Frank Lloyd Wright’s 17 Greatest Hits

The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright once wryly observed that “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Following his death in 1959, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) designated 17 of his buildings for special merit and preservation. Almost 50 years later they commissioned a public poll to list the Top 150 Favorite Works of Architecture with Wright placing seven. In 2015, the FLW Conservancy nominated 10 of his buildings to be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites. This kind of recognition shows the enduring relevance and popularity of the man who the AIA called, “one of the greatest architects of all time.” He never was or will be nominated for Miss Congeniality but he was a great innovator and pioneer, a passionate American nationalist, disparaging about American fashion for Things European. He was the master of “organic architecture” which preached the harmonization of building with environment. Wright expressed its First Commandment like this:” No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.” Without further adieu, we present the 17 greatest works of Frank Lloyd Wright:

17. Hanna Honeycomb House (1936) -Stanford, California

Imagine a house with no right angles, not even its furniture. Wright’s design used only hexagonal shapes and the six-sided pattern so resembled a honeycomb it was nicknamed as such. It was actually called Hanna House after the Stanford Professor Paul Janna and wife Jean. It also contained several signature Wright characteristics, including being built with local materials; San Jose brick and redwood. As the National Park Service describes it, “The house clings to and completes the hillside on which it was built” as his ‘organic’ architecture believed. It was also a template for his dream of creating affordable housing for the middle class down to ensuring the wood assembly could be done by a carpenter, not requiring high-priced experts. Of course, he ran over budget and this middle class template ended up costing the Hannas the equivalent of over $600,000 dollars today. Such was the Wright bravado, he built it right over the San Andreas Fault. He didn’t live to see it badly damaged in the earthquake of 1989.

Photo by: Minimalisti
Photo by: Minimalisti

16. Frank Lloyd Wright Residence (1889) -Oak Park, Illinois

The oldest remaining of Wright’s buildings was built with $5000 which the rising architect borrowed from his boss. It was here that he began leaving his indelible mark on the architecture of the twentieth century. The Chicago suburb remains the largest enclave of his work with 25 various structures designed and built from 1889-1913. It established his first big innovation, in the Prairie School of Architecture, glorifying and refining the ground hugging structures of early settlers in the American west, a tribute in Wright’s view to the fundamental American values of hard work and perseverance. The materials and design are far beyond what any settler could have dreamed of. The Children’s Playroom is one of the most notable rooms in any of his creations, famous for the prisms of light that come through the specially designed windows and skylight.

Photo by: The Craftsman Bungalow
Photo by: The Craftsman Bungalow

15. William H. Winslow House (1893) -River Forest, Illinois

Bargain hunter alert! Check this real estate listing: “A most exceptional/livable home, great for entertaining with generous rooms sizes. 4 bedroom/3.5 bathroom Coach House with live-in apt. Original details remain intact: art glass windows, bronze/iron, furniture and built-ins, hardwood floors, 4 fireplaces. Meticulously maintained” And a price tag of just $1.55 million, a full million off the original asking price. One of Wright’s few properties with rooms one can actually imagine mere mortals living in. But then comes the achingly beautiful detailed woodwork, the ridiculously gorgeous dining room and you quickly realize that this residence is anything but ordinary. Winslow House is considered historically important in that it was Wright’s first independent commission after leaving his mentors at the architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan.

"William H. Winslow House Front Facade" by Oak Park Cycle Club - http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakparkcycleclub/707277262/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.
William H. Winslow House Front Facade” by Oak Park Cycle Club – http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakparkcycleclub/707277262/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

14. Ward W. Willits House (1901) -Highland Park, Illinois

This outwardly sedate-looking suburban home was a political statement and the true beginning of an architectural revolution. It was an emphatic rejection of the designs featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which projected the rebirth of the city with towering ornate works of Greek and Roman grandeur. Midwest architects, Wright among them, objected to the old European influence insisting on and creating a new truly American style. This became known as the Prairie School, with which Wright first experimented in Oak Park as a precocious 22 year old. Its horizontal orientation reflected the American experience of the wide open prairie as opposed to the urbanized vertical clutter of the Old World. The AIA calls Willits House “the first house to embody all the classic elements of the Prairie style,” which included the absence of doors to mimic the ‘wide-open space’ of the prairie long before the concepts of local sourcing and sustainability were on trend, Wright was using locally sourced material. Here his ‘organic’ style took hold, the idea that buildings should look like they grew out of the landscape. In return, a hundred leaded windows, the use of which Wright pioneered, firmly integrated the interior living space into its natural surroundings.

