Desert Shelter Tour

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

Zerve Seller: TaliesinWest
Activity #3874
  • Explore the desert area while your guide reveals how native materials and landforms were translated into design elements by Wright.

  • Experience what it was like to be a guest in Wright's famous home on our signature tour which includes the Taliesin West Garden Room.

  • Experience Wright's architectural genius on this 3-hour behind the scenes tour which includes guest speakers and even mid-morning tea.

  • Discover Wright’s ability to integrate indoor & outdoor spaces such as the Cabaret Theater and Wright's office.

  • Wright's creation at night takes on a luminous, jewel-like quality and the structures, lit from within, form a truly dramatic setting.

  • Special tours for large groups can be arranged for guests looking to experience both the interior and exterior areas of Taliesin West.

  • We also schedule private tours of Wright's Taliesin West with an architect or personal tour guide for individuals or small groups.

Available Dates & Times Price Duration
All times listed are Arizona time zone
Gift Certificates:


Frank Lloyd Wright began building this desert masterpiece in 1937 as his personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus. Located on the beautiful Sonoran desert in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, the site offers a broad range of guided public tours where visitors can experience Wright’s brilliance.

On the 2-Hour Desert "Shelter" Tour you'll experience life as an architecture student at Taliesin West. As part of their studies, first-year architecture students generally live in simple eight-foot square shepherds' tents.  Then later on during their studies they will design more elaborate "shelters" for themselves.

On these dynamic desert tours the students in the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture lead the way to show guests their student shelter housing which has been called, "the coolest dorms in the world."  Guests will learn about the innovative shelter program at Taliesin West, a tradition that has existed since Frank Lloyd Wright first slept under the stars in a simple canvas shelter on the ground that would become Taliesin West.

Meeting Location

Taliesin Drive (Scottsdale, AZ) (Exact meeting location details will be provided immediately upon purchase of tickets.)
54 Reviews Rating: 4.9 4.9 out of 5.0
Verified Customer Reviews
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# of Reviews Positive
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% Positive Average
Last 3 months 9 24 0 = 24 100% 4.8
Last 6 months 9 24 0 = 24 100% 4.8
Last 12 months 15 42 0 = 42 100% 4.9
All 54 146 0 = 146 100% 4.8
54 Reviews
Displaying 1 - 10
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Rating: 5
Wish I were younger...
Sat, Feb 6  1:15 PM Male 70+ Domestic Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
I'd like to sign up for this architecture course and live in one of these shelters. Unique experience for occupants as well as visitors. I'll save that for my next lifetime.

Be prepared for some trekking. A bit of scrambling over loose granite and rocks on a sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not, trail. Take water and, if you're ancient, like I am, grab a seat whenever the opportunity presents itself.

But the shelters, plus the guide explanations, are certainly worth the experience. Especially if you're an acolyte of FLW. Edgar was very knowledgeable and engaging, and we enjoyed his insights immensely. We got a rare glimpse of the everyday lives of the architecture students and how they live, a valuable addition to our previous tours of the buildings and grounds.
Rating: 3
Was interesting, but could have been improved
Sat, Feb 6  1:15 PM Male 60-69 Domestic Tourist(s) Group of Friends
Good guide - enthusiastic, knowledgable, good personality - but too many people on tour -- esp. for the high price of a ticket.

Not always able to hear guide. He needed to always speak to whole group rather than those in front of line and repeat questions so all could have a reference point.

