This Historic Desert Hideaway Offers Travelers a Trip Back in Time
In the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, Arizona, has undergone a remarkable transformation from a small Western town to a thriving tourism hub. The city’s tourism history traces back to the late 19th century when its dry climate attracted visitors seeking relief from respiratory illnesses. Decades later, Phoenix has evolved into a burgeoning urban center, and the city’s tourist appeal grew alongside it.
A testament to Phoenix’s history, the Arizona Biltmore breathes new life into the area with refreshed accommodations and features while staying true to the area’s timeless beauty. Whether you want to visit the birthplace of the Tequila Sunrise, see the famous “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers” stained glass centerpiece or simply want to discover the past treasures for yourself, here are four ways the Arizona Biltmore, also known at “The Jewel of the Desert,” is keeping the hotel’s storied 95 years of history alive.
Emerging almost a century ago as the most opulent hotel of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it’s no surprise that the Arizona Biltmore’s history is as captivating and glamorous as you’d think. But even such an opulent hotel in Phoenix has humble beginnings.
In 1910, Warren and Charles McArthur moved from Chicago to Phoenix, where they transformed a Dodge truck into “The Wonderbus,” complete with extra seats and supplies, which they used to offer tours around the Arizona landscape. By 1924, the McArthur Brothers aspired to turn Arizona into a tourist haven but needed the right accommodations.
Construction commenced in August 1928, and after nine months, the Phoenix hotel’s grand opening took place on Feb. 23, 1929—an event that was so spectacular, it was extended for three consecutive days to accommodate all 600 invitees.
Since then, the Arizona Biltmore has attracted famous guests and influential figures, making a name for itself as an iconic destination. To learn more about the history of this Phoenix hotel, book a 90-minute walking tour with a hotel historian or stroll down History Hallway by McArthur’s Restaurant & Bar.
The Arizona Biltmore seamlessly blends brilliant architectural elements with custom design features to create a timeless and truly beautiful property. When originally constructed nearly a century ago, a third brother, Albert Chase McArthur, designed the Arizona Biltmore with a distinct Frank Lloyd Wright (his former employer) influence: concrete textile blocks. The vision for the hotel was one of grandeur, artfulness and harmony, so McArthur turned to music theory to create 39 distinct textile blocks that tied the property together like music notes in a scale.
In the 2020s, this hotel in Phoenix underwent a $150 million reinvention—a comprehensive property-wide revamp that restored the distinctive “Biltmore Block” design to its former grandeur. Post-reinvention, the Arizona Biltmore’s structural details meld with gold-leaf ceilings, intricate wood paneling and copper patina. Original glass fixtures provide a delicate balance of openness and privacy for guests, and there are plenty of photo-ops at famous features like the mosaic table, the “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers” stained glass window, picturesque lounge areas and carefully curated vignettes.
Modern Day Amenities
The Arizona Biltmore’s recent reinvention allows for the past to shine without forgoing luxurious modern amenities. Some of the hotel’s favorite highlights are the seven sparkling pools on the property, boasting a comfortable 82-84-degree experience year-round. Notable pools include the Catalina Pool (where you could find Marilyn Monroe back in the day), the Ocatilla Pool, Terrace Court Pool, Bougainvillea Villas Pool, Saguaro Pool and Paradise Pool, which feature an exciting waterslide called “The Twist.” For poolside dining, head to the Paradise and Saguaro Pools, or enjoy drink service at the Paradise, Saguaro, and Ocatilla Pools for instant relaxation.
Another exciting amenity is the Citrus Club Lounge, a private 21+ lounge that offers dedicated concierge service and customized food and drink selections in a secluded, intimate setting. If you’re booking your stay soon, consider booking a suite: it comes with complimentary access to the Citrus Club Lounge, a discount at Tierra Luna Spa, priority tennis and pickleball court reservations and more.
Nestled amongst the majestic mountain ranges at the foothills of Piestewa Peak and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Arizona Biltmore stands as a beacon of serenity in the desert, encompassing 39 immaculately groomed acres. Aside from its gorgeous surroundings, the property is also conveniently located: it’s only a 20-minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Downtown Phoenix and Old Town Scottsdale. From biking and horseback riding to 21st-century attractions, there’s plenty to explore and experience near the Arizona Biltmore.
Soak in the natural beauty of the Phoenix landscape by exploring various trails in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve—the two closest to the Arizona Biltmore are the Piestewa Peak and Quartz Ridge trailheads. Most of these are moderate hikes, so bring some sturdy shoes and some water!
Aside from taking the Legendary History Tour at the Arizona Biltmore, there are plenty of museums and monuments in the local area that pay homage to Phoenix’s indigenous history. The earliest permanent population of the Phoenix area were the Hohokam, followed by the Akimel O’odham (Pima), Maricopa, Yavapai, and Yaqui, many of whom were sent to reservations by the US Government in the 19th century. Today, Phoenix’s indigenous community is mostly made up of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and Tohono O’odham Nation.
As the Arizona Biltmore stands as a testament to Phoenix’s rich history and vibrant present, it invites travelers to explore a unique blend of historic charm and modern luxury. Your stay at this Phoenix resort oasis promises an unforgettable journey from the past to the present.
2400 E Missouri Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.