Phoenix Area – Best Things to Do

Taliesin West - Walkway. Frank Lloyd Wright's touch with angled shapes and walls made with local materialsPhoenix Area has so many great things to do. There’s never a shortage of things to do and see there; we easily filled 2 weeks. Our favorite two experiences were a sunset Hot Air Balloon Expedition and a visit to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. In future articles, I will share many more great things to do in and around Phoenix…

Phoenix is in the desert – No surprise. The desert can be hot, dry, thorny (from cactus), and difficult to navigate. Yet, both the man-made sights and the natural environment are beautiful to see. The sunsets in the desert over Phoenix are spectacular. It’s all interesting, and breathtaking!

Phoenix Area’s Taliesin West

Phoenix area - Taliesin West - front entranceA fantastic day in the Phoenix area includes a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West. If you know Wright’s work, you know his architectural design differed greatly from others of his time. Wright was inspired by Arizona’s “long, low, sweeping lines and uptilting planes,” which is evident in his building design. In keeping with Wright’s design approach, Taliesin West buildings are terraced to fit in with the natural rugged landscape. Wright’s construction style includes the use of local materials, so local desert rocks were used throughout. Personally, I see Wright as an early sustainable designer in that his buildings use local materials and are sited to take advantage of natural light and shade. The design of Taliesin West is patterned after nature, like the patterns on rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, saguaros cactus, and more.

DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – for hosting one of  on this tour. While I was hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion of Taliesin West.

The only way to view the buildings inside and out is through a guided tour. We enjoyed seeing Wright’s private quarters, garden room, drafting studio, music pavilion, cabaret, and various sculptures set throughout the property. Located in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains near Scottsdale, AZ, visitors can see the same desert vistas that inspired Wright. Be sure to view the exterior design from different vantage points; it’s interesting and quite unique.

Taliesin West also serves as a School of Architecture offering a Masters’ degree. This property is a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Site. Wright occupied this home in winters from 1937 to 1959, when he passed away at 91 years old. Today the property serves as the headquarters for The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Phoenix area Taliesin West main studioIt is well worth a visit and tour to see and learn about Wright’s unique approach to architecture. We loved seeing his unconventional, yet practical design up close. In addition, experiencing Wright’s design of Taliesin West, with its openness and views, promotes a serene feeling. It helped us relate to his concept of the property being one with nature. It was a delightful day.

There are various types of tours to choose from 1 to 3 hours. Get tickets in advance.

Hot Air Ballooning in the Phoenix Desert

Hot Air Expeditions of Phoenix - our 18 passenger balloonImagine seeing the desert from 1500 feet up, enjoying views of the expanse as you scale the hills and mountains while airborne. It’s truly like a ‘magic carpet’ ride’ when hot air ballooning in Phoenix. The whole area is known for its gorgeous painted sky sunsets. So why not view the Phoenix Desert as the sun sets from a hot air balloon. We did – what a gorgeous way to enjoy the clear colorful skies and the desert landscape. Hot Air Expeditions creates ‘special experiences.’ Best of all, Hot Air Expeditions serves up champagne and delicious hors d’oeuvres on pink tablecloths in the desert after the ride while the sun continues to set. There’s not a better way to spend an evening outdoors!

Experience with Hot Air Expeditions

Hot Air Expeditions - It's always good to see the chase vehicle at our landing site.Phoenix area’s Deer Valley Airport was our place to meet the Hot Air Expedition crew. They drove us to Peoria, about 25 minutes away, to a spot selected by the balloon captain/pilot based on winds for take-off and landing.

As the ground crew unrolls the balloon, we stay well out of their way. This limp balloon lying on the ground is HUGE. Fans are set up and start to inflate the ‘envelope.’ The crew scrambles around, freeing up fabric folds, securing the top vent, allowing it to inflate – it’s getting bigger and bigger! With enough air in the balloon, Captain Craig fires up the propane burners to start heating up air inside the envelope. Slowly, the balloon shape becomes more distinct, buoyant, easing up and away from the ground. It’s MASSIVE! As passengers climb aboard the basket, they seem so small from Tom’s pictures of the whole inflation and boarding process. Finally, we’re all aboard, ground lines released and slowly, gently, the basket leaves the land below, and we ascend into the beautiful blue sky. I felt like I was in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’

DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to Hot Air Expeditions – for hosting me and discounting Tom’s ticket. While we were hosted, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion of our experience with Hot Air Expeditions.

While gliding over the landscape on our 7-mile long flight, Captain Craig told us about the Phoenix desert and the history of Hot Air Expeditions. We learned that this desert is the earth’s youngest, only 10,000 years old. The mesa that we were flying over was once the ocean floor. Twenty-six years ago, the mother of the current owners started Hot Air Expeditions to share the desert with visitors. The company employs 6 pilots and numerous ground crew. Today, it is still family owned and operated, having passed from mother to daughters.

