"I felt like I was walking through a magazine," said Washington resident Elizabeth Lovell about her recent stay at the Arizona Biltmore. "The grounds were absolutely stunning. All the separate areas made it seem like an intimate resort, but there was always something new just around the corner."
Dubbed "The Jewel of the Desert" after opening in 1929, the 39-acre, Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced Phoenix resort continues to enchant guests with Marilyn Monroe's favorite pool, giant lawn chess, championship golf, mountain views, dazzling gold-leaf lobby ceiling and celebrity sightings. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the Rockefellers and the Reagans number among luminaries who've checked into the Biltmore.
Leading a tour, resort historian Becky Blaine pointed to framed sepia-toned photographs of celebrities such as Clark Gable, who lost his wedding ring while golfing. A groundskeeper returned it before Gable's wife, Carole Lombard, found out.
Pointing to the Prohibition-era "Mystery Room," Blaine described its hidden stairway and bookcase hiding a liquor cabinet. On the room's glass ceiling, a warning spotlight signaled approaching police. Speaking of spirits, the agave-based Tequila Sunrise was first mixed at the Biltmore.
Boosting its luxe factor, the iconic resort has opened the 120-room Ocatilla wing -- a boutique hotel within a hotel featuring stone-tiled bathrooms, deluxe beds and a sumptuous executive lounge with free-flowing hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and a concierge who arranges such activities as Grand Canyon flights on Westwind Air Service's Cessna charters.
You don't have to be rich and famous to stay at the Ocatilla; Blaine said a "Exclusive All-Inclusive" package starting at $249 includes treats such as dinner at Frank & Albert's, the new Biltmore bistro serving locally sourced cuisine, designer drinks and, at the outdoor firepit, s'mores.
In June, the Biltmore hosted the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel and Lodging Association "Stars of the Industry" summit. "I've been going out there for 25 years," said AH&LA President Joe McInerney. Recent renovations, he observed, "made it light and airy while keeping its tradition ... it is a spectacular place."
At the summit, AH&LA honored the Biltmore for achievements in "special events." The resort continues demonstrating how to put on a great show with its summerlong "Hollywood & Wine" celebration. Events include insider film talks, celebrity chefs and winemakers, bands, synchronized swimming -- and dive-in movies at those legendary pools.
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