Jerome Grand Hotel (Jerome, AZ)

Calling all ghost-hunters, old West aficionados and groovers...  Located 5,240 feet above the stunning Verde Valley below, the now legendary Jerome Grand Hotel is the best-of-the-best when it comes to accommodations in this cool, worthwhile central Arizona destination.  But it wasn’t always that way. 

Formerly housing the United Verde Hospital, built in 1927 to cater to the families that once populated this copper mine boomtown, the edifice was once considered the most well-equipped medical facility in the entire state.  And constructed with state-of-the-art technology, it was able to withstand nearby 100,000-pound dynamite blasts even while positioned on a 50% sloping grade!  (How did they do that?)  The hospital’s top surgeon lived just down the street; a plaque remembering Dr. Carlson still adorns the house at 100 Hill Street, now a charming bed-and-breakfast run by Andrea Prince.

After mining closures sent residents packing throughout the Great Depression and WWII, the 30,000 sq ft hospital was shuttered, yet not dismantled.  Ready for business should its top-notch facilities ever be called upon by Jerome stragglers or neighboring communities, surgical utensils, linens and medicines remained in stock as they were the day the hospital closed.  But by 1950, state officials surmised Jerome’s once-mighty population would never return to heyday levels.  United Verde Hospital was officially evacuated.

For many moons (44 years to be exact), the imposing building lay empty.  It was not until the Altherr family purchased the land from the Phelps Dodge company in 1994 that the structure’s current incarnation as a hotel began to take shape.  Two years later, the Jerome Grand’s doors opened… and it’s been packing in ghost hunters ever since!

Now it may come as no surprise that departed spirits might roam the hallways of a former hospital, but as we would later learn from one of the Jerome-centric programs that ran on loop from our TV, no less than four mysterious deaths have occurred here over the years.  With spectral reports flooding into the front desk, it was not long before “professional” ghost hunters began arriving with television crews.  The Jerome Grand’s fate was sealed.  What may have first seemed like a PR disaster for the owners soon turned into a boon!

Though we did not encounter any ghost activity in our room (#30) the night we stayed in December 2013, we did overhear groups of young hunters rummaging up and down the hallways at all hours of the night with EVP recorders, thermo-imaging cameras and other spirit-investigation gizmos.  (According to the ghost register in the lobby, rooms #32 and #34 seem to be hotbeds of activity, and thus staying in such proximity, we couldn’t resist lopping Caretaker’s haunting rendition of “Stardust” in our room while we went out for dinner later that night.)

But even if you haven’t brought your dowsing rods, a meander through the Jerome Grand halls is a definite must.  Old pianos, freaky medical objects and paintings devoted to ornithology decorate each floor, giving the hotel an air of mystery and macabre not unlike something out of The Shining, albeit on a much smaller scale.  And what about that 1926 Otis elevator?  Perhaps the oldest self-service cab in Arizona, it’s a fun ride, but beware:  the ghost of a man who worked at the former hospital and was crushed to death in the elevator supposedly haunts the shaft.

Jerome Grand guestrooms are comfortable, but basic.  That being said, we really enjoyed the view from our balcony, a vista that spreads deep across the Verde Valley all the way to Sedona (see “sights”).  Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure to spend time with the aforementioned TV channel that features a handful of documentaries on Jerome playing on rotation.  Though hokily-produced, we learned quite a bit more about Jerome than we would have expected - and it was neat to see how the town had transformed over several decades since the 1980s, 90s and 00s-era programs were filmed.

The only thing we found a bit odd in the room were several dark red stains on the carpet!  With such a tragic history surrounding the property, we assumed at first that they were blood stains.  We quickly worked out that the rust color was actually remnants of paint, as its tracks on the carpet matched with nearby door frames and window sills of a similar color.

Don’t forget to spend much time in the Asylum, the hotel’s tongue-in-cheek restaurant and bar that is fancifully-festooned - and offers some of the best dining in town.  See “eats” for more information.

Set of Drifters video:  Check out our YouTube channel for video content from this event!

Jerome Grand Hotel - 200 Hill Street, Jerome, AZ  86331, (928) 634-8200

Arcosanti (Mayer, AZ)

Often referred to as an “Urban Laboratory,” Arcosanti is both a one-time “city of the future” as well as an artisan complex devoted to promoting Ecology and sustainability.  Envisioned by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti is located in the middle of the desert half way between Phoenix and Sedona.  The community is an extension of “Cosanti,” the designer’s personal home and art studio that is positioned in the middle of Metropolitan Phoenix (see “goodies”).

Eye-catchingly modern, Arcosanti is an unforgettable place.  In its initial planning stages, the layout of the many cement structures was meant to house 5,000 residents with little or no impact on the surrounding environment.  While the concept was not necessarily new in 1970 when Soleri first sketched designs for construction, today the fusion of high design and ecology seems ironically more timely than ever! 

Funnily enough, we regret to inform you that Soleri has yet to finish Arcosanti, having run out of the funding required to complete the genius masterstroke.  Now in his 90’s, the “Arcologist” relies on ceramic and bronze-making workshops to help fund the overall project.  In fact, it’s the collective’s unique bells, wind chimes and pottery that are more familiar with the general public than Arcosanti itself.  (The objects d’art can be found in high-end gift shops across the country!)

