The Arizona Biltmore
There are no gimmicks at this storied resort — unless you count luxury and good taste.
By Janis Hirsch
I’m not proud of this: I once had a fight with a lady of a certain age over a lounge chair at a resort. It was one of those places where you had to set your alarm for dawn just to stake your poolside claim, which I did and then went to get breakfast. I came back and this woman had moved my towel so she could have the prime aisle spot relegating me to the chaise lounge tenement that was the patio. Seriously, like 30 rows of chairs, 15 chairs across. The Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1912, only instead of teeming with your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, it was cheek-to-jowl with bridge clubs from New Jersey. When I heard myself growl: “Don’t start with me, Rose” I knew I was not meant for resort life. Although I do have a penchant for resort wear, but that’s another story for another time.
Still, when the kids were little we went to resorts where overly made-up Princesses (and Princes) kamakaze-hugged me, we went to resorts with indoor gondolas, roller coasters, trams and circuses. We went to resorts where we felt like scholarship students because we didn’t travel with our own bodyguards (the Villa D’Este. Still worth it, but seriously…) and we went to “resorts” where I swear they train cadaver dogs.
I declared a fatwa on resorts. But now I have seen the light.
The Arizona Biltmore.
Okay, first criterion for a great resort? Airport close — not enough to hear or see planes but close enough to drive there without having to ask for directions. And the Biltmore was less than 30 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport.
That said, the next time I go — and there WILL be a next time — we’re driving from L.A. just because I’m a sucker for billboards advertising Palm Springs real estate (if you have white hair and golf clubs, you can make a mint modeling down there) and I truly love the spare desert scenery once you cross into Arizona.
As we drove through the Biltmore’s beautiful grounds — not a bush clipped in the shape of a cartoon character in sight — we began to exhale. By the time we pulled up in front, I knew I was in my Happy Place, both spiritually and physically.
Built in 1929, the Arizona Biltmore took my breath away. It’s design, by Albert Chase McArthur with heavy Frank Lloyd Wright influences, reminded me that modern architecture didn’t begin with Judy Jetson; it began as a way to eliminate unnecessary details, to have integrity with the landscape, to have form follow function. I will now get off Wikipedia and return to the matter at hand.
I was nervous about staying in an older hotel. In my experience they smell like the hallway in my grandmother’s apartment building or the walls are paper thin — you really don’t want to be gesundheited from the next room — or the water pressure in the shower was solely dependent on someone else’s toilet being flushed.
Fear not: the Biltmore keeps pouring millions into refurbishing and it shows without showing off. Eight swimming pools, two PGA golf courses, seven tennis courts, hiking and biking excursions, a state of the art gym with LOADS of machines so you never have to wait and every kind of fitness class you could hope for.
Our room was big and open and comfortable, as was the bathroom, but best of all, I could set the alarm on the clock radio without putting on my glasses or calling my 18 year-old son for a tutorial.
We stayed in the Ocatilla at the Biltmore, which is an oasis within this oasis. There was a private lounge where everything from early morning coffee to late night desserts magically appeared and a glorious private pool.
Even VroomGirls need a break so I headed directly to the spa. Here’s the great thing: I didn’t pre-book a treatment and yet I was given an appointment for an 80-minute Dreamcatcher massage a mere 45 minutes from my walk-in time, which meant I had enough time to eat two scoops of decadently delicious apricot sorbet without getting brain-freeze.