Honestly, with all the controversy around Arizona’s immigration controls and (lack of) gun control laws, the state had never been high on my list of destinations for a commitment ceremony or gay honeymoon. But since I’m from Texas, and am constantly judged by some of the Lone Star’s more dubious distinctions, I decided to check my preconceived notions (in Phoenix) when Enchantment Resort asked me to give Sedona a second look.
Boy, I’m glad I did.
Turns out, the folks drawn to the spectacular red rock canyons were not the hardcore conservatives I imagined, but outdoor enthusiasts looking to commune with nature—with a laid back attitude to match. From hiking to vortexes, to kayaking to wineries, and helicopter(ing) into the Grand Canyon, Sedona serves up a cinematic backdrop perfect for gay couples looking to take the (adventurous) leap. Here are my taste-y tips:
Stay. Enchantment Resort is tucked right up underneath some of the most spectacular red rock formations. Just outside my door, the canyons were calling to me for a hike—and the resort makes it easy since your room key gives you direct access to some of the most well-known trails in the area. That means within minutes after completing a rigorous climb, I was poolside ordering another Avocalada (an addictive avocado and coconut milk smoothie that could be served healthy, although I asked for a shot of rum). The recently remodeled rooms are sleek and modern with touches of contemporary Southwestern flare—the enormous showers and separate soaking tubs were my favorite.
Commit. Enchantment can take the worry out of planning the big day—they will help find a clergy member to lead a same sex ceremony and organize a location. While many couples choose to have their wedding onsite, another popular spot in Sedona is Tlaquepaque, a charming collection of galleries and boutiques that look like a Mexican village. The resort can even cater the reception afterwards. Just call ahead and ask the concierge for assistance.
Indulge. Mii Amo is the name of Enchantment’s destination spa within the resort. Many newlyweds opt to begin their lives together here on what the spa calls “journeys” of personal discovery that are tailored to each individual or couple and last three, four or seven days. Since my fiancé wasn’t with me, I traveled on my own to a fantastic Intentional Aromatherapy Massage, choosing one of ten scents that matched my mood. “Happy” was my scent—it’s hard not to be in such a magical setting where the treatment room’s window looked out onto yet another red canyon.
Explore.Nearly 2 million visitors pass through Sedona on their way to the Grand Canyon missing the 113 hiking trails in a 20-mile radius. The Hike House aims to change that—and you should make this gem your first stop in town. This isn’t your typical intimidating adventure store. Rather, the whole goal here is to match you up with the perfect hiking experience. You start by chatting with a Hiking Concierge who uses a special computer program to enter your requirements—how much time you have, how hard you want the hike, what kind of scenery you like–and the result is a personalized trail guide with pictures. It’s like Match.com for hiking! To me, this was genius. How often have I been mystified by maps from the National Park Service? How high does that trail go and will I really see a waterfall? The helpful folks then walk you through everything from how much water you should take to tips on what type of shoes you should wear. Evidently, some folks think they can hike the area in flip-flops. Not kidding.
Fly. To the Grand Canyon, that is. A spectacular day trip to the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon is offered by Sedona Sky Treks. It’s a 1-hour scenic flight in a Cessna over the Colorado Plateau, and then the massive Grand Canyon before landing at an airport managed by the Hualapai Indians. From there, it’s onto a helicopter for a 3,200 foot descent into the Canyon, and then hop onboard a pontoon boat for a short excursion on the river. Afterwards, you can continue onto the other Hualapai tourism venues including the famous SkyWalk glass walkway that extends over the Canyon. Personally, I have some serious vertigo issues—so just looking at people standing on it made me nauseous. The entire 6-hour trip costs $448 per adult, but honestly, if you’ve never experienced the majesty of the Grand Canyon, and you’re unwilling to wait 1-3 years for a spot to go rafting for multiple days down the river, then this is the ticket for you.
For more on my experience with Sedona’s famous Vortexes, check out my Green Globe Trekker column on Poptimistic.com.
Editor’s note: Jon Paul was a guest of Enchantment Resort for 3 days.
Photo credits: Jon Paul Buchmeyer
Jon Paul Buchmeyer is the author of the award-winning humorous memoir Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life and writes frequently for Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit magazines. In addition, he is the author of his own popular blogs: ABCityblog.com and Poptimistic.com.