Wright stuff: Arizona Biltmore upgrades in time for holidays

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The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, grande dame of Phoenix hostelry, is sporting a new restaurant, room furnishings and brand designation.

The 735-room hotel, which opened in 1929, is the only property in the world whose design was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was a consulting architect on the Biltmore who maintained a winter home and operated an architecture school, Taliesen West, in nearby Scottsdale.

This year, the Arizona Biltmore added to its distinction, becoming one of four luxury properties to form the Waldorf-Astoria Collection brand managed by Hilton Hotels.

Hilton as of Feb. 1 took over the management contract for the Biltmore, formerly managed by KSL Resorts, but kept the hotel's management staff intact.

The Biltmore joined the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui and La Quinta Resort in La Quinta, Calif. -- both, like the Biltmore, owned by Orlando-based CNL Hotels & Resorts -- and New York's legendary Waldorf-Astoria, in the new brand.

The name of the Biltmore did not change, but the Waldorf-Astoria Collection designation was added.

Wright's, the hotel's restaurant, is undergoing an extensive renovation. The eatery name will be tweaked slightly to become Wright's at the Biltmore, to emphasize its location and significance in the hotel's history. The restaurant, its bar and patio are being redesigned in keeping with Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style.

The restaurant project, which includes a revamping of the menu to include what's termed "American lodge" cuisine, was scheduled for completion at press time.

Earlier this year, the hotel finished an upgrade of bedding, including installing new plush mattresses, duvet covers and linens.

The hotel's Wright-inspired design includes gold-leaf ceilings, copper porte cocheres and its most famous space, the Aztec Room, which is distinguished by a dome supported by copper filigree beams.

The hotel was built of "Biltmore Blocks," which are precast blocks made on the site from desert sand and decorated in 34 different geometric patterns.

All the features have been carefully preserved, and the hotel conducts tours each day for guests and nonguests alike, focusing on the architecture of the property.

Holiday homage

The Biltmore is popular with holiday visitors, as well, setting the stage at its entrance with a towering Christmas tree -- the tallest in the area, typically between 60 and 65 feet -- on its front lawn.

Inside, there's a colorful gingerbread house and twinkling lights and other holiday decor. Special activities include holiday buffets and dinners, afternoon teas with Christmas treats, marshmallow roasts outside and music of the season played at the lobby piano each evening.

Decorations go up just before Thanksgiving, and a tree-lighting ceremony is held on Dec. 5.

"It's a tradition, and we've got families who come year after year," said Kim Westhoff, director of leisure sales, describing the holiday season as "a great opportunity for guests to come during a time when there's not only a festive atmosphere but great weather here, with [temperature] highs in the 70s."

This holiday season, the Biltmore has set rates of $229 and $299 (with a $100 credit per stay) available Nov. 20 to 26 and Dec. 10 to 25.

The $229 rate includes accommodations in a 400-square-foot Classic Room; the $299 rate, with credit, is in a Resort Room, which features a patio or balcony. The credit can be used at the hotel's spa, seven retail shops and its restaurants and lounges.  No minimum stay is required.

To book, visit www.arizonabiltmore.com or call (800) 950-0086.

To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].

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