There is something about Arizona that evokes the great American road trip of the 1950s. Maybe it’s those long desert roads with nothing but the horizon in sight. Perhaps this is the mark mid-century modernism made on the state – its own mark of atomic cool.
After all, the road trip was nurtured in the Mad Men era: a time when roadside attractions, motels, and freeways were booming.
Robert Plant’s vintage MTV music video for his song, “Big Log,” conjures these images: a beautiful woman, a vintage car with rear fins, a gas station at dusk, a hotel pool, and lyrics in the distance. and desire: something social that wants to travel Isolationists can dream.
This week, two hotels in Scottsdale, Arizona, are putting those vibes on a pre-Thanksgiving sale.
Hotel Valley Ho and Mountain Shadows Resort will allow travelers to book two nights and get the third night free with the immediate offer from Benchmark Hospitality, something in style and architecture-obsessed travelers with a bent for sunsets, twilight gas stations and midnight swims in turquoise pools will want to book.
Hotel Valley Ho and Mountain Shadows Resort are restored gems from the heyday of mid-century modernism. The Valley Ho Hotel (whose logo evokes tiki lounges and Ray Ban Wayfarers) was built in 1956.
Originally owned by John B. Mills, Robert Foehl and his wife Evelyn, the property, located in downtown Scottsdale, was designed by architect Edward Varney in a minimalist style that quickly attracted travelers to ‘Hollywood, such as Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. (Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner spent their honeymoon here.)
In 2002, the hotel was restored to its mid-century modern birthright, then reopened in 2005 with new features, including the VH Spa and the OH Pool (very ‘Big Log’). The pool and spa are currently open, but strictly adhere to the property’s ‘pristine’ Covid-19 protocols.
The hotel rooms and the hotel’s extended property, The Tower, evoke mid-century modernism, but not slavishly. You’ll find touches of Eames, Knoll, and Noguchi, but with bright pops of modern colors and modifications that make these stylish interiors capable of sinking in. Outside, the OH pool is all lime, yellow and orange in color: a perfect spot for a margarita next to the cabana.
The hotel’s restaurant, Zuzu, evokes the pleasure of a tiki bar with more upgraded amenities. The Rosie Room offers private dining for small groups who can use the space to sit at six feet while maintaining elegant social distancing in true Mid-Century fashion.
Although the Valley Ho Hotel is a resort town, there is no service charge which is another plus. Nearby and also on sale for this short offer is Mountain Shadows Resort.
The hotel is also a gem of the Atomic Age, opened in 1959. It sits at the base of Camelback Mountain and was named for the shadows the mountain casts on the property. Like the Valley Ho Hotel, Mountain Shadows was also a hit with Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s.
The Mountain Shadows Resort enjoyed its original heyday in the early to mid-1960s, even serving as the site for an episode of Monkeys TV show. It closed in 2004, but emerged, fully rebuilt and restored in 2017 after a two-year makeover.
Today, roadtrippers can evoke the “distance and nostalgia” of their own lives by strolling through the property’s extensive park and water complex (two 75-foot water holes) or dining at Hearth ’61 , a nod to its origins of style.
Rooms at Mountain Shadows are a bit more understated than those at the Valley Ho Hotel, but no less focused on style. The feel is reminiscent of mid-century modern style but is more contemporary than that of the Ho.
Both properties are ideal locations to explore Scottsdale and the area’s design aesthetic that offers a window into another world: the 1950s roadtrip world that Robert Plant musically evoked in his 1980s MTV video.
VisitPhoenix has planned a road trip to a mid-century modern neighborhood on their website. Local areas of private homes and other architectural landmarks of the era are all a short drive from Scottsdale.
Fans of Mid-Century Modern should also visit Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture in Arizona. After closing at the start of the pandemic, the museum (no longer a working school) is now open for guided and self-guided tours. There is also a large Frank Lloyd Wright store on the property. Also visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, where one can get a long view down the road of all that mid-century modernism.
Finally, indulge in an intoxicating Mid-Century Tiki-inspired Scorpion Bowl at Hula’s Modern Tiki, one of the many sights that Visit Scottsdale has on its own Mid-Century Modern Road travel map. While sipping from the sweaty ice bowl, hum a few bars of “Big Log” for good measure and revel in the (social) distance and desire (fulfilled) for style and substance in Scottsdale.