adventures, and help you navigate your way to the perfect destination for your next trip. Making a choice between Sedona vs. Scottsdale has never been easier!

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Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!

FREE Coming Soon: Steal My ChatGPT Travel Prompts

Join my email list and be the first to get access to my new freebie: ChatGPT Prompts for trip planning! You’ll get my best tips for using AI to plan custom trips for you.

Scottsdale or Sedona — The Breakdown

Having lived in Scottsdale and frequented Sedona many times, I’ve truly come to appreciate the unique essence of each location.

While both cities offer breathtaking desert backdrops, their individual characters set them apart in delightful ways.

Sedona, with its enchanting red rocks, is a haven for adventure junkies, nature lovers, and those on a spiritual journey.

It exudes a tranquil, rustic charm that invites visitors to unwind and reconnect with the earth.

If you’re looking for a nearby stop to add on a Grand Canyon road trip, Sedona is closer to this natural wonder of the World than Scottsdale.

On the flip side, Scottsdale seamlessly blends relaxation with cultural vibrancy.

Nestled in its urban setting are pockets of art, culture, and gourmet delights, just waiting to be explored.

It’s also the perfect distance if you’re looking for a short day trip from Phoenix.

Sedona — The Adventurer Experience

Sedona is INCREDIBLE to say the least.

I’ve always been captivated by its canyons and artistic flair that seems to paint every corner of the city — it’ll captivate you too!

It’s truly a mosaic of adventures waiting to be experienced.

But beyond its natural beauty, Sedona is a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual and holistic rejuvenation.

It’s a place where the mystical intertwines with the everyday, offering travelers a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them.

With so many natural wonders just a stone’s throw away, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the magic of it all.

Top Things to Do

As the ultimate mix between a small-town feel and outdoor pleasures, here are a few things to do in Sedona to make your trip memorable.

I highly suggest spending 3 days in Sedona!

Learn About & Explore a Sedona Vortex

Sedona’s Vortex locations are characterized as spaces that contain seemingly otherworldly energy.

They are the perfect spaces for soul searching and meditation. 

The popular sites among visitors looking to experience a high intensity of this energy usually have Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon, Red Rock Crossing, Airport Mesa, and Bell Rock on their list. 

If you find yourself near the Village of Oak Creek, the beauty of Bell Rock is the perfect chance to feel these mystical marvels paired with a low-intensity hike.

Here, you’ll be able to witness an intricate display of red-rock formations that is sure to make your chakras align.

Insider Tip: The Bell Rock and Courthouse Loop Butte Trail is a relatively easy hike that will take around two hours to complete (depending on fitness levels).

Attend a Festival

What better way to experience the vibrance and essence of a city best than at a fun-filled festival?

Sedona has a fine selection of eventful happenings to look forward to throughout the year.

Whether you’re traveling solo or with your young rowdy bandits for a day trip in Sedona, there is something for everyone:

  • Red Rocks Oktoberfest —  A celebration dedicated to the boozy pleasures and German culture, Sedona knows how to rock (among the rock formations). This Oktoberfest is a unique way to enjoy this traditional occasion in October among the stunning mountain ranges of Sedona and its surroundings.
  • Sedona International Film Festival — An annual event celebrated at the end of February, this star-studded occasion is one not to miss. With more than 100 screenings to choose from, you’ll have the opportunity to unleash your inner cinephile in full throttle.
  • Sedona Yoga Festival — Playing on the theme of holistic wellness this destination is known for, the Sedona Yoga Festival is the perfect place to breathe in and meditate in wonderful surroundings.      

Read Next: The Most Instagrammable Places in Sedona

Go Wine Tasting

With its close proximity to the Verde Valley, a famous wine region in Arizona, Sedona is a great place to stay near the grapevine growing action.

The most popular wines produced around this particular region range from bold Cabernets to buttery Chardonnays.

A 20-minute drive from Sedona, you’ll find the green blanketed landscape of Page Spring Cellars vineyard.

This vino-infused destination has a premier selection of wines to try while overlooking stunning sceneries, such as the Oak Creek Canyon.

While many opt to embark on a wine tour for an in-depth look into its production, you can also find locally produced wines in many restaurants in the city itself.

Read Next: Best Sedona Vacation Rentals & AirBnBs

Enjoy a Nature Walk in Red Rock State Park

From the red-hued natural formations to the winding loops filled with wildlife, the Red Rock State Park will surely enrich your journey with the soul-nourishing properties of nature.

