Your own fairytale ending.
Maybe the USA doesn’t have kings or queens, but we do have castle hotels that invite you to live like royalty, at least for the night. You can get your regal fix in a variety of styles, from Gilded-Age flamboyance to modern-day extravagance to an Elizabethan edifice transported from England. Whatever the case, you’ll be pampered and coddled with secluded garden oases, soaring turrets, opulent suites, and exquisite dining. All without the banality of having to rule a kingdom.
WHERE: North Carolina
America’s largest private estate, this lavish, French-Renaissance-style château sprawls over more than 175,000 square feet, with 250 rooms (and 65 fireplaces) on 8,000 acres. Now that’s a lot of house! Built by the ultimate rich kid, George Washington Vanderbilt (grandson of railroad and steamboat magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt) in the late 1800s as a getaway for family and friends, it’s still privately owned by the family but is open to visitors who come to ooh and aah over its glittering art and family furnishings. Guests can also take in some royal pursuits, including falconry, horseback riding, and afternoon tea.
INSIDER TIPWhile you can’t stay within the castle, you can rest in comfort at the historic cottage where the gardener once stayed; the property also has an inn and a hotel for guests.
Castle Hotel and Spa
WHERE: Tarrytown, New York
Looking every bit like a medieval Norman fortress—complete with crenellated turrets, Gothic windows with heraldic motifs, and the spectacular Oak Room, straight out of the Game of Thrones—“Carrollcliffe” is the turn-of-the-20th-century home of Gen. Howard Carroll, a businessman and New York Times correspondent. Overlooking the Hudson River in a grand sweep of pastoral beauty, its opulent interior may appear baroquely bygone, but this ancient-looking structure has all the modern amenities, including an award-winning restaurant and a luxury spa.
INSIDER TIPThe Oak Room has its own interesting royal pedigree. Its wainscoting derives from General Carroll’s house in the Paris environs, which once belonged to King Louis XIV of France. In that room, Prince Charles Edward (“Bonnie Prince Charles”) and Angus MacDonald plotted the unsuccessful uprising of 1745 in the British Isles to overturn the German king and restore the lineage of James II.
WHERE: Camden, Maine
This Victorian castle, complete with turrets and gray-stone façade, rises mysteriously above Penobscot Bay, looking every bit like it belongs in England, not Camden. Perhaps that’s why it’s Maine’s most photographed building. That said, inside it’s all warm and comfy, where guests can lounge royal-like in the oak-paneled library, retreat to the downstairs lounge, and take in some of the coast’s most gorgeous sea views.
INSIDER TIPYou can bet the cuisine is delicious, as one of the owners, Philip Crispo, is a classically trained chef who has cooked for H.R.H. The Prince of Wales. A three-course gourmet breakfast is included in an overnight stay, and multi-course chef’s tasting menu is offered on Thursdays and Saturdays.
WHERE: New Plymouth, Ohio
The Hocking Hills in southern Ohio are known for their lush forests, picturesque waterfalls, and moonshining history. Not exactly the place you’d expect to find a medieval Welsh castle, right? But there it is, Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, offering an unexpected royal experience with rooms showcasing regal themes: the Queen Elizabeth Suite, Queen Victoria Suite, you get the idea. Though to be straight, this is a replica of a 14th-century fort that, as real as it looks, dates from 1995. That’s why even the Duke’s Dungeon room, with its sturdy wood furniture and fake-stone walls, isn’t a bad place to be (there’s even a door leading to a garden and patio). Breakfast is served in the Great Hall, of course.
INSIDER TIPYou’ll also find sleeping options in the nearby Medieval Village at Ravenwood Castle themed for the king’s finest tradesmen, including the china-blue-and-white Candlemaker’s Cottage beneath a dogwood tree; and the two-story Spinster’s Cottage, decked out in pink and white. And in nearby Huntsman’s Hollow a small village of five cabins offers a more remote and serene experience.
WHERE: Huntington, New York
When you wake up in your grand antique bed, looking out on the perfectly manicured grounds just outside your floor-to-ceiling window, you may think you died and woke up royal. The second largest private residence ever built in the U.S., Oheka (named for its original owner—Otto HErmann KAhn) goes all out in European castle style. We’re talking grandiose stone walls, tucked-away rooms, massive fireplaces, and a grand sweeping staircase leading to the entry hall. You can dine at the OHK resto or stay overnight.
Castle Hill Resort and Spa
WHERE: Ludlow, Vermont
Romantic, intimate and in the beautiful Vermont countryside, Castle Hill takes a page from the royals with its amazing pampering. With just 10 rooms, it’s all about chilling out in the book-filled Library, strolling the plush grounds, getting the kinks worked out at the rejuvenating spa (housed in the old carriage house) and lingering over French-inspired cuisine at the candlelit restaurant.
Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
WHERE: Riverside, California
The U.S. may not have crowned royalty, but we do have Hollywood royalty. And that’s the kind that has stopped over at the Mission Inn for generations. We’re talking the likes of Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, and Barbra Streisand. Not to mention, Nancy and Ronald Reagan honeymooned here, and Richard and Patricia Nixon were married here. And the list goes on … and on. Once a humble adobe boarding house, this magnificent abode blossomed in the early 1900s as wealthy Easterners flocked here to profit off the surrounding orange groves. Founder Frank Miller added on several wings in a variety of styles, so that the current rendition—covering an entire city block—combines Old World charm with Mission Revival panache, complete with domes, flying buttresses, a bell tower, and other architectural elements. Each room is one-of-a-kind, with plush fabrics and kingly furnishings, while the resort offers a full-on spa and several restaurants.
INSIDER TIPYou can dine on the hotel’s stunning Spanish Patio, where Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustavus Adolphus and his wife, Louise, enjoyed a banquet held in their honor in 1926 while in town to tour the local orange groves.
The Chanler at Cliff Walk
WHERE: Newport, Rhode Island
Imagine indulging in the comfort and opulence that Henry VIII, George III, or Louis XVI demanded. It’s possible, at this striking edifice dating from 1870, whose Signature Rooms are decorated in the styles of specific historic reigns. King Louis XVI, for example, has plush blue-and-white furnishings with a canopy bed and crystal chandeliers; while the silk-draped bed in the Regency room is crowned with a regal corona. And the views? Fit for a king … and queen.
WHERE: Versailles, Kentucky
“What’s that?” you say, as you’re exploring the Kentucky Bluegrass. A medieval castle, rising on that hill? Believe it or not, it is, a fairy-tale-like illusion appearing just outside the town of Versailles, complete with stone walls, pointy turrets, and expansive grounds where you can almost imagine horses marching in advance of the royal colors. Built in 1969, Kentucky Castle had a sketchy start (the first owners divorced and the castle lay idle for 30 years), though now it’s emerging from a millions-dollar renovation as a high-end B&B—and it sparkles. Inside you’ll find 14 boutique bedrooms, a ballroom, and—what every good Kentucky castle needs—a room for its bourbon university.
WHERE: Lakewood, Washington
This genteel manor house is for real. As in a real Welsh Elizabethan castle that was dismantled in Wales and brought to Washington State in the early 1900s. Today guests can relax in beautifully appointed B&B suites (the stained-glass windows date from the 13th century); check out its many rooms, filled with priceless artwork; and stroll the historic gardens, designed by the Olmsted Bros (look for the sunken English garden). Go all out with the king-and-queen thing and order breakfast in bed.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
Once upon a time, back in 1889, real estate mogul Wilbur S. Raymond built a flamboyant private residence in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. He only enjoyed it for a year, before going bankrupt. Today, the sparkly lava stone manor is a magnificent B&B, where you can sip afternoon tea served in fine china cups, lounge in one of if its nine Victorian-style rooms, and wake to a gourmet breakfast. Don’t miss the spectacular stained-glass peacock window, an ode to Impressionist art.
The Inn at Erlowest
WHERE: Lake George, New York
Perched above glimmering Lake George in the heart of the Adirondacks, the Inn at Erlowest would be any royal’s dream retreat. Built of stone in grand turn-of-the-20th-century Queen Anne style, its suites are luxuriously appointed, each with individual period furnishings: the cozy library bar is decked out in rich green walls and wood molding and the sumptuous dining hall and terrace serve up farm-to-table American cuisine. It’s the kind of place where you can get the feel for being royal, though royals would feel quite comfortable here pretending not to be royal. You know?
WHERE: Keswick, Virginia
The last thing you might expect in the Virginia countryside—birthplace of America’s freedom—is a castle. But there it is, Keswick Hall, just 20 minutes from Charlottesville. Beginning as a 17-room Italian villa in 1912, the edifice served as a country club before being turned into a showcase of design elegance by Sir Bernard Ashley, the widower of famed designer Laura Ashley. Today it’s been meticulously restored again with new furnishings, offering the most regal of country stays.
INSIDER TIPGolfers will adore the Pete Dye-designed golf course, Full Cry, which was named by Golf Digest as one of the country’s best new golf courses of 2014.
Landoll’s Mohican Castle
The vision of a U.S. Army soldier who served in Germany in the sixties, this frilly, turret-imbued castle limped along as a fanciful B&B and restaurant until 2015, when a knight in shining armor—in the guise of chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay—stepped in. With his help, the business got on track, and today the castle, a time capsule straight to the medieval French countryside, shines as a popular hotel and wedding venue. In fact, a new property recently opened—The Stables, with 14 additional suites.