Some places boast about their storied pasts but come off antiquated in the process. The Arizona Biltmore, a stunning hotel right off of a bustling Phoenix street, has a backstory worthy of a novel, too. But rather than live off of its black-and-white photographs of Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooning there, the hotel moves forward with modern amenities, an evolved fine-dining menu and a number of other characteristics the well-heeled traveler can appreciate. In fact, here are five attributes that stand out:
1. History Lesson. When a Biltmore staffer tells you a story about celebrities who’ve stayed at the hotel since its 1929 opening, he does it nonchalantly. He’ll simply point to a piano in the expansive lobby where Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra once played so late that guests started complaining. He’ll also probably show the building’s pre-cast bricks, or “Biltmore Blocks,” a diverse geometric design so unusual you’ll wonder who came up with the detail. But once you realize it was famed architects Frank Lloyd Wright and understudy Albert Chase McArthur’s idea, it all starts to make sense. At the Biltmore, every stone shares a tale.
2. Dashing Detail. Though Wright and McArthur had the biggest hands in the property’s original design, numerous renovations from 1975 to 2009 help to define the beautiful landscape you see today. When you walk the 39 acres of grounds, you’re amazed by all the details in the masonry at the same time you’re reaching for the camera to take a picture of a water fountain or walk-through garden. And as an added dose of historical charm to the place, there are eight Biltmore Sprites sprinkled about, too. These Wright-designed,Alfonso Iannelli-sculpted pieces date back to 1914 Chicago; through recapturing and restoration, they found their way to the Biltmore.
3. Ocatilla. Though the Biltmore offers 720 rooms of varying grandeur and 78 one- and two-bedroom villas, this boutique hotel within the hotel has a specialness all its own. The well-appointed rooms are 500 square feet, meaning you have plenty of space to enjoy the brown leather furniture, 300-thread-count Egyptian sheets and wall-mounted flat-screen TV. The spacious bathrooms have mosaic tile, double sinks and glass-encased showers. And on top of all of that, Ocatilla guests have their own private pool, a personal concierge and access to the Ocatilla Executive Lounge, a relaxing spot with light finger foods and beer available through the day.
4. Activities Await. You may be tempted to spend your whole stay merely lounging on the terrace, staring off at majestic Squaw Peak. But with so much to do in the way of eight swimming pools, seven tennis courts and a host of boutiques selling everything from Toms shoes to Tommy Bahama shirts, it’s hard to keep your feet still. Well, that is until you get to Arizona Biltmore Spa. The menu bursts with spirit-awakening treatments like the Native American-inspired Dream Catcher Aromatherapy Massage. The Sonoran Stone Massage proves just warm and firm enough to work out any aches lingering from all the lounging.
5. Just Wright. There are five dining options on the property, ranging from cinnamon rolls and sandwiches at the Café to the braised short ribs at Frank & Albert’s. However, if you and your party are seeking the ultimate epicurean experience, there’s just one address — Wright’s at the Biltmore. From the moment you walk in the wood-floored, warm-colored establishment, you feel special. Part of that emotion stems from the attentive waitstaff. And then there’s the food itself. The iced seafood starter is a cornucopia of crustaceans meant to be enjoyed by three or more. The beef Bourguignon, which is generously drizzled in red wine, is just for you. As for the cotton candy you get as a parting gift, that should be savored by as many people at the table as possible.
Photos Courtesy of Arizona Biltmore