Retro Palace

Mention retro hotels and motels, and most people will immediately think of either Cape May, New Jersey or Arizona’s Route 66 corridor.

However, the Queen of all retro hotels is actually located in Scottsdale. The Hotel Valley Ho originally opened in 1956, designed by architect Ed Varney. Taken over by Ramada in 1973, it was purchased by MSR Properties in 2001, which embarked on a complete renovation of the building and grounds. The result is a classic ambiance with midcentury feel and a modern, hip vibe.

The Valley Ho consists of three low-slung motel buildings arranged around a tropical pool area. The Tower, a seven-story building with suites overlooking either the pool or Old Town Scottsdale, was built in 2005 according to an original design created when the hotel first opened. The standard rooms are spacious at 460 square feet; studio suites feature wraparound terraces and oversized Phillip Starck tubs. Design Within Reach provided the clean, sleek furniture found in the guest rooms and public areas.

Given the proximity of Scottsdale to Hollywood, the Valley Ho has been a celebrity retreat for over five decades. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood were married in the hotel shortly after it opened, and were frequent guests thereafter. Conferences and groups may have replaced the movie stars in the modern era, but the hotel has a strong following among locals in their 20’s and 30’s, who are attracted by the weeknight happy hour and summer pool parties as much as by the style of the place. If Robert Wagner walked into the packed lounge on a weekday evening, it’s doubtful that many of the younger clientele would recognize him.

Guests may dine at Café Zuzu, which features “seasonal American comfort food,” but the real standout at this retro palace is a meal at Trader Vic’s. The Polynesian classic was first established by Victor Bergeron in 1934, and now has 25 outlets around the globe. The restaurant at the Valley Ho opened in 2006 and is supervised by Chef Justin Pfeilsticker, who offers meat and fish dishes steamed in the traditional Chinese oven along with his French-influenced interpretations of Asian cuisine. Indulge in timeless favorites such as Crab Rangoon, Ahi Tuna or Crispy Duck, wash it down with several of the signature Mai Tais, and you’ll agree that the 1950s was a pretty goood time to be alive.

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