Better late than never! I've done separate reviews of lodging & restaurants, so I'll only give a very brief mention of each of those. Before I start...I'd always heard Sedona was beautiful, but it just blew me away in person! I definitely want to come back sometime. Although the weather was cool (mostly 50's), it was great for sightseeing - not crowded anywhere, and at many places we were the only ones there.
FRI - flew into Phoenix at 10 am, visited w/ family for a few hours and then headed out of town on I-17. Used Thrifty rental car - had no problem with them (FYI - keep your receipt when you fill up w/ gas at the end - needs to be within a few miles of when you drop it off). We stopped in Camp Verde & stayed at the Comfort Inn (great hotel - nice free hot breakfast). Asked them for a good local restaurant and was directed to Valley View Restaurant (Excellent - probably best fish fry we've ever had - and Wisconsinites know their fish frys!!)
SAT - Got up early - had a good breakfast at hotel & headed to Montezuma's Castle to see the cliff dwelling. Really pretty spot, nice walking trail loop. Spent maybe an hour there and then headed to Montezuma's Well. Really enjoyed this - different "vibe" there, easy walking trail. Climbed partway down to the pool to get some photos from different angles. Also highly recommend doing the small trail down to the "outlet" along a small creek. Very beautiful and peaceful - no one else down there while I was there. We were there about 2 hours. I might have done more of the trail to the pool, but Mom isn't good w/ stairs/rough trails so most of our hikes were short & easy and I didn't want to leave her by herself too long at the top.
Continued driving to Sedona - the drive was awesome - so many different shapes & colors! Stopped at the ranger station to get a few maps & hiking info. Great viewpoint there. Had lunch at the Wildflower Bread Co in Sedona (very good!). Although it was cool, we sat outside so we could see the red rocks. Drove to Sedona Pines (RCI timeshare exchange - we loved it) & checked in at 3 pm. Got settled in & then headed to Tlaquepaque for the Festival of Lights. Really neat shopping area, wandered around and looked at a lot of the shops while waiting for it to get dark. Watched several performers/bands (steel drums, old rock, instrumental, Christmas music, etc) and watched the luminaries being lit. Beautiful & not too crowded in the open areas. From there we stopped at Old Sedona Bar & Grill for a beer & bite to eat (very good - neighborhood bar feel).
SUN - Had the free informational breakfast at the Sedona Pines Bistro (not very good). Then we drove the Red Rock Loop, which is very close to Sedona Pines. Beautiful viewpoints! Stopped at the Red Rock State Park (separate entrance fee - not covered by Red Rock Pass). It was well worth the few extra bucks - we spent a few hours doing some easy hikes here. Some trails went along a creek, through some woods, and up a ridge w/ great views. There were more hiking trails, longer & harder, that we didn't attempt. Had lunch at Bodacious Burgers (great). Did some more driving routes & took photos. Went back to Sedona Pines to watch the Packers play the Lions (Packers won! :-) and just popped popcorn & had snacks since neither of us was hungry for supper.
MON - got up early & ate leftovers for breakfast. Made it to Tuzigoot National Monument right when they opened at 8 am. Did the marsh trail walk - not too impressed. Not sure if it was the time of year or what, but didn't see anything (no water, birds, other wildlife). Then took the other path to the ruins and loved that. Was able to get close to the ruins, and climbed up inside to the "tower" to get a great view/photos. Also bought a great "ranger" hat inside the visitor center. Very reasonable (saw some elsewhere that were a lot more expensive) and looked great. Spent about 1 1/2 hrs there and then drove to Jerome.
First stop was at the Jerome State Historic Park. Neat old mansion w/ a lot of mining and town history. The film was incredibly informative and entertaining. Make sure you stop on the way out and see the mine shaft (glass covered). It's 1,900 ft deep - made me nervous to stand near it! Drove to the top of Jerome to eat lunch at the Asylum (awesome!). On the way up to the hotel/restaurant, part of the "path" is definitely one-car-at-a-time! Drove back down a level, parked and did a lot of shopping & sightseeing around the town. I wasn't sure I'd like Jerome that much, but it was very different and a lot of fun. Stopped in the English Kitchen for a drink (very strong cactus margarita - yum!) and sat outside for a great view of the town & mountains. Left Jerome about 3 pm since we wanted to get back to Sedona before dark. On the way back, we did some more scenic drives - the Page Springs Loop & stopped at several pullouts (Bell Rock, Cathedral & Little Horse) to get some sunset shots. Last stop was at the Chapel of the Holy Cross - really cool & some amazing sunset photos. I didn't realize that you could go inside - they were already closed by the time we got there. Stopped back at the timeshare to chill for a bit and then went to Wild Orchid for supper (great food, slow service).
TUES - Breakfast at the CoffeePot (great - locals favorite obviously). We were on the road out of town (through Oak Creek Canyon) by 8 am. Beautiful drive, although I couldn't look around much since I was driving & the road is very curvy. Stayed on 89A North to go to Sunset Crater Natl Monument - arrived right at 9 am when they opened. We did the mile hike through the lava field - incredible views. Part of the trail was a little rough for mom - it was sandy (from the lava) and unsteady footing, but she made it with a little help! From there, we drove to Wupatki Ruins. Very short walk to see some amazing ruins - probably the best of those we saw, with an outstanding background of the hills. This whole drive was very scenic - even got to see some of the Painted Desert in the distance. Arrived at the East entrance of the Grand Canyon at 1 pm and stopped at Desert View. Had a picnic lunch there (we'd brought a bunch of snacks along). After lunch, we walked down to the Watchtower and along the edge to our first views of the Grand Canyon. I had been once when I was a teen, but mom had never seen it before. Can't really describe the views there - everything is just so big and awe-inspiring.
