One of North America's fastest-growing cities, dynamic and culturally rich Phoenix also has one of the country's largest LGBT populations, plus a steady stream of gay and lesbian visitors. The swanky neighboring resort community of Scottsdale is home to countless more posh restaurants and trendy restaurants, plus several more first-rate attractions. Throughout the region, you'll find one of the nation's largest selections of gay bars and gay-popular restaurants, plus endless opportunities for outdoor recreation in this region with a nearly endless supply of sunny days. Here are some of the best hotels and gay-popular resorts in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and the surrounding Valley of the Sun.
Long associated with the fascinating and controversial architectural legend Frank Lloyd Wright, the handsome, 39-acre Arizona Biltmore (2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602-955-6600) was actually designed by Albert Chase McArthur, but Wright did consult on the distinctive, textured blocks - known now as Biltmore Blocks - used in this streamlined, angular hotel that's now part of Hilton Hotels' Waldorf Astoria brand. The sprawling, graciously landscaped 738-room resort is on the northeast side of the city, in the shadows of the city's second-highest point, Piestewa Peak, and about equidistant from the downtown areas of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Plenty of guests at the Biltmore hunker down and remain on property for most of their stay, enjoying the wealth of activities - a grand spa, one of the top golf courses in the region, several artfully designed pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, and a handful of restaurants, including the celebrated Wright's at the Biltmore; the Wright Bar is a great place to soak up the hotel's history over cocktails and listen to piano and jazz some evenings. Rooms in the historic sections are most interesting, if a bit quirky in some ways, while the 120 in the swank Ocatilla wing, which opened in 2009, are exceptionally plush and opulent and come with a wealth of personalized services and perks.
Appealing to a younger and more free-spirited crowd than many of the region's business hotels and luxe resorts, the Clarendon Hotel (401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-7363) is a centrally located mid-rise property with reasonable rates and some nice amenities - there's a large central pool lined with colorful Italian cabana beds and a chic rooftop deck with great views of the city skyline and mountains. It's a memorable place to sip drinks with friends on a clear night. Long a popular hotel with GLBT visitors, the Clarendon has three room types, ranging in size from 325 to 500 square feet - all units have 42-inch flat-screen TVs and bright red-white-and-blue color schemes. The largest rooms have separate sitting areas and iPod docks. A nightly $20 service fee takes care of covered parking, Internet, phone calls, access to Gold's Gym (there's also a gym on-site), and a handful of other amenities. Several gay bars are within a very short drive.
The hip Kimpton brand's strikingly contemporary and luxurious FireSky Resort & Spa (4925 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-945-7666) is a favorite retreat with a central location in downtown Scottsdale, close to plenty of great shops and restaurants. This 204-room property has its own terrific restaurant, Taggia, which specializes in fresh and artfully presented coastal Italian cuisine. The resort is situated around a curvy, lagoon, two pools (one with a sandy beach), and surprisingly lush (for the desert) landscaping; at night, the grounds come alive with fire pits and torch lights - day or night, it's a good time for cocktails and snacks at Aqua Bar & Grill. Rooms are done in soothingly cool tones - those facing the pool and lagoon are especially inviting. All have such high-grade features as iHomes, well-stocked minibars, free amenities for your four-legged traveling companions, laptop-fitting safes, and comfy bedding. A major draw here is Jurlique Spa, a calm wellness center offering a full range of treatments that touch on the property's air/earth/water/fire theme. There's a well-equipped 24/7 fitness center, too.
