BFF Getaway at Historic Arizona Biltmore Resort
By Jon Bailey - December 29, 2019
When best friends live in far-flung places around the country, it can be hard to see each other and spend quality time together. My two besties and I recently planned a reunion getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. It was the perfect location to catch up and chill together, laughing about old stories and making some new ones.
As a freshman at University of California at Santa Barbara all those years ago, it took me a while to find my people. I was really fortunate that my roommates and nearby friends in the dorms were amazing (for the most part) and a bunch are still friends to this day. It wasn’t until the middle of the year that I met two guys that would become my very best friends in the world.
Recently we needed to spend some long overdue time together. What better place to all meet up for a getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore Resort! (It’s also known as the Phoenix Waldorf-Astoria).
Arizona Biltmore Perfect for a Friends Getaway
Tom, Mark and I have been best friends since I was 19, and we’ve seen each other through quite a lot over the years. One of the other things we have in common is our long-term marriages. Triton and I have been together for 22 years, Tom and his husband for 23+ years and Mark and John have been together for a staggering 34 years. In the world of gay men, this kind of relationship longevity is not all that common!
Even with such amazing husbands, we still need occasional time together without our spouses. If for nothing else, just to reminisce and retell the scandalous stories of our youth. The Arizona Biltmore was the perfect setting. It provided warm sunny weather, gorgeous grounds and an convenient nearby airport we could all fly into easily.
A getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore Resort is special because it is quite literally the playground of Presidents and celebrities for the past 90 years. Any place that is good enough for Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy is good enough for us!
The original hotel is an architectural masterpiece, designed by Albert Chase McArthur under the direction of his famous teacher Frank Lloyd Wright. There are so many signature Frank Lloyd Wright architectural embellishments throughout the resort. This pieces of history are punctuated with a unique combination of Southwestern Art Deco style. Of particular note are the mathematically-proportioned rectangle blocks that were used on both the building exteriors and interiors. These have become known as the “Biltmore Blocks”, created with a diverse geometric design and made from local desert sand.
Fortunately the resort owners have preserved this legacy. Through several enhancements and additions the Arizona Biltmore has maintained its stunning design aesthetic.
The expansive grounds here make a getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore Resort sooooo relaxing. There is something so peaceful about the desert! When you add bright green lawns and towering palm trees it all mixes together into a perfect elixir.
Personally, I love warm weather – and Phoenix can certainly be warm. Most of the year it’s quite balmy though, and when the weather is not awesome in other parts of the country it seems Phoenix is alway sunny and pleasant. This climate brings out colorful flowers, birds, butterflies and more.
A signature element on the grounds at the Arizona Biltmore are the Frank Lloyd Wright “Sprites” that dot the pathways and green belts. These geometric sculptures are meant to depict garden sprites taking the shape of lovely ladies. The statues conjure a distinct artistic vision of what the famous architect might have envisioned for public and private landscapes.
I tried to get one home in my suitcase, but darn if it didn’t fit. Lucky for me the resort sells miniature reproductions in the gift shop, and I don’t have to go over my limit on luggage weight!
Legendary Catalina Pool
Another icon of the Arizona Biltmore is the Catalina Pool, called this because the pool tiles were made by special process on Catalina Island. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr owned the hotel during its initial years, and had the tiles made to match those in his island home. The result is a colorful display of real tile in vibrant yellows and blues – really gorgeous and authentic to the period.
The Catalina pool has enchanted many a guest over its long history, including quite a few celebrities. It was said to have been Marilyn Monroe’s favorite pool. Songwriter Irving Berlin created his famous tune “White Christmas” sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore. Clark Gable smoked cigars nearby. Although the pool’s original diving board is long gone, the tiles remain to welcome guests to a little bit of history and glamour.
This was the perfect backdrop for our getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore Resort. We pulled together some lounge chairs, and ordered drinks and snacks from the nice pool attendant. Then we laid back to grab some sun and much-needed catch up conversation.
