Back to the 50s at Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho Resort
The magic of Arizona sunshine makes Scottsdale,
Arizona a destination for all seasons. Contemporary and sophisticated, Scottsdale flawlessly blends a dynamic and colorful Western motif with outdoor activities, galleries, museums, theaters, concert halls and epicurean delights for all tastes and price points. Its charming Old Town highlights a visit with its colorful shopping areas along Fifth Avenue and Main Street.
On a road trip from the Napa Valley to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I made a midway stop at this incomparable town on the outskirts of Phoenix. I had planned to pause for one day at the historic Hotel Valley Ho Resort. I was so captivated, I stayed three days.
Escape to Arizona
A small Phoenix suburb until it was incorporated in 1951, Scottsdale grew rapidly in the 1950s as a travel destination for “snowbirds” escaping the harsher winters of the northern United States. The Hotel Valley Ho was there from the start, opening in 1956 as a simple motor hotel.
Architect Edward L. Varney’s chic Mid-Century Modern design, blended with Southwestern flair, caught the attention of Hollywood elite. Within a year, the Valley Ho had been discovered by legends of the silver screen, seeking second homes in the desert. Notoriety arrived when teen heartthrobs Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood held their private wedding reception at the resort, far from the limelight of Tinsel Town. Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, fresh from her infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, became fixtures in the early ‘60s.
Located 10 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Hotel Valley Ho reopened in 2005 after a major renovation. The festive ’50s and ’60s endure in the ambiance of the 241 guest rooms and suites. Accents and amenities are all contemporary, but Varney’s clean lines and color scheme live on in a palette that showcases bold turquoise, yellow, orange and avocado-green hues.
The on-site restaurant is ZuZu. Executive chef Russell Lacasce’s American comfort food menu draws locals and hotel guests alike, as does the popular Sunday-to-Thursday 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour.
The Valley Ho’s retro Oh pool is a step back into the ’60s, with cabanas and a lounge area. And the VH Spa offers eight treatment rooms along with a state-of-the-art fitness center and a swimwear boutique.
For something completely relaxing and a little less trendy, The Valley Ho has a sister property four miles from downtown Scottsdale. Sleek and upscale, the Mountain Shadows Resort has a view across the Paradise Valley from the slopes of Camelback Mountain. It’s a great place to relax by the swimming pool or play a round (or two) of golf.
The heart of Scottsdale’s Old Town district is a leisurely three-block stroll from the Valley Ho. “The West’s Most Western Town,” as the city calls itself, does not disappoint in its dining and drinking options. There are more than 800 restaurants, including Craft 64, which serves wood-fired pizzas and microbrews just a block from the hotel.
Other enclaves include NakedQ BBQ, Citizen Public House and the Brat Haus, which offers bratwurst, chili and 28 craft beers on tap near Scottsdale Stadium. Hula’s modern tiki vibe and tropical cocktails create an exotic island feel. To cure a sweet tooth, visit Ruze Cake House or Sweet Dees Bakeshop.
Scottsdale is celebrated for its art galleries. Sample the best the city can offer at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Old Town. Displaying modern works of architecture, art and design, SmoCA has four galleries with rotating exhibitions.
The Museum of the West opened in 2015 as a Smithsonian Institution affiliate. It relies upon collected stories to expose the lives of Native Americans and cowboys in the unsettled West. Inspiring tales are accompanied by Western and Native American art and artifacts from the 19th, 20th and, yes, 21st centuries.
The impressive Scottsdale Rodeo Museum offers further familiarization with cowboys, cattle, horses and the Old West. Bull ropes and saddles date back to when Old Town was cowboy country. Learn how rodeo cowboys trained horses to ride and how they caught cattle for branding.
If you love music, you’ll want to visit the Musical Instrument Museum, 15 miles north of Scottsdale. It claims to be the world’s most extensive collection of international musical instruments, with close to 16,000 instruments from 200 countries. Plan to spend at least three hours.
Under the Sun
The year-round warm climate of the Phoenix area attracts golfers of all skill levels from around the world. There are 51 courses in Scottsdale! The Short Course at Mountain Shadows Resort, with a backdrop of Camelback Mountain, is a favorite among golfers. An ode to the British Open, the Monument course at Troon North, beneath Pinnacle Peak, is Scottsdale’s crown jewel.
REI Co-op offers many outdoor recreation opportunities. These include kayaking the Lower Salt River (right outside of Scottsdale) as well as guided hiking and mountain biking. Family-owned Hot Air Expeditions will take you ballooning over the edgy beauty of the Sonoran Desert and its botanical wonders.
Stellar Adventures provides off-road desert excursions on guided or self-driven ATVs, and UTV rides with well-trained staff. The Hummer H1 approximates the M998 military-grade vehicles, traversing the hard desert floor at high speeds, serving up an adrenaline rush for those in search of intense and thrilling activities.
One can easily spend a week in Scottsdale and its environs. Opulent resorts, year-round golf, adrenaline adventures, cultural encounters, high-end boutiques and casual dining are year-round lures for visitors and locals alike.