A popular San Simeon, CA attraction for your California Coast roadtrip!
In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of Hearst Castle, a popular Central California tourist attraction near the tiny seaside town of San Simeon. As the photos pass, you'll see pictures of Hearst Castle's beautiful exterior architecture, graceful towers, statuary and swimming pool; photos of Heart Castle's interior, including several bedrooms, artwork, and lavish decor; and images of the Hearst Castle visitor's center, as well.
Hearst Castle of San Simeon, California--Overview
Hearst Castle was the home of the late William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy newspaper publisher. It is now included in the California State Park system and is open for public tours.
William Randolph Hearst began a building project which never ended. The several buildings you may visit at this Central California hilltop hideaway include the Main House, as well as several visitor's cottages. Gardens, terraces and swimming pools are among the ground's many features (which are also open for public touring, as well.)
As you can tell from the slide show pictures of Hearst Castle above, not only is the architecture distinctive, but Hearst Castle is located in an area of great natural beauty, as well. The pictures on this page were taken in February, when the natural grass of the Central California hillsides is at its greenest. Not only are the castle's mountainside vistas lovely, but the home has a sweeping panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, as well.
Hearst Castle is so large, and there are so many details to discuss, that you can't see it all in one tour! There are 4 separate tours of Hearst Castle which you may take; and you'll need to take all four of them to see everything! In addition, there are evening and Christmas tours for Hearst Castle which are available to the public.
Hearst Castle Tours
Tours form the "heart" of your experience at Hearst Castle. Though you may view the buildings from afar free of charge (and enter the visitor's center & gift shop free, as well) all other activities involve paying a fee. You may not drive by the buildings close-up and just "look around;" access to the winding mountain road leading to Hearst Castle is limited to tour buses only.
Hearst Castle Grand Rooms Museum Tour is the recommended tour for first-time visitors. Formerly called "tour number 1," you'll get to view the grand rooms of the mansion which served as the social center of the home. You won't be disappointed by the attractions you'll see on this tour, and you'll learn all sorts of historical and architectural details that you won't want to miss. This tour officially lasts 45 minutes, plus whatever time you'd like to spend strolling around the pool and patio areas afterwards.
Highlights of Hearst Castle's Grand Rooms Tour include both the swimming pool, lovely gardens, and patios outside the main house. Inside the home, further highlights include seeing the "Refectory" dining room, the main sitting & entertaining room (called the "Assembly Room"), the billiard room and the home's movie theater.
Your tour will begin and end at the Hearst Castle visitor's center. All guests use the park's buses to reach the mansion and return again. No private cars are allowed on the road to the home.
OTHER HEARST CASTLE TOURS:
Tour #2, Casa Grande (big house/main house) upper floors: This Hearst Castle tour is called the Upstairs Suites Museum Tour. It covers extra rooms in the main house that you won't see on the suggested introductory tour of the grand downstairs rooms. The rooms you'll see include guest bedrooms (including the lavish Doge's Suite), the library, and Mr. Hearst's private suite (called the Gothic Suite.) This tour lasts 45 minutes, plus whatever time you'd like to spend afterwards strolling around the gardens, patios and swimming pools outside of the home.
Tour #3, Cottages and Kitchen Tour: You'll enjoy viewing the mansion's huge kitchen and large wine cellar, along with the Casa del Mar & Casa del Monte guest houses. These "guest houses" were actually used as Mr. Hearst's residences while the large Casa Grande was being built...and then were later used for guest accommodations. This tour lasts 45 minutes with time allowed at the end for strolling the grounds and pool areas.
Special Evening Tours: Evening tours are special because Hearst Castle "comes to life" at night! During evening tours, docents dressed in 1930's period attire fill the home...just as if they were Mr. Hearst's guests spending the evening at a get-together! If you want a tour that immerses you in the experience of living at this time & place, the evening tour is what you'll enjoy most.
Evening tours are given during the spring and fall only. Tours are given on selected nights in the spring months of March, April & May; and fall nights in September, October, November and December. (Friday and Saturday evenings are usually the times when these tours are given; however, not every Friday or Saturday will have tours. During holiday periods, mid-week tours may also be given.) The Hearst Castle evening tours run 1 hours and 40 minutes in length.
Accessibly Designed Tours: There is plenty of standing and stair-climbing to do on most tours. However, the park offers accessible versions of both the Grand Rooms Tour and the Evening Tour. Accessible tours are designed to take advantage of viewing the grand entertainment rooms on the home's first floor (and will not ascend to the upstairs bedrooms and libraries.) The accessible tours also include viewing the grounds, gardens and swimming pools around the home.
CHRISTMAS AT HEARST CASTLE:
Hearst Castle is decorated for Christmas between mid-November and early January each year. Christmas decorations are done in styles popular in the USA during the 1920's and 1930's, and are based on photos taken of Hearst Castle during holiday periods when Mr. Hearst was present. Two tours emphasize the Hearst family Christmas traditions...the park's Grand Rooms Tour, and also the Evening Tour. These are the two Hearst Castle tours on which you'll get to see the most Christmas decorations. In addition, the Evening Tours are extra-special, with docents dressed in period costumes, who will play the parts of guests attending one of Mr. Hearst's parties (to help you feel as if you, yourself, are attending a Christmas party at the Hearst mansion.)
