Review: Arizona Biltmore (Waldorf Astoria Resort)

Arizona Biltmore (Waldorf Astoria Resort)
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa At Gainey Ranch
Aloft Phoenix Airport


A bit over a week ago I took a trip to Phoenix to take advantage of some outrageously inexpensive summer resort rates, and to experience some equally outrageous dining. I’ll go through each of the hotels over the next few days, but the first night I stayed at the Arizona Biltmore, which is a Waldorf Astoria Resort.

I booked my stay through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, and the $99 rate included the following:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • US$100 food and beverage credit to be used during your stay
  • Noon early check-in, upon availability
  • 4:00 pm guaranteed late check-out

I arrived at the resort around 5PM, and took advantage of self-parking in the nearly empty lot. The exterior was well-maintained, and the landscaping in good repair despite the 100+ degree temperatures.

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Hotel exterior

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Exterior and landscaping

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Lobby entrance

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Lobby area

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Check-in area

The property was surprisingly busy, though there was no queue at check-in. I was helped promptly and informed that as a Hilton HHonors Diamond I’d been granted an additional upgrade, in addition to the Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits. Technically Diamond upgrades at Waldorf Astoria properties are only to a “preferred” room, so this was a nice perk.

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Amenity vouchers

I was assigned a room in the “Terrace Court”, which was across the garden from the main building, and on the far side of the rather large resort complex.

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Resort map

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Covered walkway

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Garden and Terrace Court building

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Exterior of Terrace Court building

The interior courtyard had a cactus garden, along with a pool that would not have been out of place at a Motel 6.

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Desert landscaping

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Terrace Court pool

I had been informed of my suite upgrade at check-in, but was surprised to see my room number on the sign listing the specialty “named” suites. Generally suite upgrades are only given to standard suites, so this was a substantial upgrade.

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Named suites

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Walkway to suite

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Suite entrance

The suite had an exterior door, so presumably the adjacent room could be locked-off to create a two-bedroom suite.

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Suite entrance

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Floor layout

The room was spacious, though the floorplan was awkward, and combined with the bulky furniture felt incredibly dated.

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Arizona Suite living area

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Seating

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Desk and TV

The living room featured a “bar” area, which had its own alcove, though didn’t really seem to add anything to the room.

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Living area and bar

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Bar

The half bath was in an alcove off the hallway, and was small but functional.

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Half-bath mirror and sink

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Half-bath toilet

The hallway itself had a random cutout between the half bath and bedroom, which seems like a great place to hide if you want to scare someone entering or leaving the room.

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Hallway and alcove

The bedroom was large, and the furnishings were in good condition, though awkwardly placed, which made the room feel somewhat cluttered.

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Bedroom

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Chairs and ottoman

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Bedroom TV

The bathroom was similarly large, with a separate shower, tub, and toilet room.

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Master bathroom

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Double sinks

The shower was comparatively small, though the water pressure and temperature control were excellent.

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Shower

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Bathtub

The bath amenities were the hotel’s own brand, and the packaging featured the same art-deco motif as the bathroom mirror and the concrete blocks on the building exterior.

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Toiletries

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Toilet

For as overly-furnished as the interior of the suite was, the patio was embarrassingly sparse, and felt very exposed.

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Patio

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Patio

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Patio furniture

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View from balcony

Later in the evening I spent some time walking around the property, which was nicely illuminated, with several seating areas and firepits.

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Outdoor firepit

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Exterior lighting

When I inquired about the breakfast benefit I was informed my voucher could be used at either the main restaurant or the coffee shop. I had some friends joining me, so we opted for Frank & Albert’s, which served breakfast until 11AM on the weekend.

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Hotel restaurant

Apparently reservations are recommended, though it was nearly empty when we arrived. We still had to wait several minutes to be seated, however.

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Restaurant interior

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Restaurant interior

My voucher stated it was valid for the “Consortia Breakfast for Two”. This was supposed to be a continental breakfast, though wasn’t listed on the menu. In practice, our waitress said they would just take the maximum value of the voucher ($40) off the check, so that ended up being a very good deal.

The menu read as follows:

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Breakfast menu

We took a glance at the “buffet”, which was so spartan I didn’t even bother taking a picture. The a la carte menu is definitely the better choice here.  I selected the créme brulee french toast, which was tasty, though rather sweet (not that that’s a bad thing!).

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Créme Brulee French Toast

My friend had the huevos rancheros, which was nicely presented.

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Huevos Rancheros

Given how empty Phoenix restaurants are in summer, I was expecting the service to be more attentive, but service in the restaurant was extremely slow, and it took multiple requests to have drinks refilled, which is always frustrating.

After breakfast I checked out the gym, which was shockingly crowded. The equipment was new and in good repair, but the physical space was rather small.

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Gym equipment

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Treadmills

The sports club facilities also included tennis courts, along with a putting green, croquet court, and lawn chess.

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Tennis courts

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Putting green

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Lawn chess

The pool complex was beautiful, and was fairly empty in the early morning.