"Willits House" by User:JeremyA - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.
Willits House” by User:JeremyAOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

13. Unity Temple (1904) -Oak Park, Illinois

When Oak Park’s Unitarian Church burned down in 1905 Wright sought the commission to replace it. What he came up with according to the church website “broke nearly every existing rule and convention for American and European religious architecture.” There were few things Wright liked more than breaking rules in his work and life. It looks fortress-like from the outside but inside the space soars with geometric patterns and stained glass in earth tones to denote again the connection to nature. It was there Wright said that he realized that a building’s space was more important than its walls. It has been a national Historic Site since 1971. It was also, as the AIA declares, the “first significant American architectural statement in poured concrete.” The Church’s trustees thanked the architect by resolving that “We believe the building will long endure as a monument to his artistic genius and that, so long as it endures, it will stand forth as a masterpiece of art and architecture.”

Unity Temple

12. S.C. Johnson Administration Building (1936) -Racine, Wisconsin

Thirty years after his Unity Church triumphant exercise in design and space, Wright ventured to his home state of Wisconsin to create what has been called one of Wright’s most “astonishing” spaces, the S.C. Johnson Administration Building. Yes as in Johnson’s Wax. The family owned company’s ambitious leader S.C Johnson sought out Wright in the midst of the Great Depression because, he explained, “I wanted to build the best office building in the world, and the only way to do that was to get the greatest architect in the world.”  Wright had an uncanny knack to design places that look like sets from Star Date 2317.9 on Star Trek. The Great Workroom features 43 miles of Pyrex glass tubing, so-called birdcage elevators. The “lily pad” columns are 18 ½ feet wide at the top and just 9 inched at the bottom but still incredibly durable. Wright also designed dozens of pieces of furniture.

Photo by: James S. Russell
Photo by: James S. Russell

11. S.C. Johnson Research Tower (1944) -Racine, Wisconsin

In the same vein a few years later, another Johnson wanted a research facility that looked as cutting edge outside, as the research was inside. It was here that iconic consumer brands like Raid, Glade, Off! and Pledge were developed. The result was a structure about as far from the Prairie School as could be imagined. In his book on the project author Mark Hertzberg called it one of the most significant landmarks in modern architecture.  “The fifteen-story skyscraper is the only existing example of Wright’s ambitious taproot design. Like limbs from a tree trunk, alternating square floors and round mezzanines branch out from the weight-bearing central core—a truly revolutionary idea at the time and an engineering marvel today.” No longer in use, it is open to the public, the labs inside restored as they would have appeared when it opened in 1950.Wright did build a Prairie style home for the Johnsons called Wingspread which was said to be the “epitome of organic architecture” which is now a conference center.

Photo by: Mashable
Photo by: Mashable

10. Unitarian Meeting House (1947) -Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin

The Church of Tomorrow was at first a country church, though now in a Madison suburb. This was a rare labor of love for Wright. His father was one of the group’s founders and he himself was an off and on member. When money ran short, he charged a modest fee and organized fund raising events. Parishioners hauled tons of stone from a nearby quarry. He accepted the commission at the age of 78 and would turn 84 by its completion. Again, the compact exterior hid the space inside and Wright returned to the relationship in his mind of the geometric and the spiritual. According to the AIA Wright believed that light and a “geometric type of space” allowed a structure “to achieve the sacred quality particular to worship.” And like the Unity Church in Oak Park, traditional religious form, spires and bells, were absent. At its dedication Wright declared that “This building is itself a form of prayer.”

