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Exploring Scottsdale's cache of unheralded mid-century masterpieces.
The first step in any architectural tour is the easiest—you’re staying there. The Hotel Valley Ho opened its doors in December 1956 and was the stylish set’s de facto clubhouse (Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their honeymoon here) before its star faded when the ’70s arrived and its architectural shine was reno’ed away. But a decade ago, a new owner spruced up the old gal, and its restored greatness helped kick-start downtown Scottsdale’s renaissance. Today, it’s the hotel Palm Springs wished it had: a less crazy version of Palm Spring’s beloved Ace, with a true period architectural pedigree. It’s also walking distance to FnB, and while we know walking wasn’t big in the ’50s, it’s the best way to approach the restaurant’s tucked-away courtyard. The duo in charge—Arizona wine expert (yes they have quite a wine scene there) Pavle Milic in front, chef Charleen Badman in back—have made this spot the continuing go-to for the modern version of Wagner and Wood: hip couples and families who love its relaxed approach to farm-to-table dining. Order another AZ wine by the glass and linger and linger. Elements at Sanctuary.
It’s a big day, so fortify yourself with breakfast at Elements at Sanctuary, where Beau MacMillan, famous for his Iron Chef win over Bobby Flay, serves standard-bearing fresh Southwest cuisine—think blistered shishito peppers with soy caramel and sea salt—in another architectural treasure. The restaurant is located in the sprawling Sanctuary on Camelback resort, originally opened in 1957 as the Paradise Valley Racquet Club, and while the vibe is now more modern than mid-century (thanks to a serious overhaul by Allen and Philp Architects—who also did the Valley Ho restoration) the views still channel the golden age of design.
Drive the 10 or so blocks to the mid-century oasis that is the Town and Country neighbourhood. The 62 homes eschew the usual Scottsdale bungalow design for a sleek and modernist bent that’s a hallmark of the mid- century era. The neighbourhood has recently been listed on the National Register, and many homes have retained their original features—but, unlike Palm Springs, the prices are still affordable for those looking for a dreamy second home. While mulling over that purchase, stop on your way back to the hotel at Virtu Honest Craft, one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America and one of the toughest reservations to come by—even at brunch. Sitting in the open-air courtyard that it shares with the Bespoke Inn, digging into a cast-iron pan filled with peperonata and potato hash, it’s easy to see why—it feels more like Umbria than a city of six million.
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