Shoveling snow and scraping car windshields are simply a fact of winter life in many parts of the country. Arizona does things a little differently. We prefer to spend a big chunk of our winters playing baseball.
The Cactus League gets underway in late February, signaling the beginning of a brand-new season. There's a laid-back charm to baseball's spring training that can't be replicated by any other sport. These feel like the neighborhood games we organized as kids. Seasoned veterans are teamed with wide-eyed youngsters eager for a chance to play. Stadiums are small so the fans are practically on the field and, without the stress of cross-country travel, the players are more relaxed and it shows. There seems to be a smile shining underneath the brim of every baseball cap. This all happens under balmy desert skies.
Catch as many games as you can – and these do feel like games again, not a business. Sit in the stands munching hot dogs, and between innings you’ll have time to ponder important questions, like why do hot dogs always taste better at ballgames, and how do you want to spend the rest of your vacation? If you're playing hooky from winter, why not do it in style?
Getaway to Sedona
Add a Sedona road trip to your spring training itinerary. Like baseball, Sedona reconnects us to a more innocent time. It reminds us how vast and beautiful the outdoors can be. It fills us once more with a sense of wonder.
Sedona's landscape wows us. Castles and columns of soaring red rocks extend in every direction. Mountains and mesas surround the town that's tucked away amid 1.8 million acres of national forest and buttressed by four wilderness areas and two state parks. Among these sandstone formations of vibrant hues and stream-carved canyons, we’re all wide-eyed youngsters eager for a chance to play.
Hiking and biking trails galore
More than 300 miles of hiking and biking trails ramble across the terrain, with many of them starting right in town. Instant access to wild country is a Sedona specialty. There’s not another community in the nation that delivers so much remarkable beauty right to your doorstep. In Sedona you're never more than a five-minute drive to a trailhead.
You'll find plenty of challenging trails to get your blood pumping, like the climb up Jacks Canyon or the slick rock scramble of Woods Canyon Trail. But there are just as many short, easy hikes suitable for nearly anyone. Schuerman Mountain Trail, Baldwin and Chimney Rock Loop are excellent examples of gentle strolls that deliver big payoffs.
Mountain bikers don't need a sales pitch because the secret is out. Sedona has emerged as one of the top destinations for bikers. A wide range of fun, swooping routes for all skill levels weave among the bristling forest of pinnacles, spires and domes. Local bike shops can provide the info and equipment in case you get the urge to saddle up and ride.
Exhilarating outdoor tours
If you want to be outdoors but prefer being a passenger, you've come to the right place. Jeep tours go rumbling into the outback throughout the day. Sit back and enjoy the dramatic scenery and off-road thrills.
For those looking to shed earthly bonds, helicopters swoop in and out of soaring canyons, and hot air balloons lift off early each morning to greet the dawn.
Spend the night in style
What separates Sedona from other destinations is how it balances its wild side with an expansive infrastructure of comfort and luxury. The town offers accommodations for every taste. Sumptuous resorts nestle on the banks of Oak Creek or are tucked away in private canyons. Elegant hotels, romantic bed & breakfasts and retro motor courts are scattered throughout Sedona. After a long day of playing hard, you can sleep well on any budget.
Eat, drink and be merry in Sedona
It's this kind of diversity that keeps visitors returning time and time again to Sedona. Unparalleled beauty combined with an array of creature comforts is the very definition of the Sedona experience. Chef-owned eateries, both fancy and casual, along with boutique wineries have made Sedona a popular destination for foodies.
Transformative treatments are available at Sedona's numerous spas. That's only if you can take a break from shopping in the 80-plus galleries that showcase contemporary, representational and traditional artists who are known nationally and internationally.
People come to Sedona for many of the same reasons they go to spring training; they want to be part of something pure and fun. They want to experience a sense of renewal, a fresh start. Most of all they are ready and eager to feel the kind of youthful joy that comes from watching a kid win one for his team with a walk-off home run. Or they want to taste it for themselves. Climb between the spires of Cathedral Rock and stand on that high ledge gazing across a landscape often called the most beautiful place on earth. Yeah, you just hit one out of the park.
Brought to you by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and contributor Roger Naylor, (800) 288-7336, www.visitsedona.com.