Would have liked more facts about how shelters were made, the "donation system", the clearly unequal $$ spent by students, the reasons for only sleeping in the shelters (and doing everything else in "regular "buildings), the role parents with higher incomes obviously play in the building of the shelters, what the students are required to do - and volunteer to do - around the school, besides leading tours, the future of the shelters, ie. fixing broken glass, rotting wood, crumbling concrete. Each is unique and should be better taken care of.
Rating: 5
Taliesin West Desert Shelter Tour
Sat, Feb 6  1:15 PM Male 60-69 Domestic Tourist(s) Individual
Loved the tour. Great to see the different shelters built by architectural students at Taliesin West. Our guide was a student himself so was able to nice good insight to how the students lived and studied both at Taliesin West and back in Wisconsin at Taliesin East. Saw many student-built desert shelters each with their own history and in some cases present residents.
Rating: 5
Fantastic Taliesin Shelter Tour
Sat, Jan 23  1:15 PM Female 40-49 Local Group of Friends
This tour is led by one of the architecture students. (Thank you Garth, you were fantastic!). Walking to the various shelters with a student (who actually lives in one of them) is great because he points out the most interesting elements of each shelter based on what he's learned from instructors & alumni as well as discussion with other students currently living in these structures.. Garth shared great anecdotes about each shelter and fascinating insights into architectural concept and experimentation. Some of these structures date back to the 30s, others are composed of modern materials. All are fascinating. He talked about construction issues, interactive issues, and the personalities who built these shelters. It was an amazing experience and one we will repeat. It was absolutely wonderful.
Rating: 5
Informal and Fun Tour
Sat, Jan 9  1:15 PM Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified Unspecified
This tour was led by two current students at Taliesin West, and they were quick to answer questions and go off-script when asked. There are lots of interesting things to see just past the Taliesin West that everyone else is visiting. I recommend this tour to anyone that wants to see organic architecture boiled down to it's most basic form.
Rating: 5
desert shelter tour fun
Sat, Dec 26, 15  1:15 PM Female 60-69 Combination Family With Children
My husband, son (age 30) and I all enjoyed the tour tremendously. The shelters were intriguing and creative - really a wonder to see! The walk through the desert to get to them was more difficult that I's expected, but really part of the fun. Our guide was well meaning and enthusiastic but did not provide much information. i'd like to do this tour again, but with a different guide.
Rating: 5
Desert Tour 12-12-15
Sat, Dec 12, 15  1:15 PM Male 50-59 Domestic Tourist(s) Other
I really enjoyed the desert shelter tour and the tour guide Cody was terrific.
Rating: 5
great buildings, great guide
Sat, Dec 5, 15  1:15 PM Female 60-69 Local Group of Friends
Jaime was very informative, and the desert shelters are well worth seeing
Rating: 5
Interesting Shelter Tour
Sat, Nov 28, 15  1:15 PM Female 50-59 Local Family Without Children
We recently participated in the shelter Tour at Taliesin West. It was very enjoyable and interesting to see the rustic living conditions and the creative shelter designs. Our student guide, Cody was very personable and informative. Recommend wearing good walking's not that far, but you do go through the desert sometimes on loose dirt. Also bring water. Even in November we got thirsty.
Rating: 5
Offered insight into the school
Sat, Apr 11, 15  1:15 PM Female 70+ Domestic Tourist(s) Individual
A few steps were slightly precarious, but the guides lent helping hands. The tour was ever so interesting and was worth the effort!
Displaying 1 - 10 of 54
Ratings and Reviews for:
Do I need to buy tickets in advance?
Advance purchase is highly recommended, as space is limited per tour. To maximize your chances of getting the day and time you prefer, please book well in advance. Tickets can be purchased using a Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Are there any age limits? Can we bring our kids?
Unfortunately, children under the age of 12 are not allowed on this tour. If you have young children we recommend you click on the "Calendar of Other Activities" link to the left and check out one of our other tours that might be more appropriate for kids.
What about bad weather?
The majority of this tour takes place outside and will run in light or moderate weather, but may be cancelled in the case of severe weather. You will be notified if the tour is cancelled and will be allowed to reschedule your tickets or receive credit for a future event.
How much walking will we do and what is the terrain like?
We generally walk approximately 1 to 1.25 miles along dirt paths through the desert on this tour. This can include some uneven and rocky ground with cacti along the path so appropriate footwear is required for this tour.
Can we explore Taliesin West on our own or do we need to take a tour?
All tours of Taliesin West are guided and guests are not allowed to explore on their own. Admission to the bookstore is free of charge but guests must have tour tickets to view the remainder of the property.
Is Taliesin West handicap accessible?
Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark built between 1937 and 1959. As such, it was not designed or built to contemporary accessibility standards. This tour in particular is not handicap accessible due to the dirt paths with uneven and rocky ground that we walk on.
Do you allow photography?
Guests are welcome to take photos for their personal use. There are a few areas where we do not allow photography, but your tour guide will alert you to these areas during the tour. If you are looking to use photos in a professional capacity, please contact us prior to purchasing your tickets by clicking on the "Contact TaliesinWest" link to make arrangements.
Is Taliesin West open all year round?
Yes, we operate tours throughout the entire year. However, the Desert Shelter Tour does not run all year round and only runs from mid-November through April. Please be sure to check our "Calendar of Other Activities" for the exact tour schedule on the day you plan to visit.
Do you have a gift shop?
Yes, Anneliese's Bookstore is located next to the main parking lot and stocks the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright Collection® products and books. Admission to the bookstore is free of charge and its regular hours of operation are 8:30am to 6:00pm October - May, 8:30am - 4pm June - August and 8:30am - 5pm in September.
What should I wear? What should I bring?
We recommend wearing comfortable clothing and we require wearing shoes appropriate for walking on desert trails. We recommend closed-toe shoes with a sturdy sole. Guests wearing flip-flops or sandals will not be allowed to participate. Since the tour does take place outside, we also recommend bringing a bottle of water and an umbrella. While we have a limited number of umbrellas available for guests, they can come in handy both on rainy and sunny days in the desert.
Are food and drinks available for purchase?
w We don't have food available for purchase. We do not recommend bringing outside food or drink on your tour, unless you'd like to bring a bottle of water, therefore we suggest grabbing something to eat either before or after your tour.
Is there parking available?
Yes, there is a free parking lot for all guests.
Are pets allowed to come?
No, other than certified service dogs, pets are not permitted.
What about guests with special needs?
Guests with special needs who are interested in visiting us but choose not to take the walking tour may request an Interpretive Guide and view a video on the history of Taliesin West while on site. Visually and hearing impaired guests who wish to bring someone to provide assistance on the tour such as a sign language interpreter may do so and the person providing assistance will not be charged admission.
Do you offer gift certificates?
Yes! Gift certificates are available and they make perfect gifts for holidays, birthdays or any other occasion! To purchase a gift certificate please click on the "Gift Certificates: Purchase" link in the box above.
Do you allow private parties or events?
Spacious Taliesin West is well suited for hosting exclusive corporate receptions and dinners. Groups ranging in size from 20 to 120 have experienced memorable evenings at Taliesin West using the many indoor and outdoor spaces. For more information about setting up a private event, please click on the "Contact TaliesinWest" link to get in touch with our staff.
Do you offer large group tours?
Yes, group tours are available and tours can be custom designed for prearranged groups of 15 or more. Please click on the "Contact TaliesinWest" link to discuss.
Can we do a private tour?
With advance notice (seven day notice preferred), individuals with very small groups may schedule a tour by an architect or personal guide. Please click on the "Contact TaliesinWest" link to discuss pricing and reservations.