"UM 1" by Nomadseifer - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
UM 1” by NomadseiferOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

9. Price Company Tower (1952) -Bartlesville, Oklahoma

With the exception of the Johnson Research Tower, Wright’s reputation rested on intricate, innovative low rise structures. By the mid twentieth century, with the country’s increasing urbanization, the action had moved to the art of the high-rise and Wright’s ego compelled him to follow the trend. Fortunately he found an equally ambitious and wealthy oil magnate with a bank account to match his ego named H.C. Price. The original commission was for office space in New York in the 1930’s after the sensational debuts of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The Great Depression forced a long delay, but Wright finally took up the challenge late in life. Though a 19 story building could hardly be called a skyscraper in New York City, it certainly was in Bartlesville in 1956. The AIA praised the concept as having the “organic ideal of the tree. A tap-root foundation solidly anchors the building to its site, and cantilevered floors hang like branches from the structural core.” It can still be seen for miles on the Oklahoma prairie and is open to the public.

Photo by: M Gerwing Architects
Photo by: M Gerwing Architects

8. Beth Sholom Synagogue (1954) -Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

A late tour de force by an architect who was 86 when he accepted the commission struck by the Rabbi’s request to build “a new thing—the American spirit wedded to the ancient spirit of Israel.” Wright responded with a design laden with symbolism, a tent like structure in glass walls whose interior as the AIA says “allows the sanctuary to soar to a height of 100 feet without internal supports.” The peaked front represents Mount Sinai, the beige carpets are the sands the chosen people had to cross. It is almost more spectacular by night as interior light seems to make the glass walls glow with an otherworldly energy source. He wrote he wanted to make the “kind of building in which people, on entering it, will feel as if they were resting in the hands of God.” The formal opening and dedication of Beth Sholom (House of Peace) was held in the fall of 1959, five months after Wright died.

Photo by: Dami's Findings
Photo by: Dami’s Findings

7. Frederick C. Robie House (1906) -Chicago, Illinois

The final seven structures on our list are the ones that also made the AIA’s Top 150 favorite pieces of architecture according to the public poll “America’s Favorite Architecture” conducted by The AIA and Harris Interactive. At #138 on their list is The Robie House, considered Wright’s masterpiece of the Prairie Style. The Institute notes how “Concealed steel beams create long, uninterrupted spaces that extend through windows onto porches and balconies, making walls disappear,” echoing his belief that spaces are more important than walls, and that more than a century before the locally sourced philosophy became a mantra of the creative class, Wright had invoked it as his. Even the wood he used was left in a natural state, unvarnished, unpainted. Its open space inside astonishes after viewing the squat and sturdy horizontal. The attention to detail in furniture, art, glass and windows is mind-boggling but manages to seem truly artistic rather than lavish.

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

6. Hollyhock House (1917) -Los Angeles, California

Number 131 on the Favorites List, built from 1919 to 1921, interior rooms connect to gardens with rooftop terraces affording spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills and Pacific Ocean. It was Wright’s first west coast project and he developed a style specific to the region that he called California Romanza, though from some angles it resembles a Mayan temple. The eclectic Wright admired the Mayan ‘mighty, primitive abstractions of man’s nature.” It was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, a pioneer in the realm of Avant garde theater, a fervent feminist and radical activist for social justice who knew Emma Goldman and was watched by the FBI for decades. Barnsdall and Wright bickered constantly so the full project was never finished. Barnsdall donated the house (said to be named for her favorite flower) to the city. The house was nearly turned into a sports center and fell into such disrepair it was nearly razed. Eventually it was become the artistic center that Barnsdall always wanted and is now open to the public.

trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com
trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

