Hearst Castle is one of very few castles in the United States and I have been wanting to visit for more than 10 years. Fashioned and made famous by the magnate William Randolph Hearst, this Mediterranean Revival estate, that he referred to as “La Cuesta Encantada (or Enchanted Hill”), is a must see when visiting coastal California. Hearst was the king of a mega publishing empire and built this dream home in San Luis Obispo county, in the town of San Simeon. California’s first female licensed architect, Julia Morgan, oversaw the enormous project and it took 28 years to complete. Hearst referred to this estate as as his “simple summer home” but after taking one look at it, simple does not describe anything found at this mega mansion.
“Color me impressed at only the first site of this California jewel!”
The 250,000 acre estate offered guest houses, massive gardens, impressive ranch lands, a zoo, incredible swimming pools, and breathtaking views of California’s rugged coastline. The outdoor Neptune Pool, named for the Roman God of the Sea, was built using Roman columns from the 1st-4th centuries and was a crowd favorite. Casa Grande, the main house, is home to impressive bell towers that give the property a church-like look. Hearst Castle’s grounds are adorned with fruit trees, boxwood hedges, a variety of palms, and blooming azaleas which offer beauty at every turn.
Casa Grande contains 115 rooms with 38 bedrooms, a library, and amazing artifacts throughout. Though we only toured the main rooms, the castle has 165 rooms and 41 fireplaces. Hearst Castle was “the” place for Hollywood stars, politicians, and European royalty to escape their homes in Los Angeles and bask in expensive tastes shared by Mr. Hearst. The inside of the castle is not nearly as impressive as the outside, and pretty much the same as other castles I have visited around Europe. My favorite part was the indoor Roman pool with over a million Murano glass tiles and 8 statues of gods and goddesses. It was crazy impressive!
At the end of the tour, we watched footage from Hearst’s home movies and a short film about the building of the mansion. It was really cool that all of this took place in the same movie room that was once used to entertain royalty.
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, as it is now referred to, houses a large visitor center filled with exhibits and includes a movie theater, shopping, and food. Around 750,000 people visit annually. I bought some terrific t-shirts for a decent price in the gift shop and it was one of the better museum quality gift shops I have been in. Guided tours run 8AM- 5PM daily except Thanksgiving, New Years Day, and Christmas.
FYI: Museum docents will advise you not to touch anything, only concrete or metal handrails and to remain on the designated paths. Word of warning, if you step off of the carpet or touch anything, alarms will sound.
My Favorite Fact: The Hearst Castle dining room was inspiration for the one at Hogwarts in the “Harry Potter” films.
Be Warned: Due to the droughts in California over the past several years, the bathroom facilities at Hearst Castle are closed to the public and only port-o-potties (which I think they call “Honeybuckets”) are available to guests. I feel that there could have been a better solution than having to send guests at this classy establishment to these disgusting facilities.
***Per a note from the social media manager at Hearst Castle, he explained that they have been mandated by the Governor of California (as have all state agencies and Californians) to cut their water usage by at least 20% while in this severe drought. By closing the Visitor Center restrooms at Hearst Castle, they have met that mandate plus more and are doing their part as long as the drought continues. He adds that though it is a complete inconvenience, it is a necessary one and they are hopeful that their visitors understand the predicament they are in.
Hearst Castle Photo Gallery:
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