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This Week
Arts and Entertainment Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 9 years ago

TWIS Travel: Arizona Biltmore

by: Matt Orr

TWIS and Admiral Travel have partnered to bring you the very best of travel deals around the globe. We get exclusive, one-of-a-kind offers specifically for our readers. To see or claim our offer for the Arizona Biltmore, scroll to the bottom of this page, or click this link from Facebook

Recently I've become obsessed with the Roaring '20s --- and by "recently," I mean "my whole life;" and by "obsessed," I mean "I have to talk myself out of cutting my hair in a bob and dancing the Charleston in public." If you lived in the '20s and had buckets of money, life was super awesome. Imagine a cigar clenched between your teeth (this was before cigars were bad for you) as you talk about the world's latest inventions on the verandah of a fancy hotel. It was a time when science ruled the scene, "talkies" were all the rage in Hollywood and most of your friends were mogas. Life was splendid, darling. Now, get this: I found a resort where you can experience it now --- next weekend, even.

I made it my mission to search the nation high and low for the perfect spot where I could experience the 1920s and '30s, sans prohibition and depression (even though my checking account resembles the latter). Here were my parameters for this trip:

1) I have to be able to fly direct from SRQ or TPA (I snagged a $259 flight from TPA)

2) I can't spend over $500 (including the flight), and I want to stay four nights.

3) The hotel has to be nice ... like, really nice.

4) I'm going to invite my family to visit, so adult and kids activities are a must.

5) The resort must have been built some time at the turn of the century and riddled with the 1920s ... that is to say, dripping with remnants of flappers, speakeasies and art deco.

A Google search led me to the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. I called Admiral Travel, they worked their magic, and next thing I knew, I was on an airplane. 


Before I visited the Arizona Biltmore, my knowledge of its home state was limited to tumbleweeds and scorpions. I imagined gunslingers, campfires, scorching heat (dry, of course) and saloons. I pictured towns of people in petticoats and chaps shuffling around dusty streets, whistling "Fistfull of Dollars" and begging one another to make a misstep so there could be a public shootout. As it turns out, the "Wild West" of Arizona is nothing like that at all. Sure, there are scorpions on the hiking trails and plenty of dry heat, but there's so much more folded into literally one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  


The Biltmore Hotel has 750 rooms on 40 acres, 8 pools, a 92-foot waterslide, poolside cabanas, giant chess games, a spa, a killer gym and 4 restaurants. It's the oldest hotel in Arizona; when the doors opened in February of 1929 you could only go if you were invited --- and that meant you were either a member of the Hollywood elite or the President. Designed by Albert Chase McArthur in consultation with Frank Lloyd Wright, this resort is filled to the rim with art deco-inspired architecture.


A young lady named Canyon checked us in and began telling us everything we could ever want to know about the resort and the desert. She was incredibly knowledgeable, like Ph.D. knowledgeable. When she said her name I imagined Canyon's parents, a young couple in love with each other and the desert, naming her Canyon to always remind her of her solid roots in the desert.  I imagined Native American elders teaching her to find her way using the stars and learning to make medicine using the native plants of the area. She'd immediately become my personal desert shaman, so I felt slightly betrayed when she said, "Oh, you're from Sarasota? I'm from Ft. Myers."  However, that made me think to myself, This place does some serious training about the area.

Okay, get ready to scream with delight, because here comes the part that affects you. I'm about to let you in on the "in-the-know" package you too can score. When I booked the room, I bought the least expensive option ($119 a night for four nights) and got tons-o-perks. Let's do a little math, shall we?

$119 x 4 = $476

Minus my perks (listed below), my room was reduced to $97 for my four-day stay. For reals, y'all, that was the total.  

Perks included:

  • One free night. 
  • One upgrade to the Ocatilla concierge suite --- the way to stay. Built in 2007 as the hotel's latest luxury update, the VIP lounge area provides complimentary beer, wine and culinary morsels throughout the day.
  • $40 credit for breakfast. 
  • $100 to be used anywhere I wanted on the resort.
  • Homemade chocolates and fresh milk in my room at night.  