Hot Air Expeditions - Happy passengers after their first balloon ride.Balloons are considered aircraft and must be inspected for commercial use every 100 hours. Our balloon is one of the largest made and the oldest in the Valley; it holds 24 people, costs over $100,000 to purchase. Eighteen people were on our ride; Hot Air Expeditions rarely fills the 24 seats since it is more comfortable with fewer people.

I chose our evening flight for two reasons: 1) I prefer to get up after the sun rises; 2) I was attracted to a champagne sunset ride with gourmet hors d’oeuvres and dessert on linen tablecloths in the desert – how decadent!!

If you can’t make an evening ride, there are morning rides also. Both private and shared rides are available.

Conclusion

There are so many ways to make a day of it in the Phoenix area. Visiting Taliesin West and taking a hot air balloon ride over the desert were at the top of our list. Both were wonderful experiences.

Subscribe to this blog to get notification about more of the Best things to do in the Phoenix Area. We will be providing articles on many experiences for visitors in the Phoenix area, as well as more on the top things to see and do in the rest of Arizona between now and the end of 2019. Stay tuned…

28 thoughts on “Phoenix Area – Best Things to Do

  1. I did a hot air balloon ride in Phoenix as well – so memorable!! And always have loved Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture – Talesin West is really unique!

  2. This looks amazing — especially the hot air balloon! I’m planning to be in Phoenix next month so will have to look into!

  3. Hot air ballooning was one of the things we missed out on while living in Arizona. There was actually a balloon that would regularly fly over our house. It looks like such a beautiful way to see the desert, especially with the white linen spread. The sunsets are so amazing out there. I can only imagine what they would be like from a gondola.

  4. We have been staying in the Phoenix area for almost six years (four during winter) and a year and a half full-time (between travels). Although we have seen Taliesin West, we have not done the balloon ride. That sounds like an awesome experience.

  5. I’m not surprised you felt as though you were in the Wizard of Oz! Frank Lloyd Wright’s one of my favourites, ever since I saw an exhibition of his designs here in London. I’d love to see his work for real some time.

    • Put Arizona on your travel list! There’s so much to see and do. Check out some of my other posts for more ideas on visiting Arizona.

  6. I love doing hot air ballooning and would love to do it in this area. Arizona looks like it could be the best place to do this in the USA if my memory serves me right. Lots of sunny days and the winds are not that strong every day.

  7. Good Lord Taliesin West is a beautiful property and the sculptures are fantastic. I haven’t been in a hot air balloon but this sounds like a great place to go for a ride

  8. Phoenix is definitely on my list of places to visit. A sunset hot air balloon ride would definitely be top of my list. We visited the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta but never got a chance to go up in a balloon. We have visited other Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. This one looks quite interesting with the water features and statues. Both are good things to do on a visit to Phoenix.

  9. I have done balloon trips in numerous places around the world, but never one at sunset. I know how amazing it can be at sunrise, but now I guess that I will have to add a trip in Phoenix, at sunset to my bucket list! Flying over the desert must be a fabulous experience.

  10. I’ve always very much enjoyed visits to Phoenix – its such a different part of the united states and even better to see it by hot air balloon! Frank Lloyd Wright’s home definitely looks worth the visit, such interesting sculptures along the property.

  11. Hot Air Balloon Ride in the desert in Phoenix sounds like a great plan, although I usually find them quite expensive. Also, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home sounds interesting as well!

    • Yes, there are lots of things to in and around Phoenix. I have posted some, like the Apache Trail, and will be writing about others in the coming weeks. Check back.

  12. We used to live in Phoenix and our house was very close to Deer Valley Airport, so we’d usually see the hot air balloons in the morning time. There’s so many great things to do in Phoenix. We did loads of hiking. We also had season tickets to the Dbacks and loved Spring Training. Going out to Tortilla Flat is gorgeous, plus best chili in the world and they make this incredible prickly pear ice cream.

    • We did so much in and around the Phoenix area. we stayed 2 weeks. I will be posting on more of our adventures. Stay tuned …

  13. What great experience you had in Phoenix! I think Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius with his design and I’d love learning more about his interests and design motivation. But I must say the hot air balloon looks like heaven, though I wonder if I’d have a problem with the heights. What a peaceful way to see the landscape!

  14. You are inspiring me to get to Taliesin West next time we’re in Phoenix. I’ve never been there. We really enjoyed our last visit to Phoenix and Scottsdale, including the Heard and Musical Instrument Museums. Thanks

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