America’s Hidden Castle
Hearst Castle is a Bucket List Worthy Hidden Gem
Adorned with statues and works of art spanning from ancient Egypt to the Art Deco era and everything in between, Hearst Castle is a sight one would expect to see in Europe rather than tucked away in the hills along the California coast. All of this paired with its central location between Los Angeles and San Francisco and just off of iconic Highway 1, which is set to reopen this summer, and you have yourself a Bucket List worthy road trip waiting to happen.
I recently spoke with Jim Allen, the Director of Marketing and Communications at Hearst Castle to get the intriguing details on this hidden gem. He shared with me that the amazing unspoiled coastal views and vastness of the estate are what strike people the most when they first enter the property. “People are blown away by the sense of scale. The first room you enter is 2,500 square feet – to put that in perspective, think about how big your house is, and this is just one room in the castle”. Photos do not do it justice, but just look at the photos!
Literary gurus will be awestruck with the Main Library, containing over 4,000 books and 155 ancient Greek vases which all date beyond 2,000 years old. Try fitting that into your Amazon Kindle. The Gothic Suite, which was W.R. Hearst’s private suite, is sure to enchant pretty much everyone with its magnificent antique ceilings and intricate artwork. Personally, the Gothic Suite reminds me so much of something straight out of a Harry Potter movie that I’m convinced there is at least one secret passageway leading somewhere magical in there.
Let’s talk art! “With 4,000 years of art history, visiting Hearst Castle is almost like touring Europe in one place ” says Allen. With its original art collection still intact (over 20,000 works of art), stepping into the castle is like stepping into a living European museum. See masterpieces and rare finds like Italian statues, French paintings, ancient Egyptian Sekhmet figures, ornate ceilings and even a Roman sarcophagus all within the confines of this extraordinary property right here in the United States.
Speaking of art, one musical artist we all know and love, Lady Gaga, who made a substantial donation towards the historic restoration of the Neptune Pool, chose Hearst Castle as a filming location for her music video, G.U.Y., and who could blame her? The pool scenes were filmed at the Neptune and Roman pools, which to say the least are quite literally fit for the queen (of pop). Just one look at the sapphire blue tiled Roman Pool and I’m ready to jump in for the most amazing swim of my life, even if only in my epic pool-party dreams.
Jim Allen let me know the most popular tour is the Grand Rooms Tour, which is a 1-hour guided tour of the main rooms in the castle. Also offered are the Upstairs Suites Tour, Cottages and Kitchen Tour, Designing the Dream Tour, Art of San Simeon Tour, Hearst and Hollywood Tour and an Evening Tour where visitors can bask in the atmosphere of the hilltop lit up at night.
After any daytime guided tour, guests are free to roam the property and gardens at their leisure. Jim recommended the castle’s very own app, aptly titled “Hearst Castle” to help guide visitors around the grounds and to specific works of art.
Allen advises allowing yourself three hours for your total visit. The parking lot and visitor center are located five miles from the castle, from which a 10 to 15-minute shuttle will take you through five scenic miles of private, unspoiled land to the castle where your tour guide will meet you. Reservations are highly encouraged and all tours include parking along with a ticket to the on-site Giant Screen theater at the Visitor’s Center.
After you’ve worked up an appetite from exploring the castle, be sure to visit Sebastian’s General Store on the coastal side of Highway 1. Sebastian’s was a general store built in 1852 that has since been converted into a restaurant and wine tasting facility where you can grab a Trip Advisor-approved sandwich, and of course enjoy some wine from Hearst Ranch Winery.
Open year round, Hearst Castle is a no excuses, must see destination for anyone travelling to the Central California coast. Jim Allen ensures there is something for everyone at this inspiring hilltop estate. As he puts it, “Everyone shares a universal appreciation for beauty”. Between the captivating views, remarkable art collections and stunning architecture, there is plenty of beauty for everyone to behold at Hearst Castle.