11 a.m. checkouts are for the novice, so they also gave me a late checkout of 4:00 p.m. At night they drew a hot bath with sea salts, and in the morning a personal concierge brought me coffee and juice. OMG.


With my savings I did what any American with a credit card would do. I reserved a cabana --- the one Steven Spielberg rents when he's around, in fact. My first day at the resort was a snapshot of the three days to follow. Upon waking up late and having my breakfast, I would take a nap ... followed by a nice walk to the pool, where I took another nap. The dry heat feels good if you're in the shade, and water misters in abundance keep the air cool ... well, cool-ish. Let's just say it feels way better then Florida summers.

Cooling off in Arizona is actually easier then you'd ever think. Not only are there super fancy cucumber water stations around every turn, there are also swim-up bars and handsome cabana boys who deliver frozen grapes in little cups every so often. There's a DJ who is cool, and he plays by the pool, if that counts as "staying cool." And, there's that 92-foot water slide sitting in the middle of the pool area. I did try and sneak up the ladder to slide down, but as I approached the top I was met with embarrasment by the "slide guard" judging me as I towered above the 10-year-olds waiting to slide.  

Me: "I was going to test it first before my nephew slid down."

Him: "Adults are allowed to slide."

Me: "You stop it right now!"

Him: "I won't stop it! Now go and let your inner child slide. Scream with delight. Splash in our waters and I'll time you to the bottom."

I slid to the bottom and yelled to my family, who had joined me on this trip, "We are allowed to slide, too!" Suddenly adults from all around the pool bounded to their feet, pushing children aside as they enjoyed the discovery I brought them, thank you very much. (By the way, it took me seven seconds to hit the bottom.)


As for the restaurants:

If you follow me on Yelp --- and you should --- then you know that 1) I don't have the luxury of an editor on Yelp, and 2) I'm pretty obsessed with restaurants who source local foods. The Biltmore, and Phoenix in general, share my food values. As it turns out, Arizona has a lot of agriculture, which was a total surprise because nothing seems to grow there ... but somewhere nearby the hotel are lots of farms, and presumably lots of water from somewhere other then the sky. The Biltmore prides itself in sourcing most all of its food from within 100 miles of the resort. It's super tasty and best described as "creative resort food." The drinks are handmade without mixes (score for Biltmore), and the service is probably among the best "laid back" service I've ever received.  

Matt's Star Meter
(way better then Zagat):

Family Vacation: 10 stars. There's a kids' camp, and for $5 you can enroll your children while you enjoy the waterslide. There's golf, hiking and eight pools. Kids love it.

Girls' Weekend: 10 stars. Easy to organize for a group of gal pals, with plenty to do on the property to keep you occupied.


Spa Retreat: 6 stars. Don't get me wrong: The spa is fine, but it's not a spa you want to travel to see. The menu is well thought out and the prices are standard for any resort.  

Healthy Get-Away: 7 stars. The food is clean and local. The spa is good. The gym is terrific, and if you're disciplined you can avoid the drinks.

Pricing is subject to change by the season. If you book through TWIS Travel (a loving partner of Admiral Travel) you will receive: an upgrade in room, breakfast daily, $100 resort credit and a 4 p.m. late checkout.  

The luxury of the resort makes you feel as if you're in another era and when you pepper that era with amazing service and a nice fuzzy bathrobe and a martini via room service, life at The Biltmore can't be topped.  

The Biltmore AZ is offering TWIS readers an amazing offer.  1 free night at The Biltmore, and upgrade (bath salts and all) on arrival, $100 resort credit, free made from scratch breakfast, late check out of 4:00PM.  Other offers include all inclusive weekends and dinner packages.  For Facebook users click here:

If you are one of the last holdouts then you can call Admiral Travel at 941-951-1801 or email [email protected] for details and other upgrades. 

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