Take a Magical Winter Walk on the Grounds of Fallingwater

Winter may not be the most obvious time to explore architectural wonders, but a visit to Fallingwater in the winter months unveils a unique and enchanting experience. The iconic residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, nestled within the snow-covered landscapes of southwestern Pennsylvania, offers visitors a serene and magical ambiance that differs from the usual bustling atmosphere during the warmer seasons.

By Tre Harrington

Fallingwater Outside in Winter

Fallingwater, also known as the Kaufmann Residence, is a famous architectural masterpiece designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Located in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, about 43 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater is a prime example of Wright's organic architecture, seamlessly integrating the structure with its natural surroundings.

Commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann, a successful Pittsburgh department store owner, and his wife Liliane in 1935, Fallingwater is located in the Bear Run Nature Reserve in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Kaufmanns originally contacted Wright to design a weekend home on their property, which included a waterfall. Wright, known for his organic architecture principles that emphasized harmony with nature, immediately saw the potential of integrating the house with the natural beauty of the site, particularly the waterfall over Bear Run.

Fallingwater Outside in Spring

Construction began in 1936, and Fallingwater was completed in 1939. The house represents a departure from traditional architectural norms of the time, as it was built over the waterfall, rather than facing it. The design is a testament to Wright's philosophy of "organic architecture," where structures are in harmony with their natural surroundings.

One of the most iconic features of Fallingwater is its cantilevered design, with large, horizontal terraces that seem to float over the waterfall. This daring architectural innovation was a testament to Wright's vision and engineering prowess.

Witnessing Fallingwater adorned in a blanket of pristine snow transforms the architectural masterpiece into a winter wonderland. The white surroundings highlight the organic lines and structural elegance of the house, providing a picturesque setting that is both peaceful and visually stunning. The contrast of the warm tones of the house against the snowy backdrop creates a captivating scene, offering a unique perspective on this iconic structure.

Fallingwater Inside

Winter visits often come with fewer crowds, allowing visitors a more intimate and contemplative experience. The tranquility of the snow-covered landscape enhances the sense of solitude and connection with nature, fostering a deep appreciation for the harmonious relationship between the architecture and its surroundings.

The winter season brings attention to the intricate details of Fallingwater's design. With fewer distractions, visitors can focus on the craftsmanship, textures, and unique features that make this architectural gem a testament to Frank Lloyd Wright's genius. Snow accents the lines and angles, highlighting the thoughtfully integrated elements of the house within its natural environment.

Fallingwater Inside Rendering

Fallingwater is renowned for its seamless integration with the natural environment. The use of local materials, such as sandstone and tidewater red cypress, complements the natural surroundings and enhances the sense of unity with the landscape. Bear Run, the stream that runs underneath Fallingwater, takes on a different charm in winter. The flowing water transforms into delicate ice formations, creating a captivating spectacle. The frozen landscape adds an extra layer of beauty to the already breathtaking scenery and offers a different perspective on the dynamic relationship between the architecture and its natural surroundings.

Stepping inside Fallingwater during the winter months provides a cozy and intimate experience. The interior spaces, designed to connect seamlessly with the outdoors, offer warmth and comfort. Visitors can appreciate the play of natural light and the interplay of materials while feeling sheltered from the winter chill outside. The house features an open floor plan, a hallmark of Wright's designs, creating a sense of flow and connection between interior and exterior spaces. Large windows and balconies provide stunning views of the waterfall and surrounding forest. Wright incorporated the natural water features of the site into the design. The sound of the waterfall permeates the house, creating a tranquil and immersive experience. Fallingwater showcases meticulous attention to detail, from custom-designed furnishings to intricate detailing in the stonework. The craftsmanship reflects Wright's commitment to both form and function.

Fallingwater is considered a pinnacle of American architecture and has received widespread acclaim for its innovation and beauty. In 1966, it was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1991, the American Institute of Architects named Fallingwater the "best all-time work of American architecture."

Visiting Fallingwater in the winter is not just an architectural pilgrimage; it's an opportunity to witness this iconic structure in a different light—literally and metaphorically. Embracing the serene beauty of Fallingwater amidst the winter landscape offers a unique and immersive experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the harmonious blend of architecture and nature in a season that adds its own layer of magic to this timeless masterpiece.

Fallingwater Overlooking River

The house is now owned and operated by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which offers guided tours to visitors interested in experiencing this architectural marvel firsthand. Fallingwater stands as a testament to Frank Lloyd Wright's genius and his enduring impact on the world of architecture.

If you are not able to tour Fallingwater in person, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy now offers a Fallingwater From Home program. Explore webinars that allow you to join Fallingwater staff and expert guests as they discuss a wide range of topics including art, design, architecture and preservation. You can even watch as Fallingwater is built via a video animation. And if you want to see what is currently happening at Fallingwater, check out this real time Fallingwater Cam.

