visiting Taliesin West

Visiting Taliesin West—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona Home

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Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is a great option when in or around the Scottsdale, Arizona area. In my case, the visit ended up being a family activity while visiting Phoenix for my nephew’s baseball tournament. Now a few households of my family members live in Arizona, but at the time we met up for the event and on one free day drove over to Scottsdale to visit the iconic property.

Located in the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West is now both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark.

The property was initially established in 1937 and was built over many years to follow. While Frank Lloyd Wright has many incredible properties, this one is his most personal as it—and all the furniture inside—was entirely built by him and his apprentices.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West
The interior—and furniture—in Frank Lloyd Wright’s living room at Taliesin West

In the 1930s that area of Arizona was largely undeveloped, and to Wright, the perfect spot for a retreat. He wanted to build in a way that reflected the desert land rather than competing against it, which led to the creation of low-slung buildings that sit close to the land. He also committed to using local masonry in the form of rocks, sand, and cement.

There was also a huge focus on preserving the natural light. Most of the buildings have lots of windows which makes daytime electricity unnecessary in some of the rooms. Other rooms, like the Kiva room, have no windows at all.

The Kiva room at Taliesin West
The Kiva room at Taliesin West

The Kiva is named after a chamber used by the Pueblo Native Americans, and it was one of the first buildings that was built on the property. The room was used as a dining room, film screening room, lounge, and library.

One thing I enjoyed about visiting the property is that you’re allowed to sit down and hang out in these rooms. It allows you to get a feeling for why they were designed the way they were, and what it might be like to spend extended time out in the desert compound.

In addition to having living quarters the Taliesin West property is also notable because it has a large drafting studio where Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices would work. Some Legacy Fellows who lived and worked with Wright then actually still live on the property today!

Frank Lloyd Wright used Taliesin West as his winter home for the remainder of his life, until he passed in 1959.

“Taliesin West is a look over the rim of the world.”

– FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, 1943

Taliesin West is also the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and they have one of the coolest gift shops I’ve ever seen. I left with a coffee table book and a tee shirt, but they also had sculptures, home goods, and various types of art pieces. If you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s a good visit.

Touring the property

At Taliesin West, you can choose from audio tours or guided tours.

The audio tours are 60-minute walking tours that tour both the exteriors and interiors.

These are self-guided tours and require your own device, but it is still suggested to book a tour in advance. This tour will cover the grounds as well as take you through the Drafting Studio, Prow, and Garden Room.

The drafting room at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West
The drafting room at Taliesin West

This was the option my group took. We showed up without a reservation (although this is not recommended!) and we ended up getting in. I’m a huge mid-century lover so I loved pretty much everything that I saw. But one thing I found really interesting was how all the different buildings and spaces felt like they were connected to one another. There’s a flow between everything on the property.

I thought it was really interesting to see the drafting room and imagine a whole group at work in there. And how could I not love the property’s rather unique pool.

The Frank Wright Foundation CEO Stuart Graff has pointed out that things like open floor plans and lots of windows were “radical” design choices at the time.

Touring the interior of Frank Lloyd Wrights's Taliesin West
Touring the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

The guided tours are led by guides are go more in-depth into the history of the property.

These tours are 90 minutes long and go to areas that the audio tours do not, such as private living spaces. This would be a good choice if you like to ask questions as you go, or if you want to socialize with a group along the way.

Taliesin West also offers seasonal tours and specialized tours, like the Shelters In The Desert Guided Tour.

Tap here to get the latest updates on tours.

Happy hour at Taliesin West

If visiting Taliesin West as the sun sets is more your speed, they’ve got a happy hour for that. The Sunsets and Sips is a Happy Hour program is held twice a month and offers a drink, access to spaces on the property, and staff to answer any questions.

There is also a bar service open on the property during that time. This is an event that you can return to since they change up the open spaces each time. Learn more here.

The pool at Taliesin West in Scottsdale Arizona
The pool at Taliesin West

FAQs about visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

Q: Do you need reservations for Taliesin West?

While it’s possible to arrive at Taliesin West without a reservation and still tour the property, it is suggested that you get a reservation in advance. Over 100,000 people visit each year.

Q: Can you drive by Taliesin West?

You are welcome to drive to Taliesin West, but you cannot get a view of the property just by driving by. The best way to see Taliesin West is by booking either a self-guided or guided tour.

Q: How long does it take to see Taliesin West?

It takes an hour or two to tour Taliesin West. The Taliesin West Highlights Audio Tour is 60 minutes long and you can listen on your own device. They also offer guided tours which are up to 90 minutes long.

Q: Can you have a wedding at Taliesin West?

Taliesin West is available for booking private events, such as weddings and corporate events.

Q: What does Taliesin mean?

Taliesin is a Welsh word that means “shining brow.” Frank Lloyd Wright had intentions to create buildings that were “of the hill” rather than on it.

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