With 286 acres of land to explore, you’ll need a game plan before heading to these dusty trails.

If you’re looking for activities beyond hiking, you can choose from other desert adventures available at the park.

These include activities such as self-guided driving audio tours, horse riding, and bird watching. 

Red Rock State Park is also a fantastic option for adventurous families and couples!

This national park offers children a chance to become junior rangers on their visits by completing an interactive activity sheet. 

Tip: Research available trails and updated regulations before your trip, as emergency safety measures might be in place (such as fire restrictions).

Scottsdale — The Luxury Getaway Experience

Peppered with stunning resort options and a hip-shaking nightlife scene, a trip to Scottsdale will surely add a touch of opulence to your life in the best way — ooo la laaaaaaa.

This city is the ultimate choice for travelers looking to keep their finger on the pulse of urban living while being near captivating natural scenery.

Scottsdale is seemingly made for thriving in the lap of luxury and indulging in the decadence and refinery of slow living.

And if you’re a local, it’s the perfect place for a staycation — you might not know it yet!

Read Next: The Best Happy Hour Spots in Old Town Scottsdale

Top Things to Do

With no shortage of fun and exciting Scottsdale things to do to venture into, this location provides an extensive list of things to do to add to your trip itinerary. 

From the pleasant places of Old Town to amazing adventures of a hot air balloon ride over the desert, you’re in for a wild ride.

Explore the Art District

The Scottsdale Art District, with its location mainly in the Old Town, has a variety of arty avenues to explore, which feature an assortment of art forms.

This includes art galleries, fascinating museums, and a center for performing arts.

Whether you’re looking for thought-provoking paintings to enjoy or a dance performance to sway along to, this cornucopia of cultural spaces will leave you breathless.

If you’re looking for an art-filled trip that compliments the surrounding sandy landscape, you’ll love the cowboy spirit of Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

This museum has an amazing collection of permanent exhibits for visitors to enjoy, ranging from Native American jewelry to a Western Pop art collection.

Read Next: Most Instagrammable Places in Scottsdale

Practice Your Swing at a Luxury Golf Course

With around 50 golf courses within the city’s bounds, Scottsdale is a golfer’s paradise in terms of quantity and quality fairways.

The desert and boulder-speckled landscapes make for a perfect backdrop to practice your putts, which include the coveted grounds of TPC Scottsdale.

While this activity might be on the more expensive side, the epic greens of these pristine and manicured courses will make you feel like a pro while playing.

If you’re not much of a player, many of these beautiful courses have clubhouses to drink in the sublime scenery of the surroundings with a cocktail in hand.

Find Your Inner Cowboy at MacDonald’s Ranch

Is any desert adventure complete without indulging in the wild west ways of the Southwest?

From the old-timey buildings to the gallop of horses in the distance, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported straight into a Western film once you’ve set foot in these parts.

While horse riding is an obvious choice on the rocky roads of MacDonald’s Ranch, there is a stunning selection of alternative activities to get you into the true cowboy spirit.

These include cowboy cookouts and an annual pumpkin patch from the end of September to October.

Pro Tip: I also suggest going to McDowell Mountain Preserve! There is so much hiking in Scottsdale and this set of mountains is my favorite.

Taste the Culinary Splendors of Scottsdale

A great way to explore a new city and experience its specific flavor is by giving your tastebuds a good workout.

Scottsdale has an array of restaurants and eateries to try, which ranges in cuisine types and prices.

  • Citizen Public House — With elegant decor and a finely-crafted menu, this restaurant is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a low-key yet classy night out. 
  • Local Donut — The simple pleasures of a donut with an extravagant edge, the Local Donut is a must for sweet tooth enthusiasts. From glazed to brĂ»lĂ©ed items on their menu list, you’ll recount this mouth-watering memory from your vacation.

FAQs — Sedona or Scottsdale

While you might think these two dazzling desert cities offer a similar experience, Sedona and Scottsdale have different qualities that make them unique.

Take a look at a few helpful inquiries to make an informed decision for your next cacti-filled trip:

Is Sedona or Scottsdale Better?

This is entirely up to what type of vacation you’re looking for.

Sedona is your best bet if you’re looking for a desert adventure filled with nature and adrenaline-fueled activities.

For travelers looking to unwind and explore more of an upscale urban setting, Scottsdale is perfect for satisfying your luxury resort town fantasies. 

If you’re looking to enjoy these two destinations in a day trip, Sedona to Scottsdale is a short distance (around 124 miles) to experience the best of both worlds.

