Hotel Valley Ho: Historical Hip in the heart of Scottsdale
When I first arrived at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona, it reminded me of being in Palm Springs/Palm Desert, where mid-century design is so prevalent, and iconic to the modern movement of the 1950s. The property is surrounded by towering palm trees that moved gracefully by a gentle breeze, which elicited a sense of relaxation within the urban location.
The Hotel Valley Ho was originally constructed in 1956, however it was completely renovated in 2005, paying tribute to its mid-century roots. Painstaking effort went into preserving many of the architectural elements, so the exterior of the hotel remains as it was in the 50s. The interior, however, is a cornucopia of retro-redesign at its finest. All of the furnishings and decor are current contemporary, but thoroughly influenced by the design of the 1950s and 60s. Just to the right of the lobby is a comfortable area for guests to meet and congregate around a stone fireplace, while relaxing within a series of seating configurations that look to be straight out of the lobby of a Mad Men episode.
When I checked in I learned that I was being upgraded to one of the two-story tower suites, which I enthusiastically rejoiced over. As I entered my room I was simply blown away. I’ve stayed in a lot of amazing hotel rooms around the world, and this one was right up there in the top-10 of the best. One thing I really enjoyed and rarely see, was how highly contemporary the construction, furnishings and decor was. There were unfinished concrete pillars and part of the ceiling was also exposed concrete. The kitchen looked like it was off the set of a cooking show, with high-end appliances such as Wolf and Bosch. The cabinets were a bold red rock orange with subtle stainless steel hardware.
One of the two bathrooms was at one end of the kitchen, while the other end had a modern dining room table and large Arcadia doors opening up to one of four patios, each providing a stunning view of the iconic Camelback Mountain. The living room was decorated with beautiful mid-century furniture. There was also an alcove at one end of the living room with a desk for my computer. In the center of the room was a steel and glass barrier that ensconced the staircase leading down to the master bedroom and bath. The top portion of each pane of glass was frosted to give it even more architectural detail.
As I made my way down the staircase, the massive bedroom revealed itself…complete with a comfy chaise and another desk setup. There was a very spacious closet that included a washer and dryer for those extended stays. Around the corner was the master bath, which had his-and-her sinks, a large glass-walled shower and a massive bathtub for two. On the lower level there were two more balconies if the two on the first floor were not enough! I should mention that each balcony is furnished differently, just so guests don’t get bored with redundancy. One of the attention-to-detail items of the room I also noticed was the spectacular lighting. So many hotels pay little attention to lighting architecture, but it can have a big impact on the mood and feel of a hotel and its accommodations. Many hotels are using CFL’s (compact florescent lighting) for the energy efficiency, however the quality of light is horrible. At the Valley Ho they mainly use low-voltage halogen, which is also quite energy efficient, but provides a much nicer quality of light. As a photographer and videographer, quality light is highly valued and appreciated.
The next day my friend Pam came by to hang out at the hotel with me. After we lounged by one of the two pools for a while, Pam opted for a spa treatment. The VH Spa has a number of treatments, Pam decided on the Istanbul, which is a 90 minute Hammam experience. The treatment started with an exfoliating cleanse followed by a mist and massage with savory aromatics from the exotic East.
After Pam’s massage and back in the room, we opened a bottle of wine and sat on one of the decks at the suite as the sun began to cast an amber glow on the nearby Camelback Mountain. There was a short window of opportunity in which we were able to head to the 8th floor terrace deck before an event started. We took our wine with us and enjoyed the 360 degree views of downtown Scottsdale and the mountains beyond to the east, and Phoenix to the west.
One thing visitors will notice when coming to Scottsdale is that there are very few tall buildings due to height zoning restrictions. While I was staying at the Valley Ho, I learned that the tower portion of the hotel is not original to the hotel, however it was on the approved architectural plans from the 1950s, so when developers started to renovate in 2005 they did not have to get zoning permission. With the 8th floor rooftop terrace, the Valley Ho is actually one of the tallest buildings in Scottsdale, offering stunning views and a spectacular venue for special events.
That evening Pam and I headed to ZuZu, the hotel’s own restaurant. Within the dining area is a lounge that meticulously mixes cocktails infused with good vibes. The cuisine at ZuZu is a blend of traditional American with a dash of modern culinary artistry. Many of the menu items are reminiscent of the era, such as beef stroganoff, Cornish hen or a burger, and desserts like banana split, malts and floats.
There are also a handful of items that are a bit more refined for the foodie. This is what our meal consisted of:
- Grilled Artichoke | Herb marinated with Parmesan, toasted bread crumbs and Meyer lemon aioli.
- Orange + Ginger Seared Ahi | Seared rare Ahi with an Asian slaw and soy mustard vinaigrette.
- Herb Roasted Cornish Hen | Wild rice, grilled corn risotto and crispy Brussels sprouts.
- Pan Seared Scallops | Farro, pine nuts, orange braised fennel, local farm greens with a citrus butter sauce.
- Warm Brown Butter Pear Tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Like the rest of the hotel, the layout and atmosphere of the restaurant blends with its mid-century theme. The lighting is made up of large bird nest-like fixtures straight out of the 50s. More than half the restaurant is open-air table seating, while the other part is lined with high-back, half circle, alcove booths, which make for an intimate and romantic dining experience. Our meal was quite good, however it wasn’t on par with some of the gastronomic experiences I’ve had at other nearby restaurants. To this point, in my opinion, ZuZu is not trying to compete with the most refined culinary experiences in town, but rather stay true to the era before culinary schools and celebrity chefs changed the way we eat—when recipes were handed down from generation to generation. The cuisine can perhaps best be summed up as comfort food with class, which is always enjoyed most with the people you love.
The Hotel Valley Ho is a classically cool boutique hotel with a hip vibe that will surely make for a memorable stay.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE HOTEL VALLEY HO
- The original architect was Edward Varney, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, who also designed Sun Devil Stadium and the Phoenix Municipal Building.
- Original owners Robert and Evelyn Foehl lived on site in an apartment with an enclosed garden. They brought a lot of Hollywood clients with them, including Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Janet Leigh, and Tony Curtis.
- Teen idols Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their wedding reception at the hotel in 1957.
- The hotel has been called “one of the best-preserved mid-century hotels in the country”, by author and architect Alan Hess.
- The seven-story Tower was part of Edward Varney’s original plans and was approved by the city back in the 1950s. It was built as a one-story building with underground supports for a planned future expansion. It was finally completed in 2008, and includes guest rooms, suites, condos, and a penthouse level, with patios that offer views of the pool and Downtown Scottsdale, or Camelback Mountain.
- Every guest room at the hotel has a private patio or balcony.
- Pets are welcome at the Hotel Valley Ho.
HOTEL VALLEY HO CONTACT INFORMATION
Address: 6850 East Main Street | Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Rates: $200-$1600 (depending on season and accommodations)
Suggestions: The west facing rooms have a great view of Camelback, but can be loud from the street noise. If sensitive, request an east facing room.