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Pool

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Pool

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Water slide

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Jacuzzi

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Pool and bar

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Splash pool

I then spent a few hours getting work done, and met up with friends at the pool in the early afternoon with a goal of spending the remainder of my food and beverage credit. Despite how empty the resort appeared, the pool was packed, with nearly every seat taken.

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Too cold for swimming

Spending $100 poolside was surprisingly easy, as the Biltmore had one of the most expensive bar menus I’ve ever seen. The shrimp cocktail (consisting of five shrimp) alone was $18!

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$100 of drinks and snacks

Overall, this is one of the odder properties I’ve visited. The exterior was architecturally interesting, and the landscaping was mature and quite well-maintained. The interiors, on the other hand, featured clunky, cheap-looking furniture, and felt incredibly dated. While I would consider mattress-running here again, I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend the Biltmore as a vacation resort until they’ve completed their room renovation.

Still, having paid a $99 rate and having received a huge suite and $140 worth of food and beverage credit, I can’t really complain. 😉

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Comments

  1. I wish Hilton would extend the Diamond/Gold breakfast benefit to Waldorf-Astoria-branded properties, not just if you book through Amex Fine Hotels or Virtuoso. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to give free breakfasts on commissioned rates but not other direct-booked rates.

  2. Not surprised a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired property feels dated today, because it is. That being said, for a nice classic hotel experience in the middle of the cauldron known as the Valley of the Sun its a good change of pace.

  3. A lot of the hotel websites are really awful. Even for finding basic things like: is there a lounge? is there airport shuttle service, and if so, what hours and do I have to call? and where is the pickup? Or email address to the concierge or front desk if I have pre-arrival requests. Or public transit access. These are basic things that every hotel website should clearly explain.

  4. Lucky,
    Maybe I am missing something, but why would you do a mattress run with a Hilton property after its devaluation even if the rate was favorable?

  5. @ Moe Safer — To be clear it wasn’t a mattress run, especially since I achieve Hilton status through the Citi Hilton Reserve Card anyway. Rather I had wanted to visit Phoenix, and it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.

  6. I stayed at the Biltmore for a conference a few years ago and ended up having two reservations due to a quirk in the conference room rate. The first night I was in one of their one-bedroom villa suites, which have kitchens and are like 1500 sq ft and have terraces looking out on the golf course. It was beautiful and modern and one of the nicer hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. The other nights I was in a room that would not have been out of place at a Motel 6. So yea, they have a high variance, and it doesn’t seem like they have any plans to bring the rest of the rooms up to that level.

  7. Ben: we have gone to the Biltmore several times in the summer, and we’ve gotten upgraded to the rooms with full kitchens just to the South of the big pool, which also sits alongside another lovely smaller pool. It is also convenient to the parking lot. Went on a run to the store, stocked up on the vino and liquor and had a great mini-vacation. We have always avoided that building where you stayed, as it remains pretty dark and depressing. Next time!

  8. I haven’t stayed at the Biltmore but thought the Hyatt in Scottsdale was nice. The JW Marriott further north is also nice (at least walking around it).

    With the low summer rates you can get a number of locals staying at the hotels.

    Have you ever stayed at the Fairmont in north Scottsdale? I’ve been there a few times but never stayed there.

  9. Do you have to use the $100 voucher in one sitting? Or can I use $20 of it on lunch, and then $80 of it on dinner later that evening?

    Also, is there a part of the resort you recommend staying at vs another? What part of the resort is the most up to date?

    Any other tips/tricks/suggestions when staying there? I’m heading there next week (booked through virtuoso)

    Thank you!

  10. @ Mike — Unfortunately the voucher does have to be used at once, because it has to be surrendered at the time it’s redeemed.

    I think the best place to be is the Ocatilla Wing, which actually has renovated rooms, so if they’ll give you a room there, that’s what I’d go with.

  11. Thanks for the report. Crossing that one off the list. Check out Sanctuary next time you’re in the Valley. Amazing. A different world entirely from the cookie cutter corporate resorts.

  12. @ Kacee — I was going to stay there the last night, though unfortunately the rate went up before I committed to it. Did go there for drinks, though, and agree it was AWESOME. Next time.

  13. lucky said,
    @ Mike — Unfortunately the voucher does have to be used at once, because it has to be surrendered at the time it’s redeemed.

    The $40 breakfast voucher has to be used in one sitting as it has to be surrendered at the time. However, you can charge your lunch/dinner bill to your room (including tax & Tip) and they will take $100 off your bill when you check out.

    If you get upgraded to an Ocatilla room, you get access to their Club Lounge which includes complementary soft drinks/waters/coffee (all day), continental breakfast, horderves, complementary Beer/Wine (5pm-9pm), dessert, and a few other perks.

    Also, if you are a Hilton Gold or Platinum member you get 2 free waters and 2 free drinks at the wright bar (up to $14 each drink).

    Essentially you can pay $99 for a room ($143 after taxes/tips) and receive $176 in free vouchers + Octilla club lounge access.

  14. Yea that is weird. They gave me 2 business cards(2 free waters/2 free drinks) with no expiration dates on them.

    I also just checked out and the receptionist who checked me in misinformed me. The $100 voucher does have to be used in one sitting. Since I was misquoted the first time, they still honored the full $100 off.

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