How Many Days Should I Spend in Scottsdale and Sedona?

Scottsdale and Sedona are so much more than a mere stop on the road during a journey to the Grand Canyon.

These urban areas have a wide selection of unforgettable experiences within their hidden gem-filled crevasses.

The highlights of Scottsdale are best to experience within two to three days in order to enjoy all this tranquil yet vibrant city has to offer — without feeling too rushed.

That’s why a weekend in Scottsdale is such a popular option.

Sedona, on the other hand, would require a minimum of three days for hiking lovers to sample a variety of locations to trot along.

Note: If you’re planning to visit both cities, the Vortex to Vineyard tour is an excellent option to enjoy the splendors of the earth (from healing spaces to tannin-filled nectar).

What is the Distance from Scottsdale to Sedona to the Grand Canyon?

While the main question might revolve around whether Sedona/Scottsdale is the ultimate winner, these cities can easily be visited on a single journey. 

With the camping opportunities in Sedona and the luxury accommodation options in Scottsdale, you’ll have a magnificent mix of stayover locations on a road trip.

The Scottsdale to Sedona distance is around two hours. 

Driving by car is by far the most popular method of traveling from these two cities, but other options are available if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option. 

Bus rides take around 10.5 hours to get to Sedona from Scottsdale. From Sedona, it’s a further two hours to get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Final Thoughts | Your Scottsdale vs. Sedona Decision

Whether you’re looking for a Sedona and Scottsdale day trip or deciding exclusively between the two destinations, these urban areas will meet your expectations (and more). 

While choosing between these destinations might seem like an impossible choice, remember to keep your dream desert getaway in mind. 

From the energy-infused spaces in Sedona to the sublime swift swings of Scottsdale’s golf courses, you’re in for a treat.

Both cities are filled to the brim with unique desert experiences that are constructed to provide a surreal adventure amongst the dunes and dude ranches. Still can’t decide? Choose both; your secret is safe here.

Living in Scottsdale and having traveled to Sedona countless times, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the distinct charm both cities bring to Arizona’s vast desert landscape. From Scottsdale’s chic urban vibe to Sedona’s tranquil red rock splendor, the Southwest offers a rich tapestry of experiences.

Amidst the backdrop of sprawling cacti, ancient Native American heritage sites, and the unmistakable hue of the desert, these two Southwest cities shine brightly. Sedona and Scottsdale offer a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural allure, from mesmerizing desert sunsets to enchanting local attractions.

If you’re torn between these two Arizonian gems, you’re not alone. Let me guide you through the heart of Sedona and Scottsdale, drawing from my personal adventures, and help you navigate your way to the perfect destination for your next trip. Making a choice between Sedona vs. Scottsdale has never been easier!

đź“Ś Save this to Pinterest!

Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!

FREE Coming Soon: Steal My ChatGPT Travel Prompts

Join my email list and be the first to get access to my new freebie: ChatGPT Prompts for trip planning! You’ll get my best tips for using AI to plan custom trips for you.

Scottsdale or Sedona — The Breakdown

Having lived in Scottsdale and frequented Sedona many times, I’ve truly come to appreciate the unique essence of each location.

While both cities offer breathtaking desert backdrops, their individual characters set them apart in delightful ways.

Sedona, with its enchanting red rocks, is a haven for adventure junkies, nature lovers, and those on a spiritual journey.

It exudes a tranquil, rustic charm that invites visitors to unwind and reconnect with the earth.

If you’re looking for a nearby stop to add on a Grand Canyon road trip, Sedona is closer to this natural wonder of the World than Scottsdale.

On the flip side, Scottsdale seamlessly blends relaxation with cultural vibrancy.

Nestled in its urban setting are pockets of art, culture, and gourmet delights, just waiting to be explored.

It’s also the perfect distance if you’re looking for a short day trip from Phoenix.

Sedona — The Adventurer Experience

Sedona is INCREDIBLE to say the least.

I’ve always been captivated by its canyons and artistic flair that seems to paint every corner of the city — it’ll captivate you too!

It’s truly a mosaic of adventures waiting to be experienced.

But beyond its natural beauty, Sedona is a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual and holistic rejuvenation.

It’s a place where the mystical intertwines with the everyday, offering travelers a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them.

With so many natural wonders just a stone’s throw away, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the magic of it all.

Top Things to Do

As the ultimate mix between a small-town feel and outdoor pleasures, here are a few things to do in Sedona to make your trip memorable.

I highly suggest spending 3 days in Sedona!