5. V.C. Morris Gift Shop (1948) -San Francisco, California

Perhaps the smallest gem in the Wright firmament. The formidable looking exterior seems hardly appropriate for a retail space, yet something about its precision and detail beckons, especially the futuristic look of the lighting grilles beside the arch. The effect is created by losing every second brick and filling the space with back lighting. The dazzling interior features the stark contrast of black walnut furniture and the white reinforced concrete of the spiral ramp. It’s known for being the precursor to the grand design of the Guggenheim Museum of 1956. When the owner questioned the absence of storefront windows, Wright, imperiously replied, “We are not going to dump your beautiful merchandise on the street, but create an arch-tunnel of glass, into which the passers-by may look and be enticed. As they penetrate further into the entrance, seeing the shop inside with its spiral ramp and tables set with fine china and crystal, they will suddenly push open the door, and you’ve got them!”

"Frank Lloyd Wright - V.C. Morris Gift Shop, SF - 3" by Daderot - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Frank Lloyd Wright – V.C. Morris Gift Shop, SF – 3” by DaderotOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

4. Taliesin West (1937) -Scottsdale, Arizona

Ranked as 123rd on the Most Popular list, Taliesin West was Wright’s winter home and is now home to a school of architecture and the FLW Foundation. It is a national historic monument and is perhaps his greatest achievement in his beloved organic architecture as it seems to be not so much built onto the desert mountain landscape but rather to emerge from as part of it. The AIA praises it as “most dramatic assimilation of a building into a natural environment.” It’s named after his Wisconsin home (ta-LEE-son), the name of renowned 6th century Welsh Poet and translates as “Shining Brow.” Wright and his apprentices personally built and maintained this much beloved home, which Wright called “the top of the world.” It personifies the Wright creed that everything from the grandest design to the smallest detail were equally important parts of the organic whole. “It is quite impossible”, he said,” to consider the building as one thing, its furnishings another and its setting and environment still another,” he concluded. “The spirit in which these buildings are conceived sees all these together at work as one thing.”

"TaliesinWest03 gobeirne" by I, Gobeirne. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons
TaliesinWest03 gobeirne” by I, Gobeirne. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1956) -New York, New York

Not only at 74th on the Popular List, the iconic Guggenheim Museum is also one of nine Wright creations nominated for status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for “creating a new paradigm for the museum…the imagination, daring form, new construction techniques, and resonant symbolic shape.” A staggering masterpiece full of staggering masterpieces, and perhaps Wright’s best know work. The whirling dervish exterior is actually derived from the “ziggurat” motif of ancient Babylonian temple design from the 6th century BCE. The stubborn architect insisted on a location near central park to anchor it in nature. The Museum website calls the interior “a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares.” He even brought his cardinal rule of open space eschewing walls and compartments, his radical concept takes visitors straight to the top and then lets them wander down a spiral ramp sort of surfing the galleries on the way down to the floor of the spectacular rotunda. Once criticized for overshadowing the Guggenheims’ incredible collection of art.

Victoria Lipov / Shutterstock.com
Victoria Lipov / Shutterstock.com

2. Taliesin East (1911) -Spring Green, Wisconsin

The Wright family home after the Chicago years, and 30th most Popular. It has been described as the architect’s “autobiography in wood and stone.” It has a dour exterior but as usual the inside explodes with a celebration of space, light and integration with nature as the Wisconsin River Valley fills every window. There is a fascinating 3D HD tour of the house that is the next best thing to being there, the perfection, the astonishing look of “everything just so”, right down to the single horseshoe over one of the fireplaces. Local wood and stone somehow cohabit in harmony and balance with exotic statuary and huge Japanese prints. The thought suddenly occurs, “What is keeping this place up? The absence of walls and visible beams suggests an insight into Wright’s Byzantine thoughts, that is his tribute to the wide open spaces, the Frontier, which until the intrusion of the automobile defined the American psyche and its expression was a distinctly American style of architecture.

