My Visit to the Iconic Hearst Castle in California
Hearst Castle is one of the very few castles in the United States. 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”), was a must see when visiting coastal California. Hearst was the king of a mega-publishing empire. He 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 his “simple summer home” but after taking one look at it, simple does not describe anything found at this mega mansion.
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 was named after the Roman God of the Sea. It 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 were adorned with fruit trees, boxwood hedges, a variety of palms, and blooming azaleas which offered beauty at every turn.
Casa Grande contained 115 rooms with 38 bedrooms, a library, and amazing artifacts throughout. Hearst Castle was “the” place for Hollywood stars, politicians, and European royalty to escape their homes in Los Angeles. Here they could all bask in the expensive tastes and luxuries shared by Mr. Hearst.
The inside of the castle was not nearly as impressive as the outside. My favorite part was the indoor Roman pool. It dazzled 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. The short film depicted the story of 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.
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 annually. I bought some terrific t-shirts for a decent price in the gift shop. It was one of the better museum-quality gift shops I had 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.
A Word About the California Drought/Water Shortage
Be Warned: Due to the droughts in California over the past several years, the bathroom facilities at Hearst Castle were closed to the public. 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. They are hopeful that their visitors understand the predicament they are in.
Hearst Castle Photo Gallery:
Check out our other California posts:
Carlsbad, Southern Cal
Indulging in Santa Monica