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Main House Hearst Castle

A castle in San Simeon, CA

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Hearst Castle: Worth the money and the trip

  • Feb 28, 2011
  • by
The Hearst Castle, owned by the state of California, is a fabulous place. Although the more than 100 ornate rooms and detailed ceilings, gold leaf floor designs in the crazily gorgeous indoor pool, surprisingly ancient art and antiquities, and phenomenal views of mountains and ocean are worth the price of admission, the story of the place is even more of a draw to me.

William Randolph Hearst's father owned 40,000 acres of property in San Simeon and his young son visited frequently. When Hearst, a newspaper and media magnate, finally came into his own money as well as the property (in his mid-50s), he decided to place his dream ranch at the top of the hill. The road up to the site, we were told, wound five miles up the mountain from the main road. Hearst bought all sorts of antiquities in Europe, and had them shipped to the site. The logistics are just unbelievable now, and imagine trying to do this in the 1920s!. He and architect Julia Morgan hired hundreds of people to build the place (one main castle, and three guesthouses) and took about 15 years to do it. When it was close to ready (it was never really completed), he and his mistress Marion Davies held wonderful parties there.

According to The Chief, the biography of him that I read, and all of the guides, Hearst built his ranch so that people could have fun there. He served all the food in the main house so that people couldn't sleep late, and was constantly renovating the place when he thought of a new idea for some guest diversion.

I have heard about this place all my life, and it lived up to its billing. The price for a tour is $24, and, since the drive from either San Francisco or Los Angeles is at least four hours, we took two different tours and watched the movie that is part of the basic tour package. The guides were terrific and knowledgeable.

If you are anywhere near the area of San Simeon or want to take a couple of days for a trip, this is somewhere not to be missed. While you're there, visit the elephant seal beach just north, and the nice town of Cambria just south. The drive there is beautiful, with mountain views, Pacific scenes and agricultural fields lining the road. Go slowly and enjoy.

We also heard that the castle, like many state-run locations in California, needs support. I was glad to pay for my tickets and bought a couple of books and videos there as well. This place is a treasure.

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March 16, 2012
I'm sure that the trip would be very enjoyable.
March 08, 2011
This sounds so cool! Now that my brother is moving to San Luis Obispo, my chances of visiting this castle just went up by a bunch. Thanks for sharing!
March 08, 2011
Coincidentally I just watched "Citizen Kane" last night. Don't know if I will ever make it to California but this place would be at or near the top of my list of places to visit.
March 08, 2011
I've lived in California all my life and have passed the Hearst Castle multiple times with perhaps a passing fancy. I had no idea the extent of the castle or the history, both are intriguing. I might have to make a trip up there...I also think it's pretty cool that Hearst created it for people to have a fun time. Thanks for sharing :)
March 08, 2011
How did Hearst "mess with his mistress"? They didn't tell us that story at the castle.
March 08, 2011
Thanks for the tip, that sucks! @ wrote a review of Hearst Castle with tips on how to visit it! Joy- I can only guess what he means by that, the fact that she's his mistress means he was messing around on his wife. Did they tell you guys about the Citizen Kane scandal? I don't know about that myself or maybe I forgot all about it!
March 08, 2011
Being a huge fan of CITIZEN KANE, I've always wanted to see this place.
March 04, 2011
Sounds like a wonderful adventure! Did you stay overnight? You might enjoy reading @'s review of the Sands by the Sea Motel. He just visited the Hearst Castle recently as well. Nice review!
More Hearst Castle reviews
review by . September 01, 2009
Crowd at Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle is worth the high price of admission. It's the antithesis of the rugged image of the California West -- even if it is nestled among rolling hills with cattle grazing. It's luxury and indulgence on a grand scale, but in a classy way. The art collections are as awe-inspiring as the vistas. But if you're going to do it, do it right:      1) Don't go on a hot day. You'll regret it.   2) Be prepared for crowds, tour buses, reminders to not touch, …
About the reviewer
Joyce Turrell ()
Ranked #275
I'm a literacy specialist at a large high school. I vegetable and flower garden, have grown kids and two grandchildren. I love to read mysteries. I like seeing what's new on Lunch.
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About this place


Hearst Castle is a palatial estate on the central California coast and a National Historic Landmark. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst from 1919 until 1947. In 1957 the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California. Since that time it has been maintained as state historic park where the estate and its considerable collection of art and antiques are open for public tours. Despite its location far from any urban center, the site attracts roughly one million visitors per year.

Hearst formally named the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), but usually called it "the ranch". The castle and grounds are also sometimes referred to as "San Simeon" without distinguishing between the Hearst property and the unincorporated town of the same name.
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Address: 750 Hearst Castle Rd San Simeon, CA 93452
Phone: (805) 927-8601

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