There are several restaurants on the Arizona Biltmore property. Our first evening, we stopped for drinks on the patio at The Wright Bar where our server quickly learned our names and favorite cocktails. She was our new best friend, and made our welcome all the more pleasant. From there, we walked across the lobby for dinner at Wright’s and had the privilege of a private seating inside the wine room. The food was delicious and the service impeccable, but the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time together was just priceless.
The next morning, breakfast was served on the outdoor terrace at Frank & Albert’s. Bleary eyed and a little fuzzy from the previous night’s dinner, we gulped coffee with eyes shaded from the glaring sun. It didn’t take long for the coffee and food to bring us back to life. Soon we felt refreshed enough to venture out for a hike around the neighborhood.
Another not-to-be-missed meal opportunity is the Sunday Brunch served at Wright’s. A literal smorgasbord of culinary treats is laid out for guests’ perusal. Cracked crab, jumbo shrimp and smoked salmon your thing? Have at it – there are bowls and platters galore. Meats, cheeses, breads and pickled vegetables? Check. Eggs any way you like, along with pastries, jams, honey from a real working hive and flavored butters? Got it.
Carved meats, complete with horseradish and other sauces? Yep. And platters upon platters of desserts of all shapes, sizes and flavors? That too.
In addition to eating, sleeping and laying around, a getaway at historic Arizona Biltmore resort has many opportunities for activities on property. Golf and tennis are part of the Phoenix lifestyle, and the offerings at the Biltmore are spectacular. In fact, there are two PGA 18-hole golf courses adjacent to the Biltmore grounds. Both the stately Adobe Course and the newer Links Course are easily accessed. Both golf courses are highly rated and challenging for both beginners and pros.
Earlier on Saturday morning, we hiked around the grounds and explored the property and its surrounding areas. Easy paths extend from the resort entrance in several directions. We opted for a route along the waterway which brings waters from the Colorado River into downtown Phoenix. From there, we went off road a bit to explore the native terrain and spied some local flora and fauna including hawks and several roadrunners.
While the property is going through a renovation and enhancement program, the spa at the Arizona Biltmore has been temporarily relocated while new expanded facilities are constructed. We spent some quality time at the spa during our getaway at Arizona Biltmore resort. I can honestly say that the services were top drawer. Massages, facials and mani/pedis were enjoyed by our little group. This helped prepare us perfectly for a night out on the town that evening.
Guest rooms at the Arizona Biltmore are arranged in a series of buildings, some original and others added over the years in a complimentary style. Our guest rooms were located in the original historic building above the main lobby and public areas, and contained many of the features first built into the hotel. Hallways contain the signature Biltmore Blocks with their geometric patterns, wooden air vents in the period style and other features of historic nature.
Inside, the rooms have been completely refreshed and modernized but with a nod to the property’s character. And the bed! Oh that bed. Whatever magic they are weaving into their mattress and bedding, I want it and I want it now! Seriously among the most comfortable nights’ sleeps I have ever enjoyed. My friends and I were pleased to find our rooms spacious, with sitting areas large enough for all of us to hang out.
Getting to the historic Arizona Biltmore resort is super easy. It was great for our group because we were all flying from different cities to meet in Phoenix. With Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport a central hub for several airlines, we could all get there easily with flights on Delta, American and Southwest Airlines. Even better, the resort is a short 20 minute drive from the airport. Coming from San Diego, my own experience was extraordinarily simple. On Southwest Airlines, y flight was less than an hour in the air and cost under $100 each way.
Room prices at the Arizona Biltmore vary depending on room type and season. Current room prices start in the $180s per night, and go up from there. If you go, ask for an historic room for added personality. For families and larger groups, there are room types and villas that can accommodate more people at various price levels. Overall we found our stay remarkably affordable given all the offerings at this resort. Plus if you are a Hilton Honors program member, Waldorf-Astoria properties are included in the program for earning and redeeming points.