I was doubtful whether even the most de luxe accommodations could overcome my perennial distaste for the desert. But the Arizona Biltmore showed me that I was about to see the desert in a whole new light, guiding me off Phoenix’s main drag down a winding lane of jacaranda trees to the towering main entrance, its imperious angles softened by the rosy backdrop of the sunset.
Designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Biltmore is an icon of the Art Deco movement. Its historic pedigree is showcased both inside and out, with sumptuous amenities emphasized by venerable history. In the lobby bar, under a gold-leaf ceiling second in size only to the Taj Mahal, I tasted my first Tequila Sunrise cocktail at the very bar where it was invented. Swimming laps in Catalina Pool the following morning, I admit to feeling just a little more elegant knowing that it was Marilyn Monroe’s favorite place to swim.
Arizona’s perpetual warmth and sunshine make the Biltmore a seasonless favorite among snowbirds and “stay-cationers,” who keep the 39-acre property lively all year long. Much as I enjoyed the people-watching, I was grateful for the sanctuary provided by Ocatilla, a secluded wing where the Biltmore curates its luxurious appointments to individual needs.
…unless, of course, you get tipped off (as I did) with the password to the Mystery Room, the Prohibition-era speakeasy whose secret doors have been newly reopened to offer jazz-hot music and libations to an exclusive crowd on Sunday nights.
Between its period-perfect luxury and its appropriation of natural beauty, the Arizona Biltmore will teach anyone to adore the desert. Personally, I can’t wait to return.