A few minutes' walk from downtown Scottsdale, the Hotel Valley Ho, its name inspired by the long-ago repurposed Westward Ho, once Phoenix's premier hotel, has the kind of riches-to-rags to riches story that makes the crowd hanging around the pool on weekends not just hip but part of history. Opened in 1956, its then-futuristic design of red-tinted concrete, stone, and glass—and the celebrity-filled address book of is owners—quickly made the Valley Ho a magnet for the likes of movie stars Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, who held their wedding reception here. But as the Hollywood crowd knows best, fame wanes, and the hotel eventually reached such a low point that it was nearly torn down. It was saved due to its historic significance, and after a massive renovation that preserved many original elements, it re-emerged a decade ago not only with its trendy reputation revived but recognized as one of the country's best examples of mid-century hotel architecture. (The addition of a seven-story tower block was part of the original design but not built until the renovation.) Guest rooms are bright with colors that wouldn't be out of place on South Beach. And the pool is still the place to be.
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Almost everything in downtown Scottsdale is within walking distance, but across the street from the hotel is Grazie, a pizzeria whose ingredients are all imported from Tuscany, and wines are all Italian. For a much more American flavor, just a few blocks farther is Bootleggers, a recently opened smokehouse winning accolades for sandwiches such as its PBLT, which begins with 10-hour smoked pork belly. For the more refined taste, Hotel Valley Ho guests who show their room key at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art get free admission for two.
Need to Know
Rooms: From $99 low season, $249 high season. 238 rooms, including 30 suites. Check-in: 4 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Under the direction of executive chef Charles Wiley, who has a James Beard Award among his culinary accolades, Café Zu Zu offers a modern, lighter take on classic American dishes ranging from sage and mustard salmon to beef Stroganoff. Poolside, chill at the OH Pool bar with something virtuous, such as a Skinny Dip hummus and veggie platter, accompanied by, perhaps, Sonoran Sangria. Spa and gym details: The VH Spa for Vitality + Health has eight treatment rooms, including one double. For added inspiration, the second-story fitness center overlooks the pool.
Who's it for: Travelers who like that on a Saturday afternoon the pool area is noisy, and they can add to the buzz. Our favorite rooms: This hotel is all about being playful, and what is more so than an oversize tub in the middle of each of the 21 oversize villa rooms? (For shyer types, there is a curtain, and an enclosed shower, too.) For history buffs:Ultimate Art & Cultural Tours offers a guided tour focused on the Valley Ho's architecture and its Hollywood past. The cost is $19.56 per person, not coincidentally the numerals in the year the hotel opened.