Refund/Rescheduling Policy

Non-refundable, can be rescheduled with 24 hours notice.
Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded. You may reschedule your tickets (subject to availability) only if you do so at least 24 hours in advance.

Weather Policy

Activity may be cancelled due to severe weather.
The activity usually runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but the seller may cancel the activity up to an hour before the start time in the event of severe or unsafe weather conditions. If the seller cancels the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit for a future event.

Other Policies

Children under 12 are not permitted on this tour.
Children under the age of 12 are not allowed on this tour. Please consider another tour option if you will be attending with young children.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is proud to present, Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s world-famous home and architectural laboratory, which offers guests the unique, immersive experience of a powerful and extremely personal National Historic Landmark.

Just minutes from downtown Scottsdale, Taliesin West is Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert masterpiece. In 1937, Wright and his apprentices built an architectural wonder out of the stone and sand that surrounded them in the Sonoran desert on the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. Many of those apprentices (“the Fellowship”) who worked and lived alongside Mr. Wright still live at Taliesin West, as do the current students and faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture -- making Taliesin West an ongoing, vibrant community.

The Taliesin West experience is both immersive and powerful. Guests are fully welcomed into every room and space—nothing on the tour is behind ropes or under glass. The tours, which include such attractions as the Cabaret Theater, Music Pavilion, Garden Room, Desert Shelters, and Mr. Wright’s living quarters and private office, are filled with surprise, majestic views, and intimate interior details. Each tour inspires visitors with the innovative principles, beautiful creations, technological experiments, and unparalleled body of work of Frank Lloyd Wright. As a result, guests find the Taliesin West tour experience delightfully engaging and deeply relevant. While photos and descriptions may give you a hint of what’s in store, there is no substitute for experiencing it first-hand.

Come to Taliesin West and be inspired.
Please call Zerve at
1 (800) 979-3370
to get more information or
book this activity now
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