The Grand Rooms Christmas tour offers many sessions daily, while the Evening Christmas Tour holds extra times during the holidays (in comparison to the Evening Tour's normal schedule.) During the entire month of December, many extra tours are added, including evening tours every day during the period just before and just after Christmas. (Christmas Day itself, however, the Hearst Castle is closed.) Christmas decorations are generally removed beginning about January 2nd or 3rd each year.
Hearst Castle Tickets and Tour Fees
As mentioned in the section above, there is no charge simply to enter the Hearst Castle visitor's center, where you may browse through the lovely gift shop or grab a snack.
Taking tours, however, involves paying a fee...which is necessary, of course, to maintain the property and hire the workers. As you can tell from viewing the Hearst Castle pictures on this page, there are many expensive artifacts here. Very specialized care is needed, in some cases, to preserve the treasures in prime condition.
Ticket prices may seem steep: Ticket prices for adults begin at $25 per tour. The cost may seem rather expensive to you. True; tickets are not cheap to tour Hearst Castle. However, these fees do make the tours possible at all. In addition to the constant maintenance performed here, absolutely no self-tours are permitted of the interior areas at Hearst Castle (to avoid theft, prevent vandalism, etc.) A well-trained staff must be maintained to escort the guests around the property, while explaining and interpreting the estate's features to them.
Hearst Castle discounts:
No California State Park annual pass discounts: If you have one of the California State Park year-long passes, you're used to getting into many of California's state parks free of charge. Unfortunately, the Hearst Castle property is NOT one of the state parks included in the California Parks annual pass. You will need to purchase a ticket at Hearst Castle, and no discount is given to annual passholders for the tours.
No AAA discounts: At one time, AAA members got a discount for Hearst Castle Tours, but this program is no longer in effect. In fact, there are very few discounts available at all for Hearst Castle tours; these include group discounts and disabled veteran discounts. You may view the official Hearst Castle tickets & discounts page for information about this program. Or, you may wish to view the park's group discount page. (A "group" consists of 12 or more paying guests (excluding children under age 5, who are free of charge.)
The only discount that most individual guests may use is the "multi tour discount." If you'll be taking several tours on the same date, then you'll qualify for a 10% discount on any subsequent tours (as long as you've paid full price for the first tour of the day.)
Off-season discount rates have been dropped: You may remember that there used to be discounted ticket rates for touring in the "off season." Due to the California budget crisis, these off-season discounts have been discontinued.
1.) Prices for Daytime Tours: Daytime tours include the Grand Rooms Tour, the Upstairs Suites Tour, and the Cottages & Kitchen Tour. Year-round prices for Hearst Castle Tours are as follows---
Adults, $25 per tour
Children and teens, age 6 through 17, $12 per tour
Babies and young children up to age 5 are admitted free
2.) Evening Tours: Prices for the special Hearst Castle evening tours are a bit higher than the regular daytime tours.
Adult Evening Tours: Tickets cost $36 year-round
Children & Teens: Evening tour tickets cost $18 year-round
Free tickets for young children: Babies, toddlers and preschoolers under age 5 are admitted free with a paying adult.
Hearst Castle address, map and directions
The Hearst Castle phone number for reaching a park ranger is 805/927-2010. This is the Hearst Castle Visitor's Center phone number (AKA the Ranger Station telephone number.) Here, you may ask questions that the park's website may not have answered for you (or get visitor's info if you're on the road without internet access.)
Hearst Castle Tour Reservations phone number: Call 800/444-4445 for general tour reservations. You may make your advanced reservations for any of the Hearst Castle tours between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm daily.
Group tour reservations phone number: use toll-free phone number (800) 401-4775. But, school groups should call (805) 927-2030 for planning a field trip.
Making Hearst Castle tour reservations online: If you'd prefer, you may use the following link to make reservations on the http://hearst.reserveamerica.com website, which is the Hearst Castle's reservations page on the Reserve America website. (The state of California uses Reserve America for reservations in its state parks, including most California campgrounds.)
Hearst Castle hours of operation: The first tour of the day leaves at approximately 9 am daily. The Hearst Castle visitor's center opens at 8 am so that you may get your tickets purchased, use the restroom, eat a snack...then be ready for your tour on time. If you are staying in the nearby town of San Simeon, it is a good idea to head to the visitor's center early in the day for your tickets...even if you don't want to tour Hearst Castle until the afternoon. Tickets sell out during the busy summer months. You will enjoy your day's activities much better if you have your tickets in-hand and know that your tour spot is waiting for you!
Tours run throughout the day at frequent intervals. The last tour of the day starts not long after 4 pm. Closing time is 6 pm during most of the year; extended hours may be available during the busy summer tourist season, as well as for special evening and Christmas tours of Hearst Castle.
Hearst Castle is open daily with the following 3 exceptions: Hearst Castle is closed for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.
The Hearst Castle address is 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452. This address is just north San Simeon's town center (where you'll find gas stations, restaurants and hotels.) You can't miss the entrance to the visitor's center; it's well marked with a sign at the entry turnoff point from California Highway 1.
Online Map to Hearst Castle: Here is a Google map to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California to help you get your bearings. The visitor's center has a large, free parking lot where you'll leave your car. The road up to Hearst Castle itself is strictly for the park's tour buses only.
PDF Map to Hearst Castle: If you'd like to print up the following map & throw it in your car, you'll have a handy guide to finding Hearst Castle...plus a number of other attractions along the Central California coast. Hearst Castle & San Simeon SHM (State Historic Monument) are marked with a green square near the center of the following Central California PDF Map.
Hearst Castle official website: For more complete details, please visit the www.HearstCastle.com, the official website of this California State Park.