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Fodor's Southern California 2014
Hearst Castle Review
Officially known as "Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument," Hearst Castle sits in solitary splendor atop La Cuesta Encantada (the Enchanted Hill). Its buildings and gardens spread over 127 acres that were the heart of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst's 250,000-acre ranch. Hearst devoted nearly 30 years and about $10 million to building this elaborate estate. He commissioned renowned California architect Julia Morgan, but he was very much involved with the final product, a blend of Italian, Spanish, and Moorish styles. The 115-room main building and three huge "cottages" are connected by terraces and staircases and surrounded by pools, gardens, and statuary. In its heyday the castle was a playground for Hearst and his guests—Hollywood celebrities, political leaders, scientists, and other well-known figures. Construction began in 1919 and was never officially completed. Work was halted in 1947 when Hearst had to leave San Simeon because of failing health. The Hearst family donated the property to the State of California in 1958.
Access to the castle is through the visitor center at the foot of the hill, which contains a collection of Hearst memorabilia and a giant-screen theater that shows a 40-minute film giving an overview of Hearst's life and of the castle's construction. Buses from the visitor center zigzag up to the neoclassical extravaganza, where guides conduct three different daytime tours of parts of the estate: grand rooms, upstairs suites, and cottages and kitchen. Daytime tours take about two hours and include the movie and time at the end to explore the castle exteriors. In spring and fall, docents in period costume portray Hearst's guests and staff for the slightly longer evening tour, which begins at sunset. Reservations are recommended for all the tours, which include a ½-mile walk and between 150 and 400 stairs.
- Address: San Simeon State Park, 750 Hearst Castle Rd., San Simeon, CA 93452 | Map It
- Phone: 800/444–4445
- Cost: Daytime tours $25, evening tours $36
- Hours: Tours daily 9–3:20, later in summer; additional tours take place most Fri. and Sat. evenings Mar.–May and Sept.–Dec.
- Website: www.hearstcastle.com
- Location: San Simeon
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