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Travel

The Arizona Biltmore makes for an elegant weekend escape in Phoenix

When my husband, Paul, and I learned that the Arizona Biltmore was offering a special package in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, we booked a room and a flight to Phoenix. What better enticement than a stay at the hotel associated with the most famous American architect of the last century? In the cavernous lobby, we admired the FLW touches: bold patterned concrete-block construction; dramatic geometric angles; windows offering glimpses of nature outside. The concierge gently burst our bubble: “Frank Lloyd Wright did not design the Arizona Biltmore, as many people assume,” she explained. “Albert MacArthur, a former apprentice of Wright’s, did. Wright was a mere consultant.” During our stay, we realized it didn’t matter. The design of the Biltmore is an elegant homage to Wright’s architectural style and has been preserved over nearly a century of expansions and renovations.

The tab: $285 per night for the room included in the FLW package ; $250 for meals; $100 for ground transportation; $72 for Taliesin West tour; plus taxes and airfare.

THE BED

Our newly renovated guest room in the hotel’s original building was spacious and chic, but we decided to check out rooms in the newer outlying buildings. Those in the Paradise Wing are larger and some feature patios. Accommodations throughout the 39-acre property are decorated with vintage photos depicting the resort’s colorful history.

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THE MEAL

We were blown away by the bountiful Sunday brunch at Wright’s at the Biltmore. I homed in on the “made in Arizona” cheeses, charcuterie and crusty breads, while Paul happily sampled an array of small-plate entrees such as buttermilk and banana pancakes with bourbon-maple syrup. After I had read that Nancy Silverton, co-owner of L.A.'s Pizzeria Mozza, said Chris Bianco’s pizza left her “speechless,” I was eager to try Pizzeria Bianco. The James Beard Award-winning chef’s brick-oven pizzas were heavenly, especially the Biancoverde featuring a trio of Italian cheeses under a crown of arugula. Good news: Bianco is scouting locations for a pizzeria in L.A.

THE FIND

We drove 45 minutes to Taliesin West, the winter home and architecture school that Frank Lloyd Wright built in the desert during the 1930s. We were awed as we toured Wright’s studio, which seemed carved out of boulders, and the cave-like cabaret where he watched movies with his students. Talk about loyal disciples: When Wright was alive, the students slept in tents in the desert. Today, the students at the School of Architecture at Taliesin still do.

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THE LESSON LEARNED

Don’t skip the free hotel tour. Biltmore historian Rob Razavi showed us around, explaining that between 1929 and 1973 the resort was owned by the family of chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who also owned Catalina Island. We were captivated by the Aztec Ballroom, with its gilded ceiling, and the “Mystery Room” that served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, complete with a secret exit in case of a police raid.

If you go

Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf-Astoria Resort, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix; (800) 950-0086. Some rooms and the restaurant are wheelchair accessible. Frank Lloyd Wright Legacy Offer, valid through June 8 , includes accommodations in the historic main or garden building; cocktails for two; 20% discount in Wright’s Studio boutique; resort history tour; Taliesin West tour for additional fee and resort charge. From $345 per night.

Wright’s at the Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix; (602) 954-2507

Pizzeria Bianco,4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix; (602) 368-3273. Wheelchair-accessible.

Taliesin West, 12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, Ariz.; (480) 627-5340. Limited wheelchair accessibility.


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