The many gay and lesbian fans of the stylish Kimpton hotel brand rejoiced with the 2012 opening of the sleek Hotel Palomar Phoenix CityScape (2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-253-6633); it's the second Kimpton in the region, joining Scottsdale's FireSky Resort & Spa. Palomar is one of Kimpton's growing - and highly popular - sub-brands. Contemporary, airy, and with spacious rooms whose top units have deep soaking tubs, the pet-friendly hotel is located in part of a new mixed-use downtown development that includes a huge Gold's Gym (hotel guests get free passes), and several restaurants and bars - it's a short walk from US Airways Center and Chase Field, as well as the city's convention center, making it a nice choice if you're in town for a concert or a game. Among dining and nightlife options, the hotel's own Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails is an exceptional venue for beautifully crafted mod American food, and by the hotel's third-floor sundeck and pool, Lustre Bar is a stylish spot for a drink (both of these spots have quickly developed a following with the LGBT set). The roomy guest accommodations at the Palomar have a sleek, unfussy aesthetic (that, refreshingly, avoids the sometimes trite Southwest schemes common in many area hotels); beds have super-soft linens, the minibars are stocked with fun snacks, and bedside tables have iHomes. Although there's not a full spa on-site, in-room spa services can be arranged. For the best views of the downtown skyline and nearby desert mountains, request a room on an upper floor.
Gay-friendly, affordable, offbeat, and right in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the historic Hotel San Carlos (202 N. Central Ave., 602-253-4121) is a great option if you're looking for a property with character, and you don't mind a few quirks. The 128 rooms in the hotel are decorated with an eclectic mix of older pieces, and all are done differently - some have huge closets, and bathrooms have tubs and some other fixtures original to this 1928 landmark that's a member of Historic Hotels of America. Celebs including Cary Grant, Mae West, Jean Harlow, and power couple Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed in the hotel during its heyday, and exhibits on the halls relate different aspects of the building's - and the area's - local history (and, yes, ghosts are said to reside here; they're friendly as far as anybody has been able to determine). All rooms have coffeemakers, free Wi-Fi, and Rusk bath products; and there's a gym on-site as well as a rooftop pool. Also, just off the lobby, the Bonjour Vietnam serves very good fusion Asian fare. The hotel is right by a stop on the city's convenient light rail, and just down the street from the popular gay bar, Amsterdam.
There's something distinctly fabulous about the retro-chic Hotel Valley Ho (6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-248-2000). With its angular, mid-rise frame and stylized neon sign, this mid-century modern building looks every bit as swanky as it must have when it opened in 1956. It's pretty easy to imagine Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Angie Dickinson lounging around a cabana by the circular pool, or with a cocktail in the ZuZu, the colorful bar and restaurant just off the lobby (which has a great happy hour on weekday early evenings). Features of this beautifully renovated and whimsically modernized hotel that's within walking distance of Old Town Scottsdale bars and restaurants include the VH Spa and 24-hour fitness center, a pet-friendly policy, and cute retro cruiser bikes for rent by the day or hour. The resort has two distinct sections of accommodations, the upscale Tower section with its floor-to-ceiling windows, terrazzo tile bathrooms, and streamlined furnishings; and the classic rooms, with balconies or patios, and white-brick walls. A nice feature at this hotel is the lack of resort fees.
Having operated under a few different names over the years - the James, the Mondrian, the Hotel Theodore - this strikingly contemporary, design-driven hotel in the pedestrian-friendly Civic Center Mall section of Scottsdale became the Saguaro Scottsdale (4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-308-1100) in 2012. It's now operated by the San Francisco-based, very gay-friendly Joie de Vivre hotel company, and it's JDV's first property outside California - and a sister to the hip Saguaro in Palm Springs. This rambling compound done in bold, cheerful colors (that sort of conjure Mexican folk art) has a lot going for it - the full-service Saguaro Spa, a long rectangular pool with comfy seating shaded by yellow umbrellas, some of the most striking hotel architecture in the region, and the fabulous bar-restaurant Distrito, which serves creative and contemporary Mexican cuisine and is part of the empire of celeb chef Jose Garces. You can also walk from here to several good restaurants and bars, plus all the galleries and boutiques of Old Town Scottsdale. Rooms are high-tech and minimalist, but with brightly covered bed throws and accent walls that lend plenty of warmth. They open to patios or private balconies and have iPod docks, big HDTVs, and custom furnishings imported from Mexico. Bathrooms are similarly stylish but have sliding doors that create a slight lack of privacy, and the thoroughly modern design here isn't to everybody's taste. But this is a terrific choice for many, especially those bored by the classic Southwest (turquoise/sandstone) look of many resorts in the area.