Taliesin Spring Green

1. Fallingwater (1935) -Mill Run, Pennsylvania

The 39th Most Popular is audacious, outrageous genius, just like its creator. The Kaufmann’s were a wealthy Pittsburgh family whose department store was a huge success. They wanted a summer home on their patch of land 67 miles southwest of the city featuring their favorite view of the 30 ft. waterfall. They reach out to Wright who at his point was at the lowest point of his life, down and just about out. The Great Depression and Wright’s own erratic sometimes offensive behavior had left him without commissions, friends or money. Someone in his position might be expected to bend over backwards to please his life-saving client. But true to form, Wright shocked his patrons with a design that placed the home on top of the beloved falls whose view they were so looking forward to. It went the 1938 version of viral when unveiled as a magical place that appeared to be built on thin air jutting out over the falls. Wright said he wanted them to live with the falls, not just occasionally look at them. Deeply influenced by Japanese architecture while on a project in Tokyo, he was proud with the resulting harmonic coexistence of man and nature (although the risky design would lead to chronic problems requiring constant repair.) Wright seized his out of the blue chance at redemption and created his ultimate masterpiece, cementing his legacy as the greatest American architect of all time.

"Fallingwater - DSC05639" by Daderot - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Fallingwater – DSC05639” by DaderotOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Things to See and Do in Arizona

Located in southwestern United States, the state of Arizona is the sixth largest and 15th most populous state in the country. Being one of the four-corner states, it borders on New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California and Mexico. It is most notable for its desert climate with very hot summers and mild winters. The northern half of the state is alive with Pine, Douglas Fir and Spruce forests, mountain ranges and canyons. It has much more mild temperatures in the summer than the southern part and significant snowfall amounts in the winter making it a great place for ski resorts. With such diverse landscape and climate, Arizona is a great destination for your vacation.

12. Big Surf

Located in Tempe, Big Surf is a waterpark that opened in 1969 and is reputed to have had the first wave pool in the United States. The Waikiki Beach Wave Pool was recognized for being “the first inland surfing facility in North America” and became the first waterpark to receive status as an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Big Surf is the perfect destination for the entire family with the wave pool where you can surf, boogie board or raft. They even have surf boards, boogie boards and rafts on hand for your use. Bora Bora Bay is great for the kids who love to climb but adults must be accompanied by children to enter. The slides are incredible…with Otter Slides, Hurricane Slides, The Black Hole, Tornado Twisters and more. The park even has the Mauna Kea Zip Line which sends you zipping over the wave pool from one side to the other. Thrilling, safe and fun times will be had by all.

Photo by: Big Surf
Photo by: Big Surf

11. Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped portion of the Colorado River located near the town of Page, Arizona. A hike of 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round trip off U.S. Route 89 will take you there, but there is also an access road available because it is part of a state park. You can also view the bend from the cliff above.

Venture out to Horseshoe Bend on foot or in your vehicle or you can see it via other means. There are helicopter tours where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the bend from above, showing you the full expanse and beautiful colors of the waters and land below. There is also the Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon Tour where you can be picked up from your hotel in Flagstaff or Sedona, go north to Antelope Canyon after a walk through a slot canyon and then over to Horseshoe Bend for a hike to the rim overlook. Though there is some hiking involved, this trip is suitable for just about anyone.

Horseshoe Bend

10. Bird Cage Theater

Tombstone’s Bird Cage Theater was a theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel that operated from 1881 to 1889. The name actually referred to the fourteen cages or boxes that were situated on the two balconies on either side of the main central hall. The boxes were equipped with drapes that could be drawn while the ladies of the brothel entertained their customers. The main hall contained a stage and orchestra pit where live performances took place. It is now a tourist attraction preserving the old west.

It has a reputation for being one of the wildest and wickedest places in Tombstone during its eight year stint in the 1880s where it is said that 26 people were killed there. Over one hundred and twenty bullet holes remain as evidence of the wild and dangerous past of the building. The theater is full of authentic memorabilia from back then with photographs adorning the walls. I would take several days to really see and experience everything housed in this theater.

