If you’re headed to Phoenix and want to feel pampered, the iconic Arizona Biltmore is a special place to hang your hat for a few days. Meandering through the expansive property, taking the time to smell the fragrant blossoms, I felt transformed to another era, that of the late 1920’s, thanks to the sublime architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Albert Chase MacArthur.
The Arizona Biltmore served as a three-day home base while exploring the area during my sun-soaked desert adventures.
This Waldorf Astoria resort has the distinction of being called the Jewel of the Desert. Opened in 1929, it’s one of the most recognizable luxury resorts in the world due to Frank Lloyd Wright’s trademark (but not patented, as MacArthur would later learn to his chagrin) design onto every “Biltmore Block” of the property’s expansive 39 acres.
The pre-cast blocks were created from desert sand and are a variation on a textile block first used by Wright to construct private homes. There are 34 varying geometric patterns in total, inspired by the trunk of a palm tree.
Another unique feature of the Biltmore is a series of statues known as Sprites. Frank Lloyd Wright designed them in 1914 for Chicago’s Midway Gardens. They were sculpted by Italian artist Alfonso Ianelli. There’s an interesting mystery behind them: when the Midway Gardens were demolished later on, the Sprites were lost until the mid 1940’s when unearthed in Wisconsin!
How they arrived there from Chicago remains an incomplete puzzle to this day. Six new Sprites were cast at the request of Mrs. Wright; the Arizona Biltmore received them in 1985 as a gift.
Although the Arizona Biltmore is undoubtedly attached to Frank Lloyd Wright, he was actually hired as consulting architect on the hotel and collaborated with one of his former students, Albert Chase McArthur. If you have the time, I highly recommend a visit to Taliesin West, where a 90-minute, highly-informative tour will give you a fantastic perspective on how Wright worked with his students and invented so much of what we take for granted in architecture today.
History buffs should also plan on a couple of hours to enjoy a free historical walking tour of the hotel offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (as of this writing).
Everything about this hotel is top-notch — from the bellmen to the desk staff, the entire team sees to a flawless lodging experience.
In 1930, Chicago chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. became the Arizona Biltmore’s sole owner and built the resort’s first swimming pool, The Catalina Pool. It became known as Marilyn Monroe’s favourite pool as well as the site where famed song composer Irving Berlin penned many tunes, including White Christmas.
There’s eight pools scattered around the Arizona Biltmore’s 740 guest rooms, but I chose to spend a free evening in “Marilyn’s pool”. It was a gleeful moment, as I had the pool all to myself, and swam following the path of the deep blue rectangle in the main part of the pool on the right in the photo above, occasionally looking up at the gently swaying palm trees.
On an evening where the air temperature was cooler than the pool water, I was in no rush to get out.
My first night’s dinner was at Frank and Albert’s, named after the famous architect and his student. The family-friendly restaurant serves up locally-inspired dishes in a casual environment. I enjoyed a flight of craft beers (Raj IPA, SanTan Devil’s Pale Ale, Ninkasi Lux Lager) alongside a blackened salmon filet graced with corn purée, smoked tomato, and black bean and avocado salad. Save room for dessert: their homemade sugar cookies are out of this world!
The more formal dining venue here is Wright’s at the Biltmore. Chef Gordon Maybury offers a daily tasting menu as well as a la carte items using ingredients from the chef’s garden. In addition to his current position as executive chef of the Arizona Biltmore, Chef Maybury’s cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe and has served as executive chef at many leading hotels and resorts in the USA and Caribbean.
I arranged a Biltmore Spa afternoon during my stay and chose the Turquoise Sage stone massage, a 90-minute session using Turquoise sage, lavender, and arnica for a deeply relaxing experience. Prior to the massage, I was invited to use the spa’s whirlpool, sauna, and steam room. There are guest lockers with robe and slippers off to the side of the whirlpool.
The Biltmore Spa’s Lead Therapist Sandra brought me into the massage room, where she began to work the polished basalt stones around my body. The smooth black stones are heated using water. Muscles are quickly relaxed through the pressure placed on the stones. Biltmore Spa offers a completely customizable experience through their well-varied spa menu offerings.
Alongside my massage, I chose an add-on foot scrub, leaving my feel petal-soft and smooth for the rest of the day. Sandra utilizes peppermint and shea butter foot polish, then wraps the feet in warm plastic footies to allow the polish to absorb through the skin. This is followed by a foot massage.
Other services here include foot cleansing and reflexology, cranial sacral blanking, and assorted body treatments such as red clay detox and magnesium muscle ease.
I was fortunate to be able to sleep in one of the original eight cottages on the property, featuring a small living area with couch and desk, and full bathroom with double sinks. Interior elements are sleek and modern, matching well with the deco architecture.
Tiny, reachable silver pull-up lights along each side of the bed are well thought of bedtime/reading additions.
All rooms feature Waldorf Astoria signature bedding and sheets of finely-milled sateen cotton for a comfortable sleep. Top sheets contain a patterned Waldorf Astoria monogram and are 500 thread count sateen as well.
The bathrooms are stocked with the Salvadore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul line of bath products, their shape mimicking that of the Sprites!
The Arizona Biltmore is located at 2400 East Missouri Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona.
I was a guest of The Arizona Biltmore for the purposes of touring Phoenix and of experiencing the hotel for this article. Opinions, as always, are my own. I’d also like to extend a big shout-out to Roam Mobility, whose stress-free talk, text, and data plans help me navigate my way around the roads, keep in touch with family back home, and stay on top of emails when I’m down in the USA. Check out their website for details on their plans and products.
Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Arizona Biltmore.