Artisans of all ages attend any number of multi-week programs on location at Arcosanti each year.  These experiences are just as hands-on in the foundry as they are heavy on education about the environment.  We were quite impressed by the community’s dedication to composting and recycling, all in efforts of prohibiting a negative impact on the planet.   

Of course, you don’t have to take part in a program to visit Arcosanti.  A refreshing break from staying in a traditional hotel, Soleri’s city also provides the general public with a rare opportunity to experience life at Arcosanti by staying in one of its many modest guest rooms.  While one or two-night visitors will undoubtedly feel as though they are simply flies on the wall of a tightly-knit community, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who has spent time here will not feel inspired to return... And perhaps that is exactly Soleri’s vision! 
We have had the pleasure to experience Arcosanti in both the middle of winter as well as at the height of summer.  Both seasons revealed that the architect’s vision is not without faults.  During a torrential rainstorm in December of 2004, buckets of water were spotted everywhere indoors, collecting drops of water that seeped through the roof.  Then, in the summer of 2011, a one-night stay in the beautiful “Sky Suite” proved that A/C is sometimes an absolute necessity, particularly when it is 100 degrees outside!  Despite cross ventilation, blinds and other elements used to lower energy consumption, visitors here will only be able to cool one-half of the abode at any given time.  That means that if you have a full house in the two-bedroom suite like we did, at least one person is always going to be uncomfortable!

Aside from the unbearable temperature, the “Sky Suite” offered a mostly pleasant stay.  The bathroom was tiny, yet clean, and while the on-site kitchen may have lacked some basic cooking implements - we had to boil water in a wok and microwave our jar of pasta sauce - we still managed to complete an entire dinner.  The peaceful repast was held outside on our private deck, witness to the incredible “moonrise” over a distant mountain!  Yes, aside from the striking architecture and well-maintained landscaping, one of Arcosanti’s best features is its fabulous remote location, set into a hillside that overlooks a canyon.  This terrain, coupled with Soleri’s organic, yet futuristic design, give visitors the feeling that they have just landed on another planet!  (It’s sort of like Logan’s Run meets Tatooine.)  As we edged our butts up on top of one of the impressive cement “vaults,” we secretly all pondered to ourselves... “ahhhh, this is living!”

Arcosanti offers a number of different accommodations at various price points.  Single rooms without private baths are available for only $30, while the “Sky Suite” is yours for $100/ night.  Keep in mind that there are only two full-size beds.  That means that if you have more peeps in your group, they may need to sleep in the living room on some rather inadequate floor mats - and basked in the dazzling sunlight of morning!  (Bring your eye-mask.)  Regarding the aforementioned kitchen, if you are staying longer than one night, we recommend packing additional cooking utensils... or else you’ll have to brave the rather inconsistent commissary for each and every meal!

Not interested in staying overnight?  Basic tours of Arcosanti, its ceramics apse, foundry and other workshop areas embark from the main building on the hour starting at 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM  (except for 12:00 Noon).  Donations of $7 USD are suggested.  Larger group tours can be arranged by calling the number provided below. 

Set of Drifters tip:  Soleri’s community is located a few miles off the main Interstate-17 Highway at Cordes Junction.  Expect a dusty dirt road frequented by stubborn cattle.  If your car is the least bit low to the ground, this uneven, rutted trek just may be your undoing, especially if it has just rained!

Arcosanti - 13555 South Cross L Road, Mayer, AZ  86333, (928) 632-7135 ‎

Bisbee Grand Hotel (Bisbee, AZ)

While on a visit to the charming miner’s town of Bisbee, AZ in December 2009 (see “sights”), we rested our cowboy boots at the historic Bisbee Grand Hotel.  Located smack dab along the town’s main thoroughfare, the property features a handful of rooms that decorated in different themes.  In this regard, it’s somewhat like the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA, albeit on a much smaller scale!  And yet, the proprietors have managed to infuse many elements of whimsy into the somewhat rustic accommodations. 

A night in the “Old Western Suite” will certainly be something to talk about with friends back home!  The room features an authentic covered wagon that was built specifically to enclose a queen sized bed!  Since we were with a larger party, we reluctantly had to turn down the manager’s offer of spending the night inside a prairie schooner!

The “Oriental Suite” was certainly the most elaborate room we viewed while poking our heads around during the morning’s maid service.  The focal point of the room is an antique carved Chinese wedding bed that dates back to the 1890's!  Nearby on the wall, a stuffed peacock startled my nephew, for he thought the plumed thing was still alive!  

Said to be haunted, the Bisbee Grand recently celebrated its 100th anniversary back in 2006!   Since your “Set of Drifters” are always up for anything that involves ghosts, we were thrilled to learn that our room, "The Captain's Suite," was one of the units that reportedly featured paranormal activity!  (The ghost of the Captain's Suite is said to be a “womanizing” man!)  While the street-side location of the three room suite was certainly awkward, the history of the building oozed from every crack and crevice of the rusted tin roof!  This is definitely a neat place to “feel the pulse” of Bisbee’s rich history! 

