I’m going to say it right off. Lodging & dining at the Arizona Inn is expensive compared with most hotels & inns in Southern Arizona.
The far more important question is: “Is it worth the price?”
Our answer is, “Yes!” If you’ve got the bucks, the Arizona Inn is one of the finest mid-town resorts in the world. In Tucson and all of Southern Arizona, there is no place for lodging & dining we recommend more highly. For more lodging reviews click here.
Of course, the Arizona Inn doesn’t need our “Seal of Approval”. They’re already on Conde Nast’s Traveler Gold List; Travel & Leisure’s list of the Top 500 Hotels In The World; and Wine Spectators’ Award of Excellence. Read More
Of the 30,000 places of lodging worldwide rated by AAA, only 4.8% make their Four Diamond list. Only 2.6% of the 29,000 restaurants reviewed by AAA make their 4-Diamond list. Arizona Inn is on both lists, and for good reason.
I’m sure you have traveled the world and stayed at many Ritz Carlton Resorts. You know of which I speak when I say the level of service at the Arizona Inn surpasses even the level of service experienced world travelers expect from the Ritz. Both somehow manage the delicate balance between attentive and intrusive. The Arizona Inn is the “Goldilocks of Service”: “Not too much; not too little, but just right”.
Isabella Greenway founded the Arizona Inn in 1930. She was Arizona’s first woman and only representative to the Congress of the United States, as well as an astute businesswoman and farsighted entrepreneur.
At a time when most Americans were beaten down by the Great Depression, she was operating a successful cattle ranch near Williams, AZ. In Tucson, she established a furniture manufacturing business to give work and dignity to men who had little hope of ever finding a decent paying job. Remember, this was the 1930’s when the unemployment rate exceeded 25%. Today, Americans panic when the unemployment rate rises above 7%.
When the furniture business was failing because of hard economic times, she did what any of us would have done under the circumstances. She built a hotel on the outskirts of this unremarkable frontier town with a population of about 32,000. Her hotel, the Arizona Inn, would become the primary customer of her struggling furniture enterprise. To most people at the time, it must have seemed insane. To Isabella it seemed reasonable. But in the end, it turned out to be genius.
Because “discretion” is the watchword at the Arizona Inn, the public may never know all the celebs who have stayed there. Yet, this one little tidbit of history I find both revealing and endearing.
It’s found in a letter from the secretary to John (Jack) Greenway, the founder’s son who ran the Arizona Inn for decades and addressed to one Mr. T. Sorensen on February 25, 1958.
“Would you be so kind as to give me [X]’s home address so that I may mail his bathing suit, which was left here, to him.”
To whom was he referring? In only four and a half years from the date this letter was sent, the guest who lost his bathing suit at the Arizona Inn would be the most powerful man in the world, standing eyeball to eyeball with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev over a little misunderstanding we now refer to as “The Cuban Missile Crisis”. He was John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.
[Note. If you don’t know about this brief episode in the history of a self-destructive species known as homo sapiens, we suggest you visit one of the most amazing attractions in all of Southern Arizona: the Titan II Missile Museum. Maybe you can figure out why & how the human race survived the Cold War. In hindsight, it seems most improbable.]
“[The rich] are different from you and me.” F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Rich Boy, 1926.
Hardly any better example of this famous quote can be found than a brief 1957 letter to Mr. M. Bennett, manager of the Arizona Inn. It’s postmarked Rockefeller Center, New York, NY.
Dear Mr. Bennett:
Thank you for your letter of March 28th which you wrote in answer to my query as to whether the rate which we were paying at the Arizona Inn was sufficient. I note that you feel the rate which we paid for our recent visit was “about in line with other rates throughout the Inn” and that, therefore, you prefer to let it stand.
I shall count on you telling me frankly if you think the rate for any subsequent visits should be raised. This you say you will do.
Mrs. Rockefeller and I greatly enjoyed our recent stay at the Inn as we always do.
With kind regards from us both, I am,
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Here one of the richest private individuals in all of history is concerned that he had not been charged ENOUGH.
Mr. Rockefeller was hardly the only member of his class to stay at the Arizona Inn. In the Inn’s first 30 years, both American & British royalty enjoyed its serene comforts and Western hospitality, including: Princess Margaret & Lord Snowden; Lord & Lady Halifax; Howard Hughes; and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Several rungs down on the Social Ladder were other famous guests, such as Salvador Dali; Van Cliburn; Ansel Adams; John Foster Dullas; Thornton Wilder; Frank Lloyd Wright; and Clark Gable. Of course, today hardly anyone younger than 60 would know who they were or why they were famous.
Why do the rich & famous stay & dine at the Arizona Inn? Because they can!
Why, you may ask, have I chosen to write this review in such an unconventional manner? Because I could only repeat what has been written about the Inn thousands of times over the past 80 years: a long & boring list of superlatives.
While meals in the main dining room can be pricy, breakfast and lunch at the indoor/outdoor Audubon Bar and at poolside are priced similarly to other nice restaurants around Tucson. We have been recommending lunch at the poolside bar since we started this website. It’s a delightful place for locals to take an hour lunch break and relax.
In summer, the Inn is a great place for a staycation. You get all the first class amenities and service but the lodging rate is about half the winter rate. You can also check their website for specials.
As to banquet facilities, our Convention & Visitor Bureau holds their monthly meeting at the Inn. So, as a member, I enjoy lunch in their largest banquet room 12 times a year. Ms. Karen & I have also attended small-venue performances there as well. There is no finer banquet facility in town. You won’t get a rubber chicken meal here. The Inn can easily serve a really good meal for 200 guests.
Wait, wait! Did I mention there are two private residences on the property that you can stay in … for a price? You can stay in the home of Isabella Greenway, or the home she had build for her daughter & son-in-law. By comparison, either one makes our beautiful Southwestern Casita look like a 19th century frontier hovel.
Simply put, the Arizona Inn is the best of the best Southern Arizona hotels, period.
2200 East Elm Street