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Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house

Jake and I always knew that when we moved from Washington, D.C., the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house, an architectural treasure and National Historic Landmark, would be the first stop on our way out—no matter where we were moving. Sitting inside Bear Run Nature Reserve in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, it’s a little over 3.5 hours from D.C., putting it just out of convenient day-trip range but making it the perfect addition to a road-trip itinerary

VISITING FRANK LLOYED WRIGHT’S FALLINGWATER

FALLINGWATER HISTORY

The Kaufmanns, a prominent Pittsburgh family at the time, commissioned Fallingwater as a weekend house in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. The Kaufmanns, who built their wealth through ownership of one of Pittsburgh’s most successful department stores, were major patrons of the arts and well-respected for their sense of style. The family’s only child, Edgar Kaufmann Jr., met Wright in 1934 before becoming an apprentice at Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship architecture program in Wisconsin. His parents, Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, asked Wright to design a house for them shortly thereafter after meeting Wright while visiting Kaufmann Jr.

Barn in front of orange trees

BEST TIME TO VISIT FALLINGWATER

You can visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house any time of year (as long as it’s not Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day or a Wednesday), but after seeing it in the fall surrounded by foliage, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier time to visit. We went over the first weekend of November, and while some trees had already lost their leaves, other seemed to be at peak color. 

Fallingwater entrance sign
Entrance to Fallingwater shops

FALLINGWATER TICKETS & ADMISSION

The most popular way to see Fallingwater is on a standard guided house tour, though there are all different types of tours you can do, including an in-depth tour. I’d recommend the standard one for your first visit; they run $30 per adult (with $2 in service fees) and $16 per child (ages 6 through 12) and last about an hour. 

When buying tickets for the tour online, the website will prompt you to select both a date and a time—but if turns out you’re running late day-of, don’t worry about it. People simply show up throughout the day and once they do, staff members assign them to a tour group. While the groups leave frequently from the visitors center, they don’t necessarily exactly correspond to the times listed on the website, so you may be subject to a short wait that you can spend at the gift shop or cafe. As long as you make it before closing, though, you’ll make it onto a tour! 

Tours run between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, with the exception of Wednesday. Note that through the Fallingwater website, you can also by tickets to Polymath Park, a separate Wright property that sits about 23 miles away.

Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house
Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater on the river

TOURING FALLINGWATER

Fallingwater, which Wright designed to blend in seamlessly with its natural surroundings, is obviously gorgeous from the outside. It sits over a river whose waterfalls create the “falling water” from which Fallingwater gets its name, and it’s surrounded by a beautiful wooded setting. 

But so much thought and planning went into the house’s interior, too. The regular tour will take you through the house and its carefully constructed open space while pointing out architectural details and providing history on both Frank Lloyd Wright and the Kaufmann family. It’s a fascinating way to spend an hour and it’s super interactive, too, with guides encouraging lots of questions.

River through colorful trees
Yellow leaves by the river

FALLINGWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

Tour guides ask that you don’t photograph the house during the tour, but that’s a request that’s meant to keep you paying attention. After your tour, you’re welcome to stroll through the house and take pictures at your leisure. 

The real money shot is of the house itself, though, and to get that you’ll have to walk a (very) short ways away. There’s a trail to the best photo spot that’s super well-marked—you can’t miss it.

Carly looking at the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house
Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house through the trees

NEXT TIME

If you want to build a weekend around visiting Fallingwater, there’s lots to do in the area that will keep you busy. It sits just under 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh, so you can fly in an drive out if you’re visiting from out of town.

On the architecture front, in addition to Polymath Park, you can see Frank Lloyd Wright’s House on Kentuck Knob, located 7 miles south of Fallingwater. The area is also home to plenty of natural beauty: In nearby Ohiopyle State Park, Youghiogheny River Gorge provides stunning waterfall scenery as well as opportunities for water sports. 

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort provides a variety fo accommodation options just 7 miles from Ohiopyle. If you’re looking to use points for a free stay, you can book Nemacolin through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or use a purchase-erasing card such as the Capital One Venture to wipe the charge from your statement after paying for your stay.

On the flip side, if you’re trying to earn, you can book Nemacolin on Hotels.com to earn 10 points per dollar when paying with the Capital One Venture or VentureOne card.

MILES MATH

When visiting museums, I always pay with a credit card that earns a bonus on entertainment. In my case, that’s the Citi Premier, which earns 2x on the category, but plenty of others—including the Capital One Savor—fall under that umbrella, too.

For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on my next live masterclass. For more on my cross-country road trip, check out this post, which has links to posts from every stop!

Is visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments! >>

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Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
Frank Lloyd Wright nature quote
Fallingwater and Frank Lloyd Wright nature quote

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Carly

December 14, 2018

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