The state of Arizona certainly evokes images of endless stretches of desert, Native American reservations and majestic mountain ranges. Beyond the scenic vistas, Sedona—with spas and shops dotting its red rock landscape—and Williams—home to the celebrated Grand Canyon Railway—astoundingly offer a variety of things to do for an allencompassing getaway.
Tucked away in the North Central part of the state is the charming mountain town of Williams. It’s hard to ignore its place in history as a nostalgic small town located along historic Route 66. Reminders of those glory days remain in the form of historic buildings and restaurants (Cruiser’s Route 66 Cafe, Rod’s Steakhouse and Route 66 Place & Twisters), strewn among contemporary alternatives (Grand Canyon Brewery and Grand Canyon Coffee and Cafe).
Williams is perhaps best known as the starting point of the historic Grand Canyon Railway, which was originally conceived in the late 1800s to transport ore mined from the Canyon. When mining prospects proved unprofitable, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway turned to tourism to help turn a profit. For a mere $4, travelers in 1901 enjoyed a pleasant train ride rather than the previous $15, eight-hour stagecoach ride to the Grand Canyon!
Today, the train departs daily from Williams and travels 2 1/2 hours across scenic Northern Arizona to Grand Canyon Village, allowing passengers the opportunity to discover the South Rim as a day trip or for an extended stay. Thanks to inflation, current packages are offered at a (much) higher rate and include train tickets and lodging at Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Designed to resemble a century-old train depot, the hotel is a relaxing retreat, located two blocks from historic downtown Williams. With several lodging options, the well-appointed Rail Baron ($460) is the resort’s premiere suite with a spacious living room, full kitchen, and a luxurious master bedroom and bath.
For the train ride, luxury accommodations are available in the Observation Dome ($240) or Luxury Parlor Class ($260). In the Observation Dome, a glass-enclosed streamliner provides a prime vantage point for taking in the panoramic views and changing landscapes. The elegant Parlor Class features loungestyle comforts, such as a private bar and access to an open-air platform. Both include a light breakfast with snacks and a Champagne toast available on the return afternoon trip, as well as entertainers who provide songs, history and amusement while passengers are not looking out the window.
About an hour southeast of Williams, a breathtaking drive through Oak Creek Canyon leads to red rock country and scenic Sedona. Day trips there can be spent at one of Sedona’s exclusive spas or shopping in high-end districts, such as internationally known Tlaquepaque. Situated on the banks of Oak Creek, the village offers artisan boutiques amidst vine-covered stucco walls and cobblestone walkways.
For an opportunity to get out and see Sedona’s red rocks up close and personal, try a Jeep tour, horseback riding or hiking on a breathtaking trail, like the Boynton Canyon Trail. A picturesque box canyon, Boynton Canyon is located off a paved road about 15 minutes from the heart of Sedona. Surrounded by red rock buttes throughout the 2.5-mile trail (rated ‘easy’), the canyon has become known as a vortex site, with an energy field emanating from inner earth. With the beauty of the lofty cliffs and natural desert garden, it’s very easy to consider this modern mysticism as fact.
After a hike along a vortex, what could be a better follow-up than a Zen experience at Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa? It offers a wide variety of exclusive treatments and services, but The Hammam Spa Ritual ($250) completely lived up to its billing as the spa’s most comprehensive treatment.
But first, a scrumptious lunch at the resort’s restaurant, REDS, under the direction of executive chef Ron Moler, began with the Spinach Salad, which included roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, a warm bacon dressing, and the pièces de résistance: two delicious wild mushroom strudels. The Mediterranean Hummus Dip and Chicken Salad Wrap rounded out our light lunch—the perfect prelude to the sensual ritual of heat, steam, massage, detoxification, rich scent and relaxation that is known as The Hammam Spa Ritual at Sedona Rouge.
The process mirrors the practices of a traditional Turkish bath house. Products applied included a Moroccan mint tea silt purifier, lemon coffee blossom, an olive stone scrub, a jasmine rose rhassoul clay polish, an orange quince steam room mist, cardamom amber oil and a tangerine fig butter cream.
The treatment was accomplished in an atmosphere of half light, quiescence and devotion. Yes, a perfectly relaxing way to end our day and our trip to some extraordinary places in Arizona.