It’s no surprise that Frank Lloyd Wright made his winter home in Arizona — it’s easy to be inspired by the region’s natural beauty, diverse culture and perpetual sunshine. His legacy lives on today all around the Tempe area, where a multitude of buildings bear his influence, and art and design reign supreme. From performing arts to gardens full of succulents, here’s where to go to find your own inspiration in the Valley of the Sun.
1. Taliesin West
Nestled in the desert foothills of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved winter retreat is now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Taliesin West is open to the public, offering a broad range of tours, including night walks and a behind-the-scenes viewing of his personal art collection. Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.
2. Desert Botanical Garden
Discover the tranquil beauty of the Sonoran Desert at the Botanical Garden, where desert plants are nestled amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes. With five thematic trails to explore, it’s easy to get lost among the towering cacti, swaths of succulents, brilliant wildflowers, and lush trees.
3. ASU Gammage
Set in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the ASU Gammage program brings shows like “Hamilton,” “The Color Purple,” and “Les Miserables” to the valley, so visitors can experience the best of Broadway without ever leaving Tempe. Tickets sell fast though, so be sure to plan in advance.
4. Camelback Mountain
Considered one of the country’s top hiking destinations, Camelback Mountain attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. There are two routes to the top, the Echo Canyon trail and the Cholla trail, both of which test even the most advanced hikers with rough terrain and steep elevation changes. The payoff is worth it, though — the 2,700-foot-summit offers unparalleled views of the Valley below.
5. Dinner at the Biltmore
Explore the lush grounds of the Arizona Biltmore before tucking into the on-property restaurant, Wright’s. Named for Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked as a consulting architect on the property, the restaurant features local indigenous ingredients presented in innovative dishes, like tea-smoked duck breast and wagyu steak with chipotle bone marrow butter.
6. Kayak the Salt River
Best known for group float trips, there’s more than one way to experience the Salt River. Beat the crowds with an early morning kayak journey: This two-hour trip offers stunning views of the surrounding Tonto National Forest, and a chance to spot the wild horses that the region has become known for.
7. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Situated on a sprawling park in the heart of downtown, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is home to some of the world’s best modern art, architecture, and design. With everything from conceptual art to interactive pieces, there’s always something new to see.
8. Schnepf Farms
Family-owned for more than 50 years, Schnepf Farms has grown from a simple crop field to a sprawling community hub. Head to the farm’s organic gardens and orchards to pick your own produce, enjoy lunch from the Farmstand Café, and pick up a few local favorites from the on-site Country Store.
9. Tempe Town Lake
Created by damming a portion of the Salt River, this 2-mile long lake now offers a welcome reprieve from the Valley’s arid desert landscape. While away an afternoon with a leisurely walk around the lake’s perimeter or take to the water with a boat rental from the marina.
10. Heard Museum
A destination for American Indian art since 1929, the Heard Museum has become one of the world’s leading destinations for art and education. Known for its award-winning exhibits, the museum uses its collections and first-person voice to tell the stories of American Indian cultures while also celebrating the work of current artists.