This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of So Scottsdale! magazine
Go back in history while exploring Arizona – from the cacti-filled desert to urban landscapes with trendy restaurants to high mountain peaks dotted with lakes and ponderosa pines. Along the way, discover historic inns and hotels that have helped shaped Arizona’s history, offering a unique glimpse into our state’s past.
El Tovar Hotel
Starting in Northern Arizona, begin your exploration at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with one of the state’s most iconic inns, El Tovar Hotel, which opened in 1905. A former Harvey House, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. The majestic lodge, which has welcomed presidents and celebrities into its rooms and dining areas, sits at the edge of the Grand Canyon, making it a prime place for sunrise and sunset views. Bonus: For accommodations, book one of the hotel’s suites, which have balconies looking out over the Grand Canyon.
There is an ambiance of Old West here, but with classic touches. The lodge itself is made of native stone and Oregon pine and was designed by Charles Whittlesey, the chief architect for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. He envisioned the hotel, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, as a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian villa.
Today, El Tovar retains its elegance and is widely considered the crown jewel of Historic National Park Lodges. Both hotel and dinner reservations book up months in advance. The property will undergo renovations from May through December 2018, so plan your trip for early this year, and stay up to date on El Tovar’s website. www.grandcanyonlodges.com.
Hotel Monte Vista
Flagstaff offers another great historical stop. Hotel Monte Vista, which opened on New Year’s Day in 1927, is a treasured hotel that marked an era of the great American West. It was originally named the Community Hotel in honor of the townspeople who contributed to its existence, and it continues to be one of the oldest fully operational hotels in Flagstaff.
Listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places, the building is unmistakable, sitting on the corner of Aspen and San Francisco streets, located just off Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, with Western movies so popular, Flagstaff was a favorite for the film industry. Hotel Monte Vista hosted such stars as Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne and Bing Crosby and was featured in Hollywood scenes for the movies Casablanca and Forrest Gump.
Today, the hotel has fun, themed rooms named for actors and entertainers including John Wayne, Michael J. Fox and Freddie Mercury. Book one of the king corner suites on the third and fourth floors. Beware, however, that one of the rooms is haunted. www.hotelmontevista.com.
The Hermosa Inn
The Hermosa Inn was recently named one the 10 best hotels in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler and the No. 1 hotel in the Southwest by the magazine’s readers. This boutique hideaway in Paradise Valley is comprised of a cluster of luxury casitas centered around the inn’s historic hacienda, known as Casa Hermosa, which dates back to the 1930s.
Once the home to Western artist Lon Megargee, known for his famous painting Last Drop From His Stetson that still appears on the inside of every Stetson cowboy hat, The Hermosa Inn is one of those places that is unmistakably Arizona. Though 43 luxury guest casitas are newly remodeled – with soaking tubs, fireplaces and private patios – the property still retains its historic charm. The grounds are quiet and peaceful, making it easy to forget you are five minutes from the bustle of Phoenix’s Camelback Road. www.hermosainn.com.
Hacienda Del Sol
Tucson has a long history, with evidence of settlements in the area that date back more than 4,000 years. To get a taste of that history, head to Hacienda Del Sol in northern Tucson’s Santa Catalina foothills. Inspired by early Moorish architecture, the desert retreat was originally built in 1929 as a girls school, and it became a guest ranch in 1948. The 34-acre property was always treasured because of its somewhat hidden location, often drawing Hollywood stars and politicians. Legend has it that the property’s Casita Grande was a favorite romantic hideaway of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
In the 1930s, famed architect Josias Joesler rebuilt parts of Hacienda Del Sol, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America. Then, in 2015, 32 new Catalina guestrooms were added, offering breathtaking views of either the mountains or the lights of Tucson. Of course, you can still book a stay in the original rooms, suites or casitas.
Take off for a sunset horseback ride, where your guide will explain the local flora and fauna before whisking you up to a high plateau to watch the sun descend. Finish with dinner at The Grill, where flavors are enhanced with produce from the resort’s organic gardens and other local farmers. You can also select wines from more than 700 options in the resort’s collection. www.haciendadelsol.com.