Driving into the red rock mountains of Sedona, Ariz., always puts life into perspective for me. Towering sandstone formations and sheer canyon walls will take your mind off almost everything except the natural wonders around you. People who love the outdoors will relish the great hiking and fishing. History buffs will love the Palatki Ruins, an archaeological site of cliff dwellings where the Sinagua Indians once lived.
New Age types will be drawn to the vortexes, thought to be areas of strong spiritual energy, that dot the landscape. If you like to shop, Sedona has distinctive art galleries and gift shops with Southwest themes. Fall is an ideal time to visit, when temperatures are comfortable and summer crowds are gone. The tab: $239 a night, including breakfast, at Junipine Resort; about $120 for other meals; $167 for a rental car; plus taxes and airfare.
Junipine Resort (8351 N. Highway 89A, Sedona;  282-3375; doubles start at $239 a night on weekends in December) in Oak Creek Canyon offers condominiums with wood-burning fireplaces, redwood decks, fully furnished kitchens and bedrooms with premium bedding. If you want a home-away-from-home feel, this is the place. Each condo is individually decorated and comes with complimentary firewood. The nonsmoking property has 12 acres for hiking and fishing. Cell service and Internet, however, are not reliable.
If you love American comfort food, try Judi's Restaurant (40 Soldiers Pass Road, Sedona;  282-4449. Dinner entrees $18-$32; closed Sundays). The baby back ribs are fantastic, and the steamed veggies are perfectly cooked. Just down the road from Junipine is another favorite, the restaurant at Garland's Oak Creek Lodge (8067 N. Highway 89A, Sedona;  890-4023; $60 fixed four-course dinners. Closed for the winter until March 17, but the lodge remains open), known to locals as Garland's. Dinners are prepared with ingredients grown on the property. Guests can choose to be seated with strangers, so mingling here is a tradition.
New Age aficionados should be sure to visit Angel Valley (13513 Angel Valley Road, Sedona;  634-1320. Admission is $10 for students, $20 for adults. Children younger than 13 are admitted free.). The retreat community on the west side of town features a medicine wheel, vortex centers, two labyrinths, a water wheel and more. Its Chartres labyrinth, twice the size of the original at the Cathédral de Notre-Dame in Chartres, France, is breathtaking. Just beware the rough two miles of unpaved road off 89A that lead into the site.
The lesson learned
If you're driving, be prepared to navigate single-lane and multi-lane roundabouts throughout Sedona, which were installed to slow traffic at key intersections. Stay on the outermost lanes to exit safely.