Weekend at Biltmore

LEADarizonaBiltmoreWhen she was little, my daughter, Kirstin, and I would spend our free time at the park. I’d push her on the swing or catch her when she’d zoom down the slide. Sometimes we’d venture to the zoo, where I’d point out the giraffes and she’d giggle at the baboons.

But the years have slipped past quickly, and now my oldest is a teen with a driver’s permit and a penchant for borrowing my clothes. Regardless of the horror stories often told of teenagers, however, I love spending time with her. We have the same practical manner and do-it-yourself spirit. We both love movies and cuddling up with a good book. But one of our favorite things to do together is travel.

I try to spend one-on-one time with my kids as often as I can. Over the years, Kirstin and I have ventured to Florida, Thailand and Norway, always returning with a pile of memories. This year, though, we chose to do something a little different — an indulgent spa getaway for just the two of us.

Our destination was the elegant Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, a historic desert resort that has been a celebrity playground for decades. The resort’s 39 acres (15 hectares) are in the foothills of Phoenix’s posh Biltmore Estates district. Flowering gardens, tall palms, dripping fountains and the rugged Squaw Peak provide the backdrop for this Arizona oasis.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the consulting architect for the hotel, kept true to his style. Straight lines, geometric forms and contemporary furniture merge seamlessly with organic earth tones and local materials.

The copper roof shimmers in the Arizona sun, and the lobby’s preserved gold-leaf ceiling remains second in size only to the Taj Mahal. “Biltmore Blocks,” designed by leading southwest sculptor Emry Kopta, were made on site from desert sand. Palm-tree trunks inspired their crosshatch patterns.

Opened in 1929, the resort was Wright’s first hotel project, and it remains the world’s only existing hotel to bear his name. Construction costs doubled from the initial US$ 1 million estimate, and in 1930, bubblegum big shot William Wrigley, Jr. became the sole owner.

Elegance was the hotel’s signature, and it began its legacy of drawing big Hollywood names. Star power kept the Biltmore Arizona floating high through the Great Depression and WWII. The ’70s and ’80s brought major renovations and expansions, and 1998 saw the opening of the 22,000-square-foot (2,044m²) spa. Today, the resort’s 738 rooms and suites offer everything from mini bars and spa amenities to private terraces and fireplaces.

Our room was huge, with a comfy sitting area, a huge marbled bathroom and soft beds topped with thick white comforters. But the resort was so inviting that we rarely spent time in our room.

Instead, we lingered over long breakfasts on the resort’s sunny outdoor patios, enjoying huge bowls of fresh Arizona berries and tall cups of hot cappuccino. In the evening, we sampled the Wright Cocktail, an offering of shrimp, crab legs and Pacific oysters.

When we visited Wright’s, the resort’s award-winning and best-known restaurant, the menu offered farm-raised striped bass, Colorado veal and a grilled, mango-glazed pork chop. The dishes can change weekly, since the chefs rely on what’s in season and what their favorite small farms are offering. They call it “American Lodge Cuisine,” — hearty, organic cuisine set in the Wright atmosphere of contemporary design with natural tones.

For our casual evenings, we dined in the warm glow of the Biltmore Grill’s open-pit fireplace. Regional favorites such as southwest chicken pasta and tortilla soup supplemented grilled steaks and seafood.

Due to the warm winter climate in Phoenix, we were able to spend lots of time in the resort’s massive pool, drinking virgin piña coladas at the swim-up bar and lounging in the Arizona sun. We screeched as we zipped down the winding pool slide, and thought happily of our family back in wintry Colorado.

The Arizona Biltmore is located just a few miles from some great shopping, so one afternoon we turned our rented car toward the malls and didn’t come back till dark.

With the warm winter climate in Phoenix, it’s easy to spend lots of time in the resort’s massive Paradise Pool.
With the warm winter climate in Phoenix, it’s easy to spend lots of time in the resort’s massive Paradise Pool.

The highlight of our getaway was undoubtedly the Arizona Biltmore Spa. The menu offers everything from warm seaweed wraps to stone pedicures and salt scrubs. I went for the Dream Catcher aromatherapy massage. The 80-minute Native American –inspired signature treatment combined tiny drops of essential oils with hot-stone therapy and full-body massage.

Natural ingredients are the common factor in many of the spa treatments. Raw sugar, coconut, passionflower, lemon and walnut grains are used to soothe skin and relax the mind. Last year, the re-done spa menu turned toward local ingredients, including clay mud, desert plants and cactus flowers.

Men’s services were another hit in the luxury spa, which features indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, wet treatment rooms for herbal wraps, hydrotherapy, saunas, steam rooms and the type of locker rooms you’d expect from a celebrity hot spot.

Kirstin tried the teen facial and then a Swedish massage. It was her first spa experience, and she emerged looking serene and happy. Who wouldn’t?

Time flies when you’re having fun, and all too soon it was the end of our adventure. On our last evening at the Biltmore we snuggled into our thick robes and ate popcorn while we watched a movie in our room.

“Let’s do this again, Mom,” Kirstin mused as we downed the last of the popcorn. And I had to smile and agree. Spa getaways are wonderful, of course, the ultimate in relaxing vacations. But as any parent knows, the real treasure from any family vacation is simply the precious time to be together.

If You Go

Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa



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