Learn About & Explore a Sedona Vortex

Sedona’s Vortex locations are characterized as spaces that contain seemingly otherworldly energy.

They are the perfect spaces for soul searching and meditation. 

The popular sites among visitors looking to experience a high intensity of this energy usually have Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon, Red Rock Crossing, Airport Mesa, and Bell Rock on their list. 

If you find yourself near the Village of Oak Creek, the beauty of Bell Rock is the perfect chance to feel these mystical marvels paired with a low-intensity hike.

Here, you’ll be able to witness an intricate display of red-rock formations that is sure to make your chakras align.

Insider Tip: The Bell Rock and Courthouse Loop Butte Trail is a relatively easy hike that will take around two hours to complete (depending on fitness levels).

Attend a Festival

What better way to experience the vibrance and essence of a city best than at a fun-filled festival?

Sedona has a fine selection of eventful happenings to look forward to throughout the year.

Whether you’re traveling solo or with your young rowdy bandits for a day trip in Sedona, there is something for everyone:

  • Red Rocks Oktoberfest —  A celebration dedicated to the boozy pleasures and German culture, Sedona knows how to rock (among the rock formations). This Oktoberfest is a unique way to enjoy this traditional occasion in October among the stunning mountain ranges of Sedona and its surroundings.
  • Sedona International Film Festival — An annual event celebrated at the end of February, this star-studded occasion is one not to miss. With more than 100 screenings to choose from, you’ll have the opportunity to unleash your inner cinephile in full throttle.
  • Sedona Yoga Festival — Playing on the theme of holistic wellness this destination is known for, the Sedona Yoga Festival is the perfect place to breathe in and meditate in wonderful surroundings.      

Read Next: The Most Instagrammable Places in Sedona

Go Wine Tasting

With its close proximity to the Verde Valley, a famous wine region in Arizona, Sedona is a great place to stay near the grapevine growing action.

The most popular wines produced around this particular region range from bold Cabernets to buttery Chardonnays.

A 20-minute drive from Sedona, you’ll find the green blanketed landscape of Page Spring Cellars vineyard.

This vino-infused destination has a premier selection of wines to try while overlooking stunning sceneries, such as the Oak Creek Canyon.

While many opt to embark on a wine tour for an in-depth look into its production, you can also find locally produced wines in many restaurants in the city itself.

Read Next: Best Sedona Vacation Rentals & AirBnBs

Enjoy a Nature Walk in Red Rock State Park

From the red-hued natural formations to the winding loops filled with wildlife, the Red Rock State Park will surely enrich your journey with the soul-nourishing properties of nature.

With 286 acres of land to explore, you’ll need a game plan before heading to these dusty trails.

If you’re looking for activities beyond hiking, you can choose from other desert adventures available at the park.

These include activities such as self-guided driving audio tours, horse riding, and bird watching. 

Red Rock State Park is also a fantastic option for adventurous families and couples!

This national park offers children a chance to become junior rangers on their visits by completing an interactive activity sheet. 

Tip: Research available trails and updated regulations before your trip, as emergency safety measures might be in place (such as fire restrictions).

Scottsdale — The Luxury Getaway Experience

Peppered with stunning resort options and a hip-shaking nightlife scene, a trip to Scottsdale will surely add a touch of opulence to your life in the best way — ooo la laaaaaaa.

This city is the ultimate choice for travelers looking to keep their finger on the pulse of urban living while being near captivating natural scenery.

Scottsdale is seemingly made for thriving in the lap of luxury and indulging in the decadence and refinery of slow living.

And if you’re a local, it’s the perfect place for a staycation — you might not know it yet!

Read Next: The Best Happy Hour Spots in Old Town Scottsdale

Top Things to Do

With no shortage of fun and exciting Scottsdale things to do to venture into, this location provides an extensive list of things to do to add to your trip itinerary. 

From the pleasant places of Old Town to amazing adventures of a hot air balloon ride over the desert, you’re in for a wild ride.

Explore the Art District

The Scottsdale Art District, with its location mainly in the Old Town, has a variety of arty avenues to explore, which feature an assortment of art forms.

This includes art galleries, fascinating museums, and a center for performing arts.

Whether you’re looking for thought-provoking paintings to enjoy or a dance performance to sway along to, this cornucopia of cultural spaces will leave you breathless.

If you’re looking for an art-filled trip that compliments the surrounding sandy landscape, you’ll love the cowboy spirit of Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

This museum has an amazing collection of permanent exhibits for visitors to enjoy, ranging from Native American jewelry to a Western Pop art collection.

