Updated on January 21, 2023 by Julie McCool
Take a Frank Lloyd Wright road trip to Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, and Polymath Park in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania to tour, and even spend the night in beautiful Wright homes, including a UNESCO heritage masterpiece.
This Pennsylvania road trip is perfect for lovers of architecture, nature, and art. Conveniently, it's just a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Laurel Highlands PA from the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area.
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In July 2019, the World Heritage Committee added Fallingwater, and seven other works by Wright, to the UNESCO World Heritage List. (UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). There are only 24 UNESCO sites in the United States, so Fallingwater is in very special company.
Frank Lloyd Wright, once named America's greatest architect, took inspiration from nature, and beautifully integrated his homes into their natural settings. The Laurel Highlands region of western Pennsylvania includes three excellent examples of Wright's Usonian homes. The most famous of these, Fallingwater, is a must-visit for fans of Wright's designs.
Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau hosted our tours, dinner, and stay at these Frank Lloyd Wright properties. As always, all opinions, text, and photos are our own.
Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip to Fallingwater
Check out our short video of beautiful Fallingwater.
Wright's masterpiece is built over a waterfall in Bear Run, appearing to float above its site. Cantilevered terraces hang over the stream and waterfall, reaching toward the surrounding trees.
The core of the house is anchored to the bedrock, embedded in the hill on which it's built. Natural materials and coloring further integrate Fallingwater with its surroundings.
In the photo above, note the steps which lead to a platform overhanging the stream. Wright wanted the people who lived in his homes to be in tune with and exposed to nature through his design.
Wright designed Fallingwater as a summer house for the Kaufman family, whose son later trained with Wright. The family owned and enjoyed the home until 1963 when they turned it over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Fallingwater is unique in its design, and also in its contents. It is the only Wright-designed house that retains its original furnishings and art.
Fallingwater Tour Tips
Guided Fallingwater tours cover all the main rooms in the house, including the exterior terraces, and a look at the guest house in back. Photos are allowed outside but not indoors.
It's a bit of a walk from the Visitor Center to the house. Once there, you'll encounter stairs, uneven surfaces, and narrow hallways. After the tour you can walk around the grounds, so wear comfortable shoes!
Fallingwater Tours are available daily, except Wednesdays and major holidays, but be sure to purchase tickets in advance. There are several tour options available, including in-depth and sunset tours.
The one-hour Guided House tour is $35 per person (children under 6 not allowed on tour). Additional in-depth, grounds, and family tours are also available. If house tours are booked, you can also purchase a grounds pass for $15 to enjoy the exterior views. Find more details and book your tour on the Fallingwater website.
Tour Kentuck Knob in Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania
Stop two on our Frank Lloyd Wright road trip is Kentuck Knob, just seven miles south of Fallingwater. This lovely home is another beautiful example of Wright's Grand Usonian design.
Wright was a famous and busy man when he designed Kentuck Knob for I.N. and Bernadine Hagan. He worked from topography maps and photographs rather than a site visit. In fact, Wright only visited the site once when the foundation was laid.
Kentuck's one-story design is built into the “knob,” the crown of the hill. A long window-filled terrace opens the interior to the surrounding woods. Wright disliked right angles, and Kentuck Knob is filled with odd angles and hexagonal shapes.
Mrs. Hagan, who worked with the builder throughout construction, asked for several modifications to Wright's original design. For example, she wanted a larger kitchen with cork flooring and stainless steel countertops, rather than red rubber tiles and red plastic counters. The result is a less strict, but perhaps more livable, design.
Unlike Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob is privately owned and is the part-time residence of Lord Peter Palumbo. Interior furnishings and details reflect both the current and original owners.
Kentuck Knob Tour Tips
Kentuck Knob Guided House tours cover all of the rooms on the main floor and last about 40 minutes. In-depth tours add additional details and a visit to the basement and art studio.
Guided House tour tickets are $28 for adults, $18 for youth 6 to 18 (under 6 not permitted). Visit the Kentuck Knob website to book your tour.
After your tour, be sure to follow the path to a spectacular view of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. If you're up for a walk, you can return to the Visitor Center on the Woodland Walk. The trail passes several interesting sculptures as it descends (sometimes steeply) through the woods.
Stop in the Cafe at the Visitor Center to shop for ice cream, snacks, and Wright-inspired gifts. The Hagan ice cream is delicious, and it's the same brand owned by the Hagan family for whom the house was built.
We were fortunate to meet owner Lord Palumbo, who was working in the cafe when we visited.
Kentuck Knob also hosts special dinner events during the warmer months, some of which feature a talk by the home's current owner. Check their Facebook page for details.
Tour, Dine and Stay at Polymath Park
The third stop on our Frank Lloyd Wright road trip is a unique collection of homes designed by Wright and his apprentice. You can tour four of the houses at Polymath Park. In addition, visitors can experience a truly unique overnight stay and dinner.
Only a few Wright-designed homes can be rented for an overnight stay, and two of them are located at Polymath Park. Two other houses in the park were designed by Wright's apprentice Peter Berndtson.
All four houses can be rented for one or more nights. This is a perfect way to connect with the nature and architecture that inspired your Frank Lloyd Wright road trip.
Plan your visit with our complete guide:
Two Wright-designed Usonian homes—Duncan House and Mäntylä—were moved to Polymath Park to preserve and protect them. Duncan House was moved from its original location in Illinois in 2007. There it joined the Balter and Blum houses, designed for the site by Wright's apprentice Peter Berndtson.
The newest addition to the park, Mantyla, opened for tours and overnight guests in April 2019. We were fortunate to stay at this Usonian beauty one October, and the experience was magical. For American architecture fans, the chance to rent one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Pennsylvania is truly unique.
Polymath Park Tour Tips and Treetops Restaurant
Daily Guided House Tours at Polymath Park include exterior and interior walks through three houses—Duncan, Balter, and Mantyla. The tours are available daily except Wednesdays, March through December.
Reserve Polymath tickets on the Fallingwater website. Two-house tours at Polymath Park start at $30 for adults. Other tour options add meals, wine, and additional commentary to the house tours.
Enjoy lunch or dinner at the highly-rated Treetops Restaurant when you visit Polymath Park. The restaurant is operated by Heather and Tom Papinchak, the inspired owners who created and operate Polymath. Meals are carefully prepared and served indoors or on a deck, surrounded by nature.
Tips for a Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip
Fallingwater is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Fairfax or Washington DC, so consider spending a night or two in the area. You'll find plenty of fun things to do on a Laurel Highlands getaway. The area offers beautiful nature, excellent dining, and unique experiences to enjoy.
Fallingwater is in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, and Kentuck Knob is seven miles away in Ohiopyle. Polymath Park is located in Acme, about a 40-minute drive from Fallingwater. If you time your tickets carefully, you could try to tour all three sites in one day. For a more relaxed and enjoyable experience, break your tours up and spend time exploring the grounds at each site.
Pittsburgh is just an hour north of Fallingwater and Laurel Highlands and makes an excellent base for exploring more of Southeast Pennsylvania. Plan your trip with our guide: Tasty Places to Eat and Fun Things to Do in Pittsburgh PA.
If you're staying in Pittsburgh and don't have a car, you can book a Fallingwater group tour with Viator that includes transportation.
Virginia and DC residents can take a Frank Lloyd Wright road trip closer to home with a visit to the Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria. A more modest Usonian design, the home captures Wright's vision for middle-class life in tune with nature.