Bird Cage Theater

9. O.K. Corral

The O.K. Corral is located in Tombstone and was originally a livery and horse corral. Though best known for the infamous ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’, the shootout actually took place in a lot six door west of the rear entrance to the corral. The 1957 movie, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was responsible for making this particular shootout a classic movie moment engrained in the public’s memories.

The actual gunfight at the O.K. Corral lasted only about 30 seconds between outlaw cowboys and lawmen and is touted as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Wild West. It was the result of a long-time feud involving Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury and the opposing lawmen of the town – Marshall Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshall Morgan Earp and temporary deputy Marshalls Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Though Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne walked away unharmed, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were not so fortunate and were killed. Virgil, Morgan and Doc Holiday were injured but Wyatt Earp walked away unscathed. You can experience this famous gunfight with entertaining re-enactments in an Old West setting.

Atomazul / Shutterstock.com
Atomazul / Shutterstock.com

8. Reid Park Zoo

The Reid Park Zoo is a 24 acre (97 hectare) non-profit city-owned zoo located in Tucson. With over 500 animals it consists of four zones organized by habitats and the animals housed there. The Adaptation Zone houses animals including grizzly bears and the Aldabra giant tortoise, the South America Zone houses animals like the jaguar and spectacled bear, the Asian Zone houses such animals as tigers and Malayan sun bear and the African Animals Zone is home to animals such as lions and giraffes. An expansion to the African Animals Zone is Expedition Tanzania which houses a herd of 6 African elephants. Flight Connection is a large aviary which serves as home to dozens of bird species from Australia, Africa and Asia.

The Zoo hosts summer camps, free workshops for teachers and even hosts a tour of South Africa. This very interactive Zoo is not only fun but also educational and exciting because of the many programs and activities always going on.

Peacock

7. Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon, often referred to as the little cousin of the Grand Canyon because of its breathtaking scenery, is a river gorge located between Flagstaff and Sedona. You can enter the canyon via many hairpin turns on Route 89A and continue down until it reaches the bottom in Sedona. It’s about 12 miles (19 km) long, ranges in width from about 0.8 to 2.5 miles (1.3 to 4.0 km) and ranges in depth from 800 to 2,000 feet (240 to 610 m). Oak Creek runs through the bottom of the canyon.

Touted as one of the top 5 most scenic drives in America, the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is about 14 miles (22.5 km) long. You can ascend the canyon from Sedona or descend from Flagstaff since either route is equally beautiful. The red-faced cliffs, massive oak trees and evergreen pine trees make for a stunning vibrant panorama. A popular stop along the drive is Slide Rock where you can enjoy some aquatic recreation. Passengers have the advantage during the drive, since the driver’s full attention is needed for the hairpin turns, but there are many places to pull off and enjoy the view along the way.

Oak Creek Canyon

6. Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam, formerly known as Boulder Dam, is located on the Colorado River between the borders of Arizona and Nevada. Constructed during the great depression, the dam was built at the cost of over one hundred lives. The concrete arch-gravity dam holds back Lake Mead and produces hydroelectric power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona and California.

The view from the dam is awe-inspiring and no trip to Arizona would be complete without stopping there. Even if you have time constraints, driving over the dam just to experience its massive size and amazing view is well worth the trip. There are many viewpoints around the dam too where you can just stop for a few moments to take it all in and snap some pictures. If you have more time, there are power plant tours which offer presentations and exhibits on how the dam operates and will allow you to see some of the lesser known areas of the dam. There are many accommodations close to the dam including hotels and campgrounds if you want to stay in the area a little longer.

Hoover Dam

5. Phoenix Zoo

Opened in 1962, the Phoenix Zoo is a privately owned non-profit zoo and has been designated a Phoenix Point of Pride. There are over 1,400 animals who call the zoo home and has 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of walking trails. The trails are divided into four distinct theme areas: The Arizona Trail, the Africa Trail, the Tropics Trail and the Children’s Trail.

