A quick 2-hour drive north of Phoenix will bring you to several beautiful places within Arizona- but on a recent Sunday, it brought us to one of our favorite spots in all of Arizona: Sedona.
If you’re not familiar with Sedona and the photos on my blog don’t convey its beauty enough, Google it. Seriously. Sedona is just gorgeous and peaceful. Today I’m talking about Tlaquepaque, a busy little arts & crafts village perfectly located just after hitting the town but before you hit the really busy main strip of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Hint- here’s how you pronounce it: Tla-keh-pah-keh. (Now, say it 10 times fast…go!)
Don’t worry, I can’t say it 10 times fast either.
The name comes from the Nahuatl Native Indian language, which is the ancient language of the Aztecs and means the “best of everything.” I can’t adequately describe the village better than Tlaquepaque’s own website without sounding like I just copied it, I may as well just copy it and give credit where it’s due. Here is a portion of their description verbatim, from their website:
“Nestled beneath the shade of the sycamores on the banks of beautiful Oak Creek in Sedona, Tlaquepaque is the most distinctive shopping experience to be found in the Southwest. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque, meaning the “best of everything,” has been a Sedona landmark since the 1970’s. Its vine covered stucco walls, cobble-stoned walkways and magnificent arched entryways give you the feeling that Tlaquepaque has been here for centuries. Tasteful galleries and unique shops live in harmony with its lush natural environment where giant sycamore trees stand in testimony to the care taken in preserving the timeless beauty of the Tlaquepaque grounds.”
Maybe it’s hard to portray in words because so much love and passion was put into the creation of Tlaquepaque by Abe Miller (1912-1982). Abe loved Mexico and loved Sedona. A businessman from Nevada by nature, Abe knew he found the perfect spot to recreate his love for Mexico a little closer to home. It took him two years of convincing the couple who owned the property to sell it to him. They finally relented…with the promise that the sycamore trees would remain. They are still there to this day and the buildings have been built around the trees. Literally. You can find sycamore limbs that merge with roof lines, growing through massive walls. And, in fact, right inside of the Geoffrey Roth Ltd jewelry store, there is a sycamore tree that twists up through the roof. Climbing vines grace many walls and natural color can be found everywhere you look.
The entire history of how Tlaquepaque came to be is really incredible. The architect, Bob McIntyre, didn’t hire a single professional stonemason. He chose only amateurs that he allowed to be as artistic as they wanted so long as they stuck to the overall plan. Very little, apparently, was ever even sketched out or made into a drawing before being constructed. In fact, the entire project was eyeballed! I’m guessing measure twice, cut once wasn’t their motto! It turned out great, so they must have been on to something.
When the project first began in the early 1970’s, they built an experimental building just to try out all the architectural forms and elements found in Spanish Colonial architecture. It consisted of molded concrete forms, ironwork, and arched entryways that all came together under one roof to see what made artistic sense. There was every intention to tear down the structure once the project was complete but in the end, Abe couldn’t go through with it. It ultimately became home to El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano.
Even to this day, there is literally so much to see, do, or eat when visiting! It’s literally a village bursting with local small businesses. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Feature Friday on Oak Creek Brewery & Grill, one of the restaurants in the Tlaquepaque village. I love just walking through on a nice lazy stroll and popping in to shops here and there that catch my eye. You can generally find the owners of the shops working in them and it’s delightful to spend time chatting with them about their work.
The village has more than a dozen galleries that specialize in various art forms ranging from sculptures, fine art, and glass in addition to several jewelry shops and specialties stores selling clothing, candles, music boxes, and a whole host of other unique items.
Be sure to stop in at Bearcloud Gallery if you have a moment. Bearcloud focuses on original American Indian spiritual artwork and he takes pride in every single piece. His work is definitely unique and unlike anything else I’ve seen.
It’s also worth walking by the Vue gallery. Out front you’ll find a sculpture garden with dozens of sculptures such as the one I’ve photographed above. Some move or appear to be moving in the sun or wind. They’re really very creative and awesome to look at. It’s part of the well-known Renee Taylor Gallery brand.
There are little chocolate shops, an ice cream shop, and so much more! If you visit Sedona and have time, be sure to take a stroll through the village. Sometimes there is even an arts and crafts fair going on that you can walk through. Parking can be a little chaotic, but there are two parking lots on either side to choose from. Pick one and then circle through it until you find something (or go really early). I’ve never not found parking, it just sometimes takes a couple of minutes.
You can bring your pup as you walk through the village as well, so long as you keep them on a leash and pick up after them. If you’re coming from Phoenix, it’s about 15 miles after you hit Sedona proper and on the left hand side of the road as soon as you pass over the Oak Creek bridge and go through a roundabout.
If you’ve been before, let me know what your favorite shop in Tlaquepaque is! I’d love to make sure to stop in next time we go.
Have a great day friends!