A Visit To The 0.00001% – Our Tour of Hearst Castle
Thanks to yet another great suggestion from Turney, our tour guide in absentia, we decided to visit Hearst Castle when we passed through the San Simeon area as we wound our way down the Pacific Coast. Hearst Castle was the home (well…one of the homes) of the late media mogul William Randolph Hearst.
Given the political climate this election year, we thought it would be quite appropriate to visit the home of a one percenter. Though let’s be honest – Hearst was probably more like one of the 0.00001%.
Storming the Castle
OK…so we didn’t exactly storm the castle, but we certainly toured it!
Hearst Castle offers 3 different daytime tours that last approximately 45 minutes: the Grand Rooms Tour, the Upstairs Suites Tour, and the Cottages and Kitchen Tour. Although with Scott’s culinary talents, you might think we’d opt for the Cottages and Kitchen Tour, we instead opted for the Grand Rooms Tour since it is recommended for first time visitors.
The cost for all daytime tours is $25.00 per adult and includes admission to the movie Hearst Castle, Building the Dream, which is shown in the Visitor Center’s theater and tells about the building of the castle along with a little background on Mr. Hearst. [There is also a seasonal Evening Tour that lasts just over 2 hours and costs $36.00, but it includes folks dressed up in period costume acting as visitors to the castle during its 1930s heyday.] For all tours, a shuttle bus takes you from the Visitor Center to the castle and includes a recorded commentary by the awesome Alex Trebek.
There are 115 rooms in the almost 70,000 square foot main house at Hearst Castle (which, by the way, Hearst modestly referred to as “the ranch”), but the Grand Rooms Tour focuses on only the 4 main social rooms on the ground floor. This tour includes the Assembly Room (a huge living room), the Refectory (a dining room), the Billiards Room, and the Theater.
From the moment you walk into Mr. Hearst’s home, you will notice the incredible collection of artwork housed inside. Sixteenth century wood paneling and tapestries line the walls, and neoclassical marble statues stand in the corners. A painted 15th-century Spanish ceiling was brought from Europe and used for the ceiling of the Billiard Room. Yet, the table is set in the Refectory with ketchup, mustard, and paper napkins – a clue to Mr. Hearst’s desire that his guests not be too formal on visits here.
The last stop on the Grand Rooms Tour is the Theater where you are treated to a series of home movies and other footage taken on the property. During the height of parties at the castle, Mr. Hearst and his “friend” Marion Davies, a Hollywood film star, would treat guests to nightly showings of full-length films in this room.
After a tour, you are given the opportunity to explore the gardens, pools (yes, plural!), and tennis court on your own. Definitely take advantage of this and go see both pools if nothing else! While the gardens are pretty and filled with gorgeous flowers, we thought the pools were probably the best part. The huge outdoor Neptune Pool looks like the pools at the current day Caesar’s Palace in Vegas – complete with marble statues and lounge chairs all around the edge. The indoor Roman Pool with its intricate tile designs and real gold leaf is breathtaking, too.
Hearst Castle is quite literally in the middle of nowhere on the California coast. Located just outside of San Simeon, it’s just over an hour from San Luis Obispo to the south and over two hours to Carmel to the north. Nonetheless, the drive down the coast is fabulous!
Thanks to the thick fog on the day of our visit, we didn’t take too many pictures, especially of the castle’s exterior, but there should be enough shots here to pique your interest to take a tour, too!