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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West: Home sweet Sonoran home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Credit: 16 Miles of String.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Got house envy? The sluggish real estate market has many would-be movers staying put, but amid the DIY and makeover shows are those showcasing some fantastical cribs and castles. The desert has them in spades, and guests at greater Phoenix hotels can forgo the TV shows with day trips to see them in person.

Wrigley Mansion: You have to sell a lot of gum for a house like this. Lucky William Wrigley Jr. had the power of Juicy Fruit on his side. He built this grand, hilltop home in 1932 and it has since become a landmark, hosting weddings and other events, as well as offering tours. Where to stay: The Arizona Biltmore, a landmark in its own right, is literally steps away. Guests here enjoy accommodations overseen in part by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. The five-star property also boasts a spa, eight pools and access to the Arizona Biltmore Country Club’s two 18-hole golf courses.

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright was a consulting architect on the Biltmore, but his personal winter home and studio in Scottsdale was every inch his own masterpiece, with trademark low ceilings, stone walls and expansive windows allowing nature’s majesty to permeate the space. It hosts an array of tours – day and evening – ranging from one to three hours. Some include hikes amid the breathtaking Sonoran landscape with visits to student-designed desert shelters. Where to stay: Scottsdale’s Phoenician, with its two-acre cactus garden, $25 million art collection and magnificent design aesthetic, affords lovers of architecture an ideal base for exploration.

Mystery Castle: Clearly not of the Wrightian school, Mystery Castle is no less fascinating. After learning he had tuberculosis, Boyce Gulley moved to Phoenix from Seattle and began building this quirky home for his family. It becomes clear while touring that he used whatever materials were available; the castle is said to be held together by an amalgam of resources, one of which is goat’s milk. Where to stay: Legacy Golf Resort offers proximity to both Mystery and luxury in the form of 328 suites, championship golf, and breathtaking mountain and skyline views.

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Freelance travel writer and former PLAYGIRL editor Amy Drew Thompson adores a good arid, desert adventure. So does her hair.  Visit her compendium at

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