For families, the Conservancy also has a kid friendly section which has great activities for your little ones to expand their architectural knowledge. Each year they also host a Gnome House Design Challenge. The Gnome House Design Challenge is a great option for homeschoolers, scout troops, school groups and individual students. Students or teachers will receive seven design assignments, which will challenge them to work through the steps of the architectural design process as an independent project or with their classroom teacher. Find more info here if you are interested.

To Plan Your Visit to Fallingwater

Winter Walks available January 2 through March 15, 2024. Gate open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. Book reservations online or call 724-329-8501. Please plan your visit a minimum of 4-6 weeks in advance if you’d like to visit during the peak seasons in July, August or October.

Allow at least 15 additional minutes for travel. The roads around Fallingwater are rural, two-lane roads. Some of these roads are currently under construction. Please review these maps and directions to Fallingwater.

Families with children younger than 6 are encouraged to experience Fallingwater through Family Field Trips, Guided Grounds Walking Tours and Grounds Passes.

Download our visitor guide in advance to help with wayfinding throughout the site.

Because Fallingwater is located in a rural area, there is no public transportation to Fallingwater. You will need a car to travel to Fallingwater from your point of arrival or destination. Ride sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are currently not available in the area surrounding Fallingwater.

In planning your entire visit, please allow approximately two hours on site to enjoy at a relaxed pace.

On The Day Of Your Visit

Allow enough time on-site to experience our Visitor Center where you will find our Museum Store and Café. We recommend that you plan to stay with us for at least two hours.

Expect considerable walking on all guided tours. Please wear comfortable walking shoes. There is a ¼ mile walk from the Visitor Center to the house. We offer a shuttle service to and from the house.

Service animals are welcome to join you on the tour and on the grounds around the house. Pets are not permitted in Fallingwater, at the Visitor Center or on the grounds around the house. Although we suggest you don’t leave pets in your car, please use caution if you choose to do so. Our parking lot has limited shade and we cannot guarantee a shaded parking spot. When walking your pets in the parking lot areas, please be sure to use a leash and be courteous of other visitors by cleaning up after your pet.

Note that there are no public restrooms inside Fallingwater. Please use the restrooms at our Visitor Center prior to beginning your tour.

Come prepared for the weather. Currently all experiences are conducted outdoors, and mountain temperatures are generally about 10 degrees colder than those in Pittsburgh. Please bring appropriate clothing and umbrellas.

Summer tours are more comfortable in the cooler, morning hours.

Only small wallets and handheld cameras are permitted on tour. For the protection of Fallingwater and its collections, handbags larger than 10x10x3 inches (25x25x8cm), backpacks of any size, camera bags, tripods and other cumbersome items are prohibited inside Fallingwater and must be left in vehicles or placed in lockers at the Visitor Center prior to your tour.

Outside food is not permitted at Fallingwater’s dining facilities. If you would like to bring your own food, outdoor tables are available at the Barn at Fallingwater located on Route 381 approximately ¼ mile north of the main entrance to Fallingwater.

Fallingwater is a carry-in/carry-out facility. We ask that you take your trash with you when you leave.

We understand that many Fallingwater visitors will have accessibility concerns. We are constantly working to make the visit comfortable for everyone. If you haven’t visited us before, view our Accessibility at Fallingwater page for a few tips to help you make your visit more enjoyable.

All photography, filming, recording on mobile devices, painting and sketching is permitted for personal use only and cannot be sold, published or posted on a website without permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Original works may be exhibited, but reproductions or prints may not be produced. This includes, but is not limited to all photographs, films, mobile recordings, paintings, sketches and drawings generated during your visit.

The use of drones is not permitted on the property. This prohibition extends to any drone launched or operated from Fallingwater property, as well as drones launched from private property outside of Fallingwater but flying over Fallingwater boundaries and/or above Fallingwater facilities.

Families with children younger than 6 are invited to reserve a Guided Grounds Walking Tour, Family Field Trip or self-guided Grounds Passes.

Families may also choose to hike the grounds or nearby Bear Run Nature Reserve while waiting for the rest of their party to complete their house tour.

Bring along comfortable hiking shoes, and enjoy some of our 20 miles of outstanding trails at nearby Bear Run Nature Reserve.

Enjoy the beautiful native rhododendrons which typically bloom with a white to light pink flower from late June through early-mid July.

The Laurel Highlands are brimming with exciting adventures, all within a 25-mile radius of Fallingwater. Since you’re headed to Fallingwater visit the Laurel Highlands website for even more information.

A variety of lodging facilities are located within a 40-mile radius of Fallingwater. You may wish to stay with one of our Lodging Partners in Education, many of which offer packages that include Fallingwater, Wright at Polymath Park and Kentuck Knob. The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau offers additional information about lodging and other nearby sites to visit.

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