Phoenix 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
A 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.
It 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
Imagine 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
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.
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.
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.
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