Jim Byers photo
The Hotel Valley Ho is a wonderful, mid-century design in Scottsdale, Arizona. Great for lovers of the Mad Men TV show!
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – A couple days back, I told you about the wonderful Four Seasons Troon North resort in this desert city. It’s a great spot in the hills about a half hour north of downtown, with all low-rise buildings and a real desert feel
The Hotel Valley Ho represents a near about-face from the Four Seasons. And in a very good way.
The Valley Ho, a trippy 1956 property designed by a disciple of Frank Llloyd Wright (more about him in a minute), features a series of low-lying buildings and a single building of about 10 storeys on the edge of downtown Scottsdale. It attracts a younger, hipper crowd than the Four Seasons, which is more of a family place and is considerably more expensive.
It’s a mid-century building, quite classic in its design, with lots of aquamarine and orange and other bright colours. The rooms feel like an early episode of Mad Men, with curved sofas and bright, shiny lamps and retro, basket chairs on the balconies. The suites are ultra cool, with slick fridges and stoves and microwaves.
Jim Byers photo
A suite at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale.
The hotel was a huge draw for Hollywood types in the late 1950’s and early 1960s. Many stars liked going to Palm Springs, California for a blast of heat, but it was easy for the paparazzi to follow them. Scottsdale required a flight or a much longer drive and so celebs were left alone more. If you wander the second floor you’ll find photos of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby and Jimmy Durante, plus vintage postcards and other cool, retro bits.
They have a great bar called Zuzu with half price drinks in happy hour and a great patio for breakfast in the Arizona sun (try the red velvet waffles with fresh berries). They have a couple of great pools and a hot tub and a terrific spa where I was given a hammam-like treatment involving everything from coffee to lemon blossoms to tangerines and figs.
They did a renovation to the tune of about $80 million a few years ago, and most rooms are a sizeable 400 square feet or so. They also have live music and deejays in many of the spring and summer months.
It’s walking distance to tons of shops, galleries and downtown restaurants, too.
I highly recommend it.
I didn’t get to stay, but based on what I saw I also would give two thumbs up to the Bespoke Inn , formally (I think) known as Bespoke Inn/Café/Bicycles. They have two buildings, both low-rise, in downtown Scottsdale. One houses the bike shop, where you can rent or buy high-end bikes or Italian cycling clothes and other gear, this being a big area for cycling fans from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. There’s also a yoga studio and the Inn’s office, which also stocks lovely glassware, shirts and various other goodies.
Across the courtyard, which has a small fountain and small trees decorated with white pin lights, are three lower-level rooms and an upstairs room that’s a massive, artistic retreat compete with groaning bookshelves, a huge, open-concept kitchen with two Sub-Zero fridges and a high-end stove, plus an enormous walnut table that was made by the inn’s owners. There’s also a cool shower and standalone tub in a romantic bathroom/bedroom area.
Outside you’ll find a pair of second-floor courtyard/patios, one with a fireplace and another with cozy spots to curl up and read a book or sleep. They also have a 43-foot long lap pool with an infinity edge.
We were told it’s the only B and B in the city due to zoning regulations.
Back downstairs is a fabulous restaurant called Virtu, that feels like a French brasserie plunked down in the desert. The tables inside are great, but the patio is nicer if the weather is good.
I sampled an enormous bone in pork chop wrapped in prosciutto that was utterly perfect and nicely seared with crispy leek bits and a bourbon demi. The smoked duck breast with cashew tabouleh, Moroccan spice, beech mushrooms, crispy kale and a cherry demi was sensational, as were the pan-seared scallops with butternut squash, bacon and caramelized onion.
They also do handmade pastas and make a wonderful octopus appetizer, perfectly charred and tender as the night.
A fabulous restaurant in what looks like a charming, wonderful place to stay. Again, highly recommended!
Jim Byers photo
Even architecture novices are likely to be blown away by Frank Lloyd Wright’s’ Taliesin West in Scottsdale. It’s an old camp built mostly of local rock and stone in the hills east of downtown, started around 1937. He did some of his best work here and you can wander through his former bedroom and check out interesting, angled furniture he designed.
My tour guide, Don, says not everyone likes the furniture, some of it covered in bright orange cloth.
“One lady on a tour told me she didn’t like them because there’s no place to put your drink,” he said with a laugh.
Don told my group it was built as a camp, not a traditional home, and that Wright kept things open to the elements, with a stone wall and a canvas roof of some sort but no windows. The story goes that Wright’s wife (actually, his third wife) kept asking her husband to add glass to the buildings to keep out bugs, lizards and other critters.
“Guess who won that argument,” Don says with a laugh. He also adds that years later Wright would boast that adding glass to the camp buildings was “one of my best ideas.”
There’s beautiful art work to be found, and also some touches from Wright’s native Wisconsin, such as grass lawns. He also built a cool theatre with perfect acoustics where they’d show movies and do small productions.
The desert views are pretty, and the architecture is quite amazing. All in all, a terrific stop in a rather terrific city.
Don’t want to forget a fantastic golf course, as well. I had a chance to take my Dad out on the Troon North Monument course in north Scottsdale, a course connected to the Four Seasons resort.
Jim Byers photo
The back nine on the Monument Course at Troon North is a spectacular set of holes.
It’s a magnificent resort course; tough in parts but fair. And eminently playable, with deep green, plush and immaculate fairways and sensational desert scenery.
The front nine wasn’t terribly hard but had some fun holes, including the third with a large rock smack dab in the middle of the fairway. The par four, 306-yard (from the tips) sixth hole is a fun one called “Gamble,” with a good risk/reward feel to it.
I really loved the finishing stretch. The 14th is a par-five, 570 yard brute from the tips, with a dog leg advancing up into hills filled with wildly shaped, pale-yelllow rocks and towering saguaro cactus. A lovely hole.
Number 15 has more beautiful rock formations and is another risk/reward hole (thanks to designer Tom Weiskopf), a par-four that’s 299 yardds from the back tees. The next hole, 16, is a terrific, downhilll par-3 that measures 244 yards from the back tees, with ball-snatching traps in front of the green and desert all around. Great views at sunset.
The 17th is tough for the average Joe, with a tricky carry over a ravine. And the 18th is a nice, rollling par-four of a manageable 370 yards, but with tight fairways typical of the back nine at the Monument course.
Troon North opened in 1990 and has been ranked the best daily-fee course in Arizona, which is really saying something. There’s a great clubhouse with terrific food (try the quesadillas) and they also have the only Callaway fitting centre in the state, as well as a forecaddie program to help you get the most out of your round.
Troon North started here in Scottsdale and now manages more than 200 golf facilities in about two dozen countries around the world.