We stopped at several more viewpoints on our way to the Village and got to see some elk right alongside the road. Just stood there & let us take photos - very cool. Checked in at Maswick Lodge so we could find it again when we came back after dark, then immediately left to find a spot to watch sunset. Stopped at several on the way out to the end of Hermit Road, and then backtracked to Mojave Point, which I liked the best. Was a great spot to take photos - wide view w/ lots of trees and other stuff to put in the background. Arrived at 4:30, watched until sunset (5:15), but stayed until 5:45 to get the last of the light. Some of my best photos were when it was almost too dark to see anything - that great light right at the end that brought out the colors in the rocks. Drove back to Maswick Lodge and decided to eat in the cafeteria. We had originally planned to drive out of the park and eat in Tuyasan, but were too tired. Had chili (yuck!) in the cafeteria. Bed at 8 pm - tired, plus were getting up for sunrise!
WED - Got up at 5 am & got bundled up (was 28 degrees). Drove to Moran Point for sunrise. We were the only ones there the whole time. Stayed until 7:45 and although it was a little cold, it was bearable. Was pretty, but sunset the night before was better. We brought snacks again & munched in between photos and walking around to stay warm. Stopped at a few more viewpoints on the way back to the hotel room, showered & got ready to check out. We were in the Aspen bldg at Maswick Lodge - very pleased w/ our room. Drove out the South entrance. Didn't see any kind of diner places to have breakfast in Tuyasan on our way, so just kept going. Stopped at the odd Fred's Diner in Valle (junction of 64 & 180). Definitely a quaint place, kinda run down. Theme was Fred Flintstone-bldgs painted purple, looked like a playground w/ Flintstone character statues (way too cold to be open). Good breakfast, but not busy at all, a few local folks. Definitely not your "normal" restaurant, which we enjoyed, a good story for us!
Drive back to Sedona was very scenic again, great views of the San Francisco peaks. Oak Creek Canyon looked different (afternoon light vs morning) still very pretty. We parked & wandered through a bunch of the small shops on the way back into town. Stopped at Cafe Jose (okay) for a late lunch. Then headed back to Sedona Pines to relax - a lot of driving in the last couple of days! Had leftovers for supper.
THURS - Breakfast at Red Planet Diner (cool decor - cold breakfast). Called & made reservations for the Palataki Ruins. Long, rough drive out there, but worth it. Had a guide to tell us about the pictographs & grotto. Pretty short hike. We also did a loop trail & the guide told us where to stop so we could see the cliff dwelling ruins (mom couldn't hike up to it). Beautiful, secluded area. Saw some javelinas on the drive back out. We didn't stay as long as I would have liked because some relatives were supposed to drive over from Kingman to meet us. However, we had a message when we got back - because of storm warnings, they weren't coming. We took the time to relax and nap a bit - had been on the go a lot this week! Late afternoon, we headed to the Airport Lookout to watch sunset. Didn't get much - cloudy, windy and starting to rain. Headed to PJs Pub in the village of Oak Creek after that to watch some of the football game. Had appetizers and drinks - nice neighborhood bar place, lots of tvs for sports.
FRI - It rained all night and chance of rain/snow all day. Good thing we got most of our outdoor stuff done early in the week. Breakfast at the CoffeePot again (good - again!). Drove around a bit to see the red rocks w/ the low clouds and some ice/snow on the higher points - looked neat. Went back to Tlaquepaque to do some actual shopping this time (too crowded in the stores during Festival of Lights). Stopped in the Oak Creek Brewing & Grill for a beer. Had a really good seasonal beer (orange something). Attractive bar & restaurant area. Then we drove to the original Brewery and had a hefeweisen there - excellent. Would be a fun place to go when warmer & could sit outside. Liked the small brewery feel, with the tanks right in the bar. Lunch at the Golden Goose (very good). Did some more driving around and ate leftovers for supper. Went to a presentation at the timeshare - Native American flute maker/performer (Wolf's Robe); was very entertaining and informative.
SAT - last day :-( Decided to take the longer route back to Phoenix to see some different areas, so checked out early and got on the road. Stopped in Historic Cottonwood for breakfast - looking for a local cafe & found Georgie's Cafe (great!). Continued on 89A South. Hadn't really thought that since it was raining in Sedona, might snow in higher elevations...Started hitting snow in Jerome (was gorgeous with a layer of snow!), and the road down from Jerome was horrible. It was pretty much a blizzard, and we were going about 5 miles an hour up & down the curvy mountain roads. Good thing I'm used to driving in snow and that we left early enough! Once we got down, the roads were fine again. Drove though Black Canyon City and then saw a sign for the "Famous Pie Shop" in Rock Springs - very disappointing. Arrived in Phoenix around 2 pm - plenty early to turn in our rental car and get to the airport.
Sorry for the long review - hope it has some info that will help others. I do a lot of lurking on TripAdvisor & use everyone else's input to plan my trips, so wanted to do my part! Again, there are longer reviews for the restaurants & lodging posted separately.