Half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is the beautiful area of San Simeon where Hearst Castle is located. Hearst Castle belongs to the state of California and is a State Park, but was once home to billionaires, with regular visits from Hollywood movie stars.
You can choose from a variety of tours, but we opted to do a guided tour of the grand rooms. Luckily we went on a quiet day, there were no crowds and no queues, but we were told it can get quite busy.
You get to the castle by shuttle bus which drives along the one road that leads to the castle which is situated on top of the hill. “La Cuesta Encantada” (enchanted hill).
Guided tours are great because you get so much information, and history, and a chance to ask your own questions. The children can get distracted though and wander around a little bit, and usually that’s ok. At Hearst Castle you are not allowed to touch ANYTHING. Not even the floor! They put rugs down for people to walk along. It’s understandable though considering some of the floors are made of gold!
We listened to the tour as much as we could, and learnt about the Hearst family, how they made their fortune, and how they lived. They talked about the building of the house, the architect, and where individual pieces came from. Mostly Europe, and the interior felt very familiar to me. It looked like some of the homes we would visit in the UK, but when you think that this is West Coast America, the idea of shipping entire ceilings or mantle pieces the size of your house is incredible. Then you step outside and you are on top of a sunny hill in California, with amazing views of the coast.
We were allowed to wander around outside unsupervised for a while, but all the kids wanted to do was touch everything. There were loads of garden features, it was hard for them not to. The children were told they needed to walk, not run, and keep their hands to themselves.
Hearst Castle is stunning and has a fantastic story, so if you are planning a similar road trip in California, then make sure you do not miss it! Visitor information can be found at hearstcastle.org.