Unplanned Layovers – Lemons to Lemonade


A short week ago I departed Santa Fe at dawn en-route to Utah, a brief layover in Phoenix turned into a 10 – hour unscheduled layover…grrr.

Always have a back up travel plan; sitting in an airport for 10 hours was not my plan. There are several luxury hotels nearby – and my favorite is the Arizona Biltmore.

The only existing hotel in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright influenced design, The Arizona Biltmore has been an Arizona landmark since its opening on Feb. 23,1929 when it was crowned “The Jewel of the Desert;” the resort was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. Perhaps the most obvious and dramatic design link to Wright is the use of indigenous materials that led to the creation of the “Biltmore Block.” The pre-cast concrete blocks were molded on-site and used in the total construction of the resort. Designed by McArthur and sculpted by Emry Kopta, a prominent southwestern sculptor, the “Biltmore Block” features a geometric pattern that is said to represent a freshly cut palm tree.

In 1930, when the estimated $1 million construction cost doubled, Chicago chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., one of the original investors in the project, became the sole owner. Over the next 44 years, the Wrigley family owned and operated the Arizona Biltmore and it became world renowned as the preferred luxury oasis for celebrities, heads of state, captains of industry and other famous travelers. Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, every sitting President, captains of industry have been guests. Mr. Wrigley’s famous ballroom and private movie theater are now beautiful ballrooms. Look upstairs in the Gold Room, you see the glassed in orchestra balcony. Romance and decadence, a celebrity playground and lifestyle! The ceiling reportedly contains as much gold leaf as the Taj Mahal, a stunning room which also holds legendary Western artist Maynard Dixon’s room size Hopi inspired murals, the art collection is truly amazing. One of the last evocative murals in existence, Maynard drew inspiration from the Hopi tribes he lived with, the mural’s main figures represent the Hopi people’s Father Sun and Mother Earth.

Thanks to conscientious owners who have been committed to preserving its architectural integrity, the resort is, in many ways, more “Wrightian” than when it was built. And, throughout the years, the Arizona Biltmore has set the standard for elegance and style. The guest rooms and suites pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright in their mission-style furnishings, desert palette tones of beige, sand, and ivory and lamps that recall a1930’s flair.

A Catalina pottery collection, one pool and fountain constructed in Catalina tiles, gold leaf ballroom ceiling, several inspiring and evocative Maynard Dixon murals, endless manicured gardens, views of purple Phoenix peaks, the Biltmore art is museum quality, and not the only reason to visit! Nine pools, country club golf links, biking, cooking classes, destination award winning spa, tennis, private cabanas at the Paradise pool… the list of amenities is vast. The Biltmore is perfect for a family escape or a corporate retreat. The Legend lives in Phoenix.

Not many hotels offer such historic background, and the Arizona Biltmore has been lovingly maintained. Elegance and the bygone days of a genteel life are a part of daily life at the Biltmore; the Catalina pool is a delightful oasis, roam the grounds with a book and enjoy the many beautiful gardens, white adirondack chairs are comfortably located for guest lounging.

The beginning of my day looked bleak, and in the end, I was thrilled to spend a day at The Jewel of The Desert…I will be returning for a longer visit in the fall.

Thank you Arizona Biltmore for a delightful slice of the past and a very memorable day.