We have been through central California many times while we lived there doing wine tasting etc. However one of the more interesting things we did was in June of 2010 on our way home from visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco. While we were driving through the area, we decided to stop and finally take a tour of Hearst Castle. We had been through this area many times but had never taken the time to stop and visit. So glad we finally did.
Hearst Castle is actually located near the unincorporated community of San Simeon, California, approximately 250 miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. The estate itself is five miles inland atop a hill of the Santa Lucia Range at an altitude of 1,600 feet. This is what makes for the incredible views 🙂 A note of historical data, on June 22, 1972, the Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Then on May 11, 1976, it became a United States National Historic Landmark.
The estate was the former home and residence of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951. During our tour, we learned that Hearst loved to entertain. Sounds like he did it A LOT and had many overnight guests they would stay for days or even weeks at a time. I could see why they would want to stay in such an inviting environment.
We had wanted to see as much as we could, but the Hearst Castle is huge. We took the suggestion of a tour guide and signed up for the Grand Rooms Tour. They actually have several tours which I will explain more about in a min. This specific tour highlights include the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, Theater, Gardens, Neptune Pool, and Roman Pool. If you are a first-time visitor, this is the recommended tour and lasts about 60 minutes. It also includes a ticket to “Building the Dream” at the Hearst Castle Theater. We were very glad we chose this tour as it gave us a great overview of the castle.
Some of the other tours offered are Upstairs Suites Tour, Cottages and Kitchen Tour, as well as the Evening Tour. What is cool about the Upstairs Suite Tour is that you get to discover its most private rooms, including William Randolph Hearst’s personal quarters. This is also known as the Gothic Suite, and sumptuous bedrooms are assigned to special guests. The Cottages and Kitchen Tour sounds interesting too. On this tour, the highlights include the Wine Cellar, House B (Casa del Monte), House A (Casa del Mar), The Kitchen, Gardens, Neptune Pool, and Roman Pool I would love to go back sometime and take the Evening Tour. This tour allows you to view this historic California mansion in the twilight hours—just as Mr. Hearst’s own guests did in the 1930s. Highlights of this tour include House A (Casa del Mar), Assembly Room, Refectory, Kitchen, Library, Gothic Suite, Billiard Room, Theater, Gardens, Neptune Pool, and Roman Pool. Sounds like it would be amazing. Hopefully, we will make it back to this one day. Just an FYI, this tour is only available in the spring and fall.
Like I said earlier we took the Grand Room Tours and really enjoyed our visit. The tour guide was very informative and really seemed to enjoy her job. Through the years I have found that if you are lucky enough to find someone who really enjoys their job. It makes for a much better tour and experience. We were lucky that day! After our tour, we checked out the visitor center for a few minutes. Later we walked around and checked out the gorgeous gardens. We also couldn’t miss the Neptune and Roman Pools. It was a really warm day when we visited and I was so ready to jump into the water, lol. Seriously though, it was a great tour and the views were phenomenal. For more info and pricing, here is a link to their website.
Hearst Castle Visitor Information
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
Tours and Prices:
Grand Rooms Tour
Best for first-time visitors, this 60-minute guided overview tour of Hearst Castle offers an itinerary through the main building called Casa Grande: the Assembly Room, Refectory, Morning Room, Billiard Room, and Theater. Tours begin outdoors with several stairs to negotiate on the terraces.
Child (3-12) $12
Upstairs Suite Tour
Climb the spiral stairs (322 steps) through the upper levels of Casa Grande to admire Mr. Hearst’s own Gothic Suite on this 60-minute tour. On it you will see the enchanting Celestial Suite in the bell towers’ level, the main library with 150 ancient Greek vases, the Della Robbia Room, and a clever Duplex Suite.
Child (3-12) $12
Cottages and Kitchen Tour
This 60-minute guided tour features two of the luxurious mansions that housed the Hearst family and their guests before Casa Grande was ready. Offering magnificent Pacific coast and mountain views, these ornately gilded “cottages” are thousands of square feet in size. The famous wine cellar and gigantic kitchen in Casa Grande are included in this tour.
Child (3-12) $12
Offered seasonally, this special tour enables you to experience the Castle illuminated at night and is longer than daytime tours (100 minutes). Docents in period dress bring 1930s history to life as they move silently through the sumptuous rooms of Casa Grande. A vintage newsreel in Hearst’s private theater rounds out the evening.
Child (3-12) $18
Holiday Twilight Tour
Discover why the holiday season was an exceptionally festive time for Mr. Hearst and his guests. Share in the splendor as you wind your way through the grounds, Casa del Sol-guest house, and the grand social rooms of Casa Grande. This special seasonal tour showcases abundant holiday decorations with numerous Christmas trees, including two towering trees. View Mr. Hearst’s celebrated art collection in the warm glow of thousands of holiday lights. Your knowledgeable guide will share stories of holiday festivities during the estate’s heyday. 75 minutes
Child (3-12) $15
Accessibility Designed Grand Rooms Tour
This 60-minute guided tour is wheelchair accessible and is also designed for visitors who have difficulty climbing up and downstairs, or who cannot stand or walk for lengths of time. The Accessibly Designed Grand Rooms Tour visits the estate’s most opulent social gathering rooms to reveal what it was like to be a guest at The Enchanted Hill—known today as Hearst Castle.
Child (3-12) $12
Accessibility Designed Evening Tour
This 100-minute guided tour is wheelchair accessible and is also designed for visitors who have difficulty climbing up and downstairs, or who cannot stand or walk for lengths of time. The Accessibly Designed Evening Tour takes guests back in time as Living History Docents in 1930s clothing appear along the tour route, adding life once again to the magnificent surroundings seen on tour.
Evening tours are available on most Friday and Saturday nights from March 1st through May 18th with additional dates in mid-week in April. Reservations are strongly recommended for this tour.
Child (3-12) $18
Accessibility Designed Holiday Twilight Tour
This 75-minute guided tour is wheelchair accessible. Visitors who have difficulty climbing stairs, or who cannot stand or walk for extended periods, may also benefit from this tour. Accessible transportation is provided from the Visitor Center to all areas of the Holiday Twilight Tour. See Holiday Twilight Tour for a description. Advanced reservations are strongly recommended for this tour. Call 866-712-2286 for additional information.
Child (3-12) $15
Hearst Castle is located on Highway 1 along the majestic Central Coast of California. Nestled in the hills above the village of San Simeon, the Castle sits halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and is approximately a four-hour drive from either of these metropolitan areas. You can take a train from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo and continue to the front door of the Visitor Center by public bus.
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