Sitting and swealtering in Colorado’s way-too-hot-for-June temperatures, you may think I’m crazy to suggest a trip to Arizona. It could be hellish, in which case you simply go from air conditioning to swimming pool and back again. Or the temperatures and dry air can feel very similar to Denver. I recently had the opportunity for a whirlwind work/pleasure weekend in Phoenix and found it to be a great place to vacation with or without the kids. In a three-part series, I’ll share the highlights with you. Grab your sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat and swimsuit and get ready to plan your getaway.
Before you even catch sight of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, you know you’re in for something special. The long, long drive leads you past luxury mansions and rows of palm trees before rounding the bend revealing the hotel. The highly-textured exterior is inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who consulted on the design of the hotel, back in the late 1920’s. The words “Arizona Biltmore” spelled out in shrubbery(!) welcome you, even before the friendly staff can open your car door to let your vacation begin.
The Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Photo courtesy Arizona Biltmore.
Frank Lloyd Wright fans will find his touches everywhere, from the furnishings to the distinctive design of the “Biltmore Bricks”, meant to evoke the look of palm tree trunks on the exterior of all buildings. A large, decorative stained glass panel greets you just inside the lobby. It was taken from a drawing of Wright’s depicting saguaro cactus in bloom.
A stained glass panel at the hotel entry. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photos by CDM Communications unless otherwise noted.
At first glance, someone walking in with kids in tow might think “uh-oh, this place might be too fancy for the kids” but that’s not the case. Although the Arizona Biltmore is well-versed in decades of providing a luxury vacation stay, they are also eager to welcome families and give everyone, from the kiddos to the parents, a relaxing, fun experience.
Our hotel room in Ocatilla, a “hotel within a hotel”.
With 740 guest rooms, there are a variety of lodging options from hotel rooms to cottages to the “hotel within a hotel”, the Ocatilla. This was where I stayed on my brief visit and it is a Godsend for families as well as individuals. An executive lounge on the main level, available only for Ocatilla guests, offers an extensive continental breakfast, drinks and snacks during the day so you can pop in for a soda or bottle of water before heading back to the swimming pool available only to Ocatilla guests. Then later in the day, stop in for wine and hors oeuvres before dinner. An on-site concierge can help with reservations, answers to even the most ridiculous of questions and can help with your boarding pass when you hesitantly have to leave. Although the rates are higher at Ocatilla than in other areas of the hotel, having everything you need under one roof is really helpful.
There is a lot for adults to love at the Arizona Biltmore: luxury accommodations, delicious food (more on that in an upcoming blog), a beautiful lounge, expertly-manicured landscaping, dramatic views and plenty of opportunities to relax as hard as you play.
There’s also a lot for kids to love: Eight, count ‘em, eight swimming pools to choose from including the Paradise pool with the 90-foot water slide. Yummy food, a big lawn to run around on, a life-size chess and checker set to play with and a covered playground to beat out the Arizona heat.
Although there are fun things to do year-round, The Arizona Biltmore has created a summer of fun for adults and kids with a Hollywood-themed festival called “Hollywood & Wine”, offering entertainment and activities running from Memorial Day through September 4. The anchors of the summer-long program are the three big entertainment shows. I was there for the first on Memorial Day weekend for “A Night Under the Stars”, a song and dance review with stars from “Dancing with the Stars, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol”. Clint Black performs on July 4 and Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band rounds it out on September 1.
The Paradise pool features a 90-foot water slide at one end.
Fridays are Film & Wine Night, pairing wines by celebrity wineries with the screening of a classic movie in the historic Aztec Room – the original screening room of owner and chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. Saturday nights are Splash Cinema for kids – and their parents – where they watch films while floating on an inner tube in the Paradise Pool. That sure beats the sticky-floored multi-plex!
Kids will go crazy over the Imagination Emporium, a high-tech entertainment area where they can explore nature, culture and adventure with hands-on experiences. This is pure brilliance because parents can feel confident about leaving their children to have a blast, whether for an hour or the day while they enjoy lounging by the pool with a cocktail in hand, having a massage at the spa or working out without interruption. Or, as I did, nestling into one of the outdoor lounge chairs with a good book, an iced coffee, looking up occasionally to people-watch. Bliss!
One of the other activities one might want to do while the kids are deliriously happy at the Imagination Emporium, is to tour Taliesin, the western location of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, school and studio that is still operating today. While older kids may appreciate it, younger kids likely won’t care that much. Just as well. They’ll be happier and in good hands back at the hotel. With or without the kids, be sure to visit the Musical Instrument Museum for a few hours at least. More about those stops in the next installment of the series.
For more information about the Hollywood & Wine program, visit www.arizonabiltmorehollywoodandwine.com.
– CO MOM, Courtney
Read Part 2 here.