Read Next: Most Instagrammable Places in Scottsdale

Practice Your Swing at a Luxury Golf Course

With around 50 golf courses within the city’s bounds, Scottsdale is a golfer’s paradise in terms of quantity and quality fairways.

The desert and boulder-speckled landscapes make for a perfect backdrop to practice your putts, which include the coveted grounds of TPC Scottsdale.

While this activity might be on the more expensive side, the epic greens of these pristine and manicured courses will make you feel like a pro while playing.

If you’re not much of a player, many of these beautiful courses have clubhouses to drink in the sublime scenery of the surroundings with a cocktail in hand.

Find Your Inner Cowboy at MacDonald’s Ranch

Is any desert adventure complete without indulging in the wild west ways of the Southwest?

From the old-timey buildings to the gallop of horses in the distance, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported straight into a Western film once you’ve set foot in these parts.

While horse riding is an obvious choice on the rocky roads of MacDonald’s Ranch, there is a stunning selection of alternative activities to get you into the true cowboy spirit.

These include cowboy cookouts and an annual pumpkin patch from the end of September to October.

Pro Tip: I also suggest going to McDowell Mountain Preserve! There is so much hiking in Scottsdale and this set of mountains is my favorite.

Taste the Culinary Splendors of Scottsdale

A great way to explore a new city and experience its specific flavor is by giving your tastebuds a good workout.

Scottsdale has an array of restaurants and eateries to try, which ranges in cuisine types and prices.

  • Citizen Public House — With elegant decor and a finely-crafted menu, this restaurant is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a low-key yet classy night out. 
  • Local Donut — The simple pleasures of a donut with an extravagant edge, the Local Donut is a must for sweet tooth enthusiasts. From glazed to brĂ»lĂ©ed items on their menu list, you’ll recount this mouth-watering memory from your vacation.

FAQs — Sedona or Scottsdale

While you might think these two dazzling desert cities offer a similar experience, Sedona and Scottsdale have different qualities that make them unique.

Take a look at a few helpful inquiries to make an informed decision for your next cacti-filled trip:

Is Sedona or Scottsdale Better?

This is entirely up to what type of vacation you’re looking for.

Sedona is your best bet if you’re looking for a desert adventure filled with nature and adrenaline-fueled activities.

For travelers looking to unwind and explore more of an upscale urban setting, Scottsdale is perfect for satisfying your luxury resort town fantasies. 

If you’re looking to enjoy these two destinations in a day trip, Sedona to Scottsdale is a short distance (around 124 miles) to experience the best of both worlds.

How Many Days Should I Spend in Scottsdale and Sedona?

Scottsdale and Sedona are so much more than a mere stop on the road during a journey to the Grand Canyon.

These urban areas have a wide selection of unforgettable experiences within their hidden gem-filled crevasses.

The highlights of Scottsdale are best to experience within two to three days in order to enjoy all this tranquil yet vibrant city has to offer — without feeling too rushed.

That’s why a weekend in Scottsdale is such a popular option.

Sedona, on the other hand, would require a minimum of three days for hiking lovers to sample a variety of locations to trot along.

Note: If you’re planning to visit both cities, the Vortex to Vineyard tour is an excellent option to enjoy the splendors of the earth (from healing spaces to tannin-filled nectar).

What is the Distance from Scottsdale to Sedona to the Grand Canyon?

While the main question might revolve around whether Sedona/Scottsdale is the ultimate winner, these cities can easily be visited on a single journey. 

With the camping opportunities in Sedona and the luxury accommodation options in Scottsdale, you’ll have a magnificent mix of stayover locations on a road trip.

The Scottsdale to Sedona distance is around two hours. 

Driving by car is by far the most popular method of traveling from these two cities, but other options are available if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option. 

Bus rides take around 10.5 hours to get to Sedona from Scottsdale. From Sedona, it’s a further two hours to get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Final Thoughts | Your Scottsdale vs. Sedona Decision

Whether you’re looking for a Sedona and Scottsdale day trip or deciding exclusively between the two destinations, these urban areas will meet your expectations (and more). 

While choosing between these destinations might seem like an impossible choice, remember to keep your dream desert getaway in mind. 

From the energy-infused spaces in Sedona to the sublime swift swings of Scottsdale’s golf courses, you’re in for a treat.

Both cities are filled to the brim with unique desert experiences that are constructed to provide a surreal adventure amongst the dunes and dude ranches. Still can’t decide? Choose both; your secret is safe here.

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