Set of Drifters tip: 
While we liked the looks of the Bisbee Grand Saloon, they really needed to clean the floors better.  Ewwww!  There are better watering holes in town!

Bisbee Grand Hotel - 61 Main Street, Bisbee, AZ  85603, (800) 421-1909, or (520) 432-5900

Platinum Hotel & Spa (Las Vegas, NV)

Upon on our arrival to Las Vegas in 2013, we enjoyed a whole new experience in regards to our accommodation.  (Back in 2007, we rested our weary heads - well above the sheets and comforter - at America’s Best Value Inn.  Yikes.)  Luckily for us, good friends of ours invited us to stay at the Platinum Hotel and Spa where they own a condo suite.

Definitely unusual for Vegas, this towering hotel prides itself in being an oasis from all the zaniness of The Strip, and delivers with a smoke-free environment devoid of the one thing that makes Sin City tick - slot-machines!

And while you won’t find a casino on its ground floor, what you will find is a contemporary restaurant and bar dripping in red, purple and orange hues.  An indoor/ outdoor pool joins a spa on upper floors; their fall packages, including the "French Vanilla Apple Body Renewal" and a "Pumpkin Peel Facial" sounded good enough to eat.

While our one-bedroom suite definitely lacked style and warmth, one of the great things it did boast was a full kitchen - complete with cooking utensils.  (We imagine the hotel normally caters to business clientele who are based in Las Vegas for more than just a couple of nights and need a quiet, no-nonsense home away from the noise and lights.)  And who could forget that amazing multi-jet bathtub that more than made up for the lackluster public jacuzzi downstairs?

But the best part about the Platinum?  It’s location.  Positioned only a five minute walk down Flamingo Road from Bally’s, we loved the fact that we could jump easily into the mayhem - and get out just as quick when we had had our fill.  This place makes enjoying Las Vegas possible!  Though that peace comes at a price.  Standard suites start at $125, while the Marquis Suite with Strip View goes for about $400 - expensive for Las Vegas standards.

Platinum Hotel & Spa - 211 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV  89169, (702) 365-5000

Arizona Biltmore Resort (Phoenix, AZ)

Let’s start this report off with the simple truth that we have never actually stayed at the Arizona Biltmore.  That being said, we have visited the grounds and do a recommend a trip here, at least for a stroll, potentially a drink, and most definitely NOT a dip in the pool - unless it is the off-season and a week day!

The expansive outreach of the Arizona Biltmore encompasses over 35 acres near the “Camelback Corridor,” a section of central Phoenix known for his high-end shopping and eateries.  The “Biltmore Fashion Park” is just a hop, skip and a jump away, though it has become so homogenized in recent years, that a Cheesecake Factory has even taken root.  (Say it isn’t so!)  Better to skip it altogether, and head straight to the resort to check out the amazing architecture supplied by brothers Albert, Charles and Warren McArthur, students of Frank Lloyd Wright (whom also acted as consultant on the 1929 project).

President Obama made headlines recently when he became the first United States President to NOT stay at the Biltmore while visiting Phoenix.  While he wanted to support a more up-an-coming property during the economic downturn by choosing the Montelucia Resort & Spa instead, he will definitely need to come back and check out the impressive exterior and interior designs at the Biltmore that easily take the breath away.

Aside from an elaborate lobby that seems to go on forever and is reminiscent of looking through a kaleidoscope, our favorite spot was the Aztec Room, a reception area that is dripping in beautiful gold ornamentation.  The McArthur Bros.’ “Biltmore blocks” are everywhere.  These are pre-cast cement tiles that are used to fabricate ceilings, walls, you name it.  Their repeated design is mesmerizing and truly elevates the interiors of what would be banal brunching spots or conference spaces without them.

The Biltmore features a multitude of eating spots and bars, as well as a series of pools, tennis courts and spa.  The main “Paradise Pool” has gotten a little too “jiggy” for us recently, more resembling a Las Vegas pukefest rather than a relaxing oasis of seclusion.  If staying at the Biltmore, try to position your group in one of the bungalows or villas further back in the resort to avoid the crowds, or make your way to the front of line and stay in one of the historic rooms that overlook the lobby.

Accommodations are not cheap however.  Expect to pay at least $250USD a night for even the most basic room set-up.  If that cost is too steep, use the Biltmore as a nice afternoon respite from the heat.  Have lunch and then take a trip up the second floor to view the quaint historical “museum” that offers historical images from the past.  You will not be disappointed.  Taking a mini-trek through the grounds is like walking amongst history.  Trust us, it’ll be pretty hard to put your camera away!

This property is unrated in our Grovey Rating System since we have not actually stayed here.

Arizona Biltmore Resort - 2400 East Missouri Avenue, Phoenix, AZ  85016, (800) 950-0086, or (602) 955-6600

We also recommend:

Arabella Hotel Sedona - 725 AZ-179, Sedona, AZ  86336, (855) 795-8207,