By Ed Salvato
Surrounded by towering mountains and mysterious monoliths of flaming red rock, and crowded with evergreen trees, the community of Sedona, Ariz., has few peers when it comes to natural beauty.
It?s a comparatively young town, having incorporated in 1988, about 80 years after it was settled by a few enterprising and hearty pioneers.
Beginning in the late 1930s, Hollywood started taking advantage of the gorgeous scenery by shooting movies here. More recently, Sedona became an upscale vacation getaway with an especially keen following among hikers and mountain bikers, New Agers, artists -- and gay travelers.
Because it?s a fairly new resort community, Sedona has a number of elegant and contemporary accommodations, and finding gay-friendly options is easy.
One of the loveliest small inns in the Southwest, El Portal Sedona is next to the upscale Tlaquepaque arts and crafts market and sprawling Los Abrigados resort. El Portal has just 12 very special rooms, each decorated with a carefully chosen mix of Western and Arts and Crafts-style antiques from the 1890s to the 1920s.
Another elegant option is the sleek 100-room Amara Resort, which sits along Oak Creek in Uptown. Like virtually every other building in town, the exterior is classic Southwestern, but inside you?ll find a chic, minimalist space worthy of Manhattan.
On the west side of town, offering superb views of the red rocks, classy Alma de Sedona offers units with private entrances, terraces, big windows and whirlpool tubs with separate showers.
Befitting an upscale town with a tourism-driven economy, Sedona has plenty of restaurants. Among the higher-end favorites, Cucina Rustica serves exceptional Southwest-influenced Mediterranean fare. Rene at Tlaquepaque presents creative Continental cuisine.
Head to the Cowboy Club for something that Sedona has always done well: steak.
A less pricey favorite is the quirky and colorful Pizza Picazzo, known for its bountiful fresh salads and hefty pizzas with innovative toppings.
When it comes to ethnic food, Sedona is strong on Asian fare. Consider the first-rate and inexpensive Thai Spices restaurant.