Hearst Castle is located in San Simeon, California. That’s on the central coast of California, about 233 miles, or three hours 46 minutes from LAX. From SFO, it is almost the exact same distance, clocking in at 228 miles or three hours and 35 minutes.
Hearst Castle is a United States National Historic Landmark built by William Randolph Hearst. The famous Julia Morgan was the architect. The Castle was built between 1919 and 1947. Also known as The Enchanted Hill, it was originally ranch land that his father owned. Hearst’s parents used the rustic area for camping and there are many tales of young William
Hearst inherited the property from his parents about 1919. He conceived of a beautiful castle based on Casa Grande, the Church of Santa Maria La Mayor, in Ronda, Spain. If you stand in front of Hearst Castle, compare a picture- the resemblance is striking.
Much of the castle is filled with pictures, statues, antiques, ceiling tiles, pillars, fireplaces, vases, mantels, paneling, wooden, and more from much of Western Europe historic buildings. Hearst and the architect spent many years purchasing and transporting these items, then incorporating them into the castle.
Hearst Castle was very popular in the 1920s and 30s. Many of the early Hollywood stars such as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, etc. All came for lengthy visits and played tennis, visited the zoo, hiked the surrounding hills, bowled, golfed, sunbathed or swam in one of the pools, viewed film shorts in the red velvet theater, and ate formal dinner in the Rectory. Hearst was a generous host and provided his friends with beautifully-appointed guest houses.
When William Randolph Hearst died in 1947, his family made plans to donate it to the State of California. This donation was finalized in 1957. It is now a California State Historical Monument and what I consider the crowning jewel of the central coast.
In total, there are 13 different guided tours in total you can choose from. Some of the tours include the Grand Rooms Tour (the social rooms of the Main House, this is recommended for first-time visitors) Upstairs Suites Tour (the upper floors, bedrooms,winding staircases and more),and one of my favorites, the Holiday Twilight Tour (the castle is decorated for the holidays with wreaths, flowers, Christmas trees, lights, Christmas artwork, thousands of lights, and more, all in the twilight hours. It’s spectacular!). Additionally, there are several tours designed for accessibility. Most of the tours include the Neptune and Roman Pools, and gardens.
When you arrive at Hearst Castle, you will find a spacious Visitor Center. Here, you can purchase tickets (though buying them in advance is a better idea; they often sell out). Additionally, there are snack bars, a restaurant, a 5-story theater (You can watch Hearst Castle: The Dream included with daytime tickets, or purchase tickets separately), Gift Shop, and most importantly, board the bus to the castle.
During the 5 mile ride to Hearst Castle, you will be treated to an animated oral history of not only the castle, but the surrounding mountains, Pacific Ocean, Native Americans, and more. Often, the bus driver will stop to point out grazing animals, or other sights. The ride itself is lovely; the drive up the rolling open-range ranch land gains over 1600 feet in elevation and the view is spectacular!
I have personally completed over 9 of the tours; the Grand Rooms, Accessibility, Holiday Twilight (my favorite!), Upstairs, and Cottages and Kitchen Tour. Each tour is unique and interesting. Be aware that each tour (except the accessibility tour) has many steps to climb.
Hearst Castle has a very good Accessibility tour; you will not miss a thing on that tour. You will actually see parts of the castle that regular tours do not access! Employees will bring handicapped/elderly guests to various parts of the castle on a very comfortable 8-person covered golf cart. We did the tour with my elderly mother and she loved it. On the Accessibility tour, there is much more time to move slowly, investigate closer, and ask questions. The tour guides are very patient, fun, and engaged.
If you are a visitor to the California Central Coast, I highly recommend visiting Hearst castle. It is on the historic State Route 1 and can be reached from either the San Francisco area or Los Angeles. Any questions or for more information, the website is: https://hearstcastle.org/. There, you can get ticket prices, dates, times, and more detailed directions.
If you have more specific questions, I will attempt to answer them. I live about an 1.5 hours south of Hearst Castle and love the area; we visit often.
*****Please be advised, Hearst Castle is currently closed due to the COVID-19; more information can be found on the California State Parks COVID-10 Resource Center at https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30350