Located about 45 minutes north of San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle is a must. As a boy, William Randall Hearst traveled through Europe, falling in love with the grand homes and castles. In 1919, Hearst wanted to build a castle of his own, and because he had loads of money (back when publishing was BIG, baby!), this dream became a reality. Hearst sought out architect Julia Morgan, and over 28 years, the duo constructed this American castle atop a hill overlooking California’s San Simeon Valley.
Opulence doesn’t even begin to describe this place. The main house includes 168 bedrooms; Roman baths covered from floor to ceiling in blue and orange one-inch tile; and the iconic 345,000 gallon Neptune pool. The property once housed a zoo, complete with free-ranging zebra. (Fun fact: though the zoo is no longer maintained, a few of the animals’ descendants remain. You can sometimes see zebras grazing on the property!) The parties thrown at this 250,000-acre estate were legendary and included old Hollywood stars like Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Greta Garbo as well as Hearst’s longtime girlfriend, star Marion Davies, plus the biggest names in politics and sports. Located about a four-hour drive from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Hearst’s property includes a two-runway airstrip, which made flying guests in and out a breeze.
Today the Castle
is open all year long (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) and offers four distinct daily tours to choose from, in addition to seasonal tours.