Hearst Castle is one of the few castles in the United States. I had been wanting to visit it for over ten years and finally got to tour the mansion with my daughter on a California road trip.
Hearst Castle referred to as “La Cuesta Encantada, or Enchanted Hill, is a Mediterranean Revival estate is a must-see when visiting coastal California. It was fashioned and made famous by magnate William Randolph Hearst, the king of a mega-publishing empire. He built his 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 which took 28 years to complete.
Hearst referred to this estate as his “simple summer home,” but after taking one look at it, simple does not describe anything found in this mega-mansion.
A California Jewel
The 250,000-acre Hearst Castle estate offers guest houses, vast gardens, impressive ranch lands, a zoo, and beautiful swimming pools. All of this and breathtaking views of California’s rugged coastline. The outdoor Neptune Pool was named after the Roman God of the Sea and built using Roman columns from the 1st-4th centuries. It was quickly one of the crowd’s favorites.
Casa Grande, the main house, is home to impressive bell towers that give the property a church-like look, as well as 115 rooms, 38 of which are bedrooms. Hearst Castle’s grounds are adorned with fruit trees, boxwood hedges, a variety of palms, and blooming azaleas, which offered beauty at every turn.
The impressive Hearst Castle was “the” place for Hollywood stars, politicians, and European royalty to escape their homes in Los Angeles back in Mr. Hearst’s day. Here, they could all bask in the expensive tastes and luxuries shared by the owner.
The inside of Hearst Castle was not nearly as impressive as the outside. My favorite part was the Roman indoor pool. It dazzled with over a million Murano glass tiles and eight statues of gods and goddesses—crazy impressive! At the end of the guided tour, we watched footage from Hearst’s home movies. The short film depicted the building of the mansion. Our movie was played in the same theater (movie room) that once entertained Hollywood royalty.
New Name, Same Historical Beauty
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument (as it is now referred to) housed a large visitor center filled with exhibits and included a movie theater, shopping, and food. Around 750,000 people visit Hearst Castle annually.
Souvenirs can be purchased in the gift shop. It was one of the better museum-quality gift shops I ‘ve been to. Guided tours run daily from 8 AM to 5 PM (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.
Fun Fact: The Hearst Castle dining room was the inspiration for the one at Hogwarts in the “Harry Potter” films.
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