Autumn’s arrival in northern Arizona heralds more than just shorter days and cooler nights – in fall, Sedona seems to awake from a sluggish summer slumber to show off all her splendor with vibrant changing leaves, the tempting smells of apple cider and roasting chiles, the frequent appearance of elk and deer, and adults and children decked out in elaborate Halloween costumes. Have you guessed yet that fall is our favorite season in Red Rock Country? See our top 11 reasons why on the following pages, and we think you’ll agree! Read on for the lowdown on the best hikes and drives to find fall colors and wildlife; Halloween activities for everyone in the family; some of the area’s favorite mouth-watering harvests; football in Flagstaff; why “Evening in the Galleries” is even better this time of the year; and, of course, where to get your pumpkin fix. October temperatures – with an average high of 78 degrees and low of 48 – beckon locals and tourists outdoors before the chillier winter sets in. It’s not too late to plan a camping trip or even a picnic dinner in the red rocks – ’tis the season to “fall” in love with Sedona all over again!
In years past, northern Arizona had several options for finding the perfect pumpkin but two of the best patches, Young’s Farms near Prescott and Hauser & Hauser Farms in Camp Verde, have exited the pumpkin-picking business. What’s a pumpkin lover to do when that annual October hankering rolls around? We did a little digging, and found you can still enjoy the bright orange vegetable in a variety of ways here in Sedona, thus pumpkins squeeze into the No. 11 spot on our list. The Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa in the Village of Oak Creek hosts an employee pumpkin carving contest that’s not to be missed. For at least the past six years, the resort has purchased pumpkins for its 12 departments, each of which spends weeks scheming and planning an award-winning design, says Cindy Dean, Hilton’s director of sales and marketing. Hilton guests vote for their favorites on Oct. 31, Nov. 1, and Nov. 2 in two categories: Best Carved and Best Decorated. The winning departments are announced Nov. 3 and receive a pizza party. Voting isn’t restricted to hotel guests – Sedona locals are invited to stroll through the Hilton’s lobby and express their support for their favorite creation.
“It’s extremely popular with the employees and guests,” says Cindy. “It’s also very competitive and we always get some fabulous pumpkins. Some are Halloween themed but some are Sedona themed – one year we had a Pink Jeep pumpkin.”
If you’d rather carve your own masterpiece than marvel at someone else’s, check out the pumpkin patch at the Sedona United Methodist Church. Every year since 1995, the church has trucked in 5,000 to 6,000 pumpkins from farms in the Four Corners region on the Navajo Reservation, says Dawn Bush, the pumpkin patch coordinator. Dawn says the pumpkins range in size from miniatures to specimens that measure more than two feet in diameter. All proceeds go toward church ministries, with a percentage being returned to Navajo farmers. The patch also sells Indian corn and gourds. This year, the pumpkins are scheduled to arrive Oct. 5 with sales through Halloween. The patch is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“The pumpkins are excellent quality because they come to us straight from the field,” says Dawn. “We also get larger pumpkins than the local grocery stores, though we never really know what we’re going to get. We have a lot of locals who come by each year but we also have people from Phoenix who make a day out of picking out their pumpkin in Sedona.”
Of course, for many of us, it isn’t really fall until Starbucks starts serving up its sweet, frothy Pumpkin Spice Lattes, which they do every year from September until New Year’s.
The Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa pumpkin carving contest begins Oct. 31, with voting until Nov. 2 in the hotel lobby. The resort is located at 90 Ridge Trail Dr. in the VOC. Call 877-273-3762 or visit www.hiltonsedonaresort.com.
The Sedona United Methodist Church sells pumpkins Oct. 5 – Oct. 31, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The church is located at 110 Indian Cliffs Rd., just off Hwy 179. Call 928-282-1780 or visit www.sedonaumc.org.