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William Randolph Hearst’s legendary castle in San Simeon, CA is a sight to behold. It’s not to be missed, and is the perfect day trip from San Francisco or LA or stop on your trip up or down the Pacific Coast Highway. From Roman statues to grazing goats to sweeping views, Hearst Castle truly has it all. And if that doesn’t convince you, William Hearst’s fascinating life story is sure to reel you in. So what are you waiting for? Here’s my advice on visiting Hearst Castle.
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Pick What You Want to See
Unlike many historic monuments, Hearst Castle is only accessible by a shuttle bus and subsequent guided tour. Unfortunately, these tours only cover a small section of the house, rather than the whole thing. So unless you have the riches and time to be able to take every tour available, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you want to see. For a first time visitor I’d suggest taking the Grand Rooms tour. It will give you a good overview of the bottom floor of the mansion and the life that William Hearst lived there. Alternatively, if you’re able to come on a Friday or Saturday evening during the low season (March-May & October-December) you can experience the estate as it was in Mr. Hearst’s day – with costumed actors playing party guests and a more detailed tour of the mansion and grounds. If I ever return, I know this is what I’m going to do.
Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time
This is only the guest house. What???
Especially in the high season you’re going to want to book your tickets ahead of time. You really don’t want to drive several hours just to be turned away at the door, and since even before the summer crowds come along tours often sell out ahead of time, I highly suggest taking a look online and choosing a time and day that work for you before setting off. If plans change you can switch your tour time for a small fee. So there’s no need to worry about being completely locked in.
Wear Practical Shoes
True, you’re not going to be climbing a mountain. But, there are still plenty of stairs to traverse and a decent amount of walking involved in your tour of Hearst Castle. You don’t have to wear your hiking boots, but be sure to wear something you’ll be comfortable on your feet for a couple of hours in.
Bring Your Camera
Hearst Castle is absolutely beautiful, and you’ll be sorely sorry if you miss the opportunity to photograph it. Be sure to double check your bag for your camera before you leave!
Appreciate the Views
Hearst Castle is situated on top of one of the highest hills in the area overlooking the Pacific Ocean. So the views? They’re absolutely beautiful. It’s easy to get distracted by the grandeur of the house and grounds, though. If our tour guide hadn’t reminded us to, I would have completely forgotten to turn around and drink it all in. You can see for miles from up there, so be sure to take a moment and look out at the sprawling hills and gorgeous scenery.
Wander the Grounds
Although you aren’t allowed to go through the house unaccompanied, you are completely welcome to wander the grounds after your tour is over. So go and explore! There are all sorts of hidden treasures. You’re sure to see something that you never could have imagined in your wildest dreams. When you’re done, you can make your way to the indoor pool for a shuttle back down to your car.