The Arizona Trail features the wildlife and plants native to the state of Arizona which include coyotes, the collared peccary, mountain lion and bobcat to name a few, as well as plants including the saguaro cactus. The Africa Trail showcases animals like African wild dogs, mandrills, ostriches, white rhinos, meerkats, giraffes, African lions, Sumatran tigers and more. The Tropics Trail has two parts with the inner trail following the lake and home to Tropical Flights aviary as well as ring-tailed lemurs, and Monkey Village. The outer trail runs by the Land of the Dragons exhibit, Asian elephants, anteaters and many different kinds of tropical birds. The Children’s Trail features a petting zoo at the Harmony Farm and lets children get up close and personal with small mammals from around the world.

flamingos

4. River Rafting

If you are the adventuresome type, there are opportunities for river rafting all over the state of Arizona. The natural beauty and rivers all over this state are abundant just about everywhere you go. You can go to Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff or Marble Canyon for rafting adventure with one of the many river rafting adventure companies.

You can contact Arizona River Runners for a Grand Canyon adventure of a lifetime. You will see the soaring canyon walls, Indian ruins, wildlife and of course the amazing white water guided by knowledgeable professionals. Salt River Rafting runs guided white water rafting trips through Salt River Canyon and is family-friendly…a safe and fun adventure for everyone. You can take half-day, one-day or multi-day and camp-out raft trips which include wetsuits and great guides. Arizona Raft Adventures specialize in 6 to 16 day raft trips through the Grand Canyon if you are a die-hard rafter. No matter what your skill/fear level, the professionals can assure that you enjoy a safe and amazing experience.

rafting grand canyon

3. Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park is divided in two districts with Rincon Mountain District lying approximately 20 miles (32 km) east and the Tucson Mountain District lying 15 miles (24 km) west of the center of Tucson, Arizona. There are two visitors’ centers, one in each district and are both easily accessible by car but there is no public transportation available into the park. The name Saguaro comes from the name of a cactus native to the area though there are many other kinds of cacti abundant in the park as well.

In 1933 the Saguaro National Monument was erected. If you travel in the heat of summer, you can find some great deals at local resorts but in the winter months when the weather is milder, prices tend to rise significantly. The park has some amazing trails like the narrow, rocky and steep Tanque Verde Ridge Trail in the east district featuring a spectacular view of the Tucson Basin and King Canyon Trail in the west which leads to the summit of Wasson Peak, the highest point in the park.

Saguaro National Park

2. Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140 acres (57 hectares) botanical garden in Phoenix, Arizona. The garden houses more than 21,000 plants, of which one third is native to the area and 139 are endangered or threatened and very rare. It has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride.

You can tour the Botanical Gardens independently on their scenic trails or take a tour and join in on some of the special family-friendly activities hosted there. There is an Ask a Gardener held on weekends where you can get hints and advice from professionals for your own garden. The Garden Flashlight Tours are Thursday and Saturday evening events where you get to see, hear and feel the desert night. It’s a self-paced tour and perfect for all ages. Other activities include Garden Discovery Stations, Talks in the Garden, Birds in the Garden, audio tours and activities specially designed for children. The Music in the Garden Concert Series is held from October to June and allows you to stroll through the garden to the Ullman Terrace where you can sit and listen to the Valley’s premier musicians.

Sue Stokes / Shutterstock.com
Sue Stokes / Shutterstock.com

1. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. The central feature consists of the Grand Canyon and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The park covers 1,217,262 acres (492,608 hectares) in two counties. Though the landmark was well known long before, it wasn’t declared a National Park until 1919.

You can visit the South Rim which has close to two dozen vantage points giving you the most common views over the canyon as seen on TV and movies. Grand Canyon West is a little harder to get to so requires some prior planning but is well worth the effort with its three blue-green waterfalls. Grand Canyon East is home to two of the canyon’s hidden treasures, the Little Colorado River Tribal Park and Horseshoe Bend where you can have your photo taken with the Colorado River in the background and The North Rim, though part of the same canyon, feels like a totally different area where you can hear the echoes of canyon wren in the peace and tranquility all around you.

Grand Canyon South Rim