"Filthy Rich Hearst Castle Stunning and Delightful" Top 5 Page for this destination Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument by atufft

Almost Since I was Born in 1956...

I've known about Hearst Castle, but never really wanted to visit it. The Hearst fortunes were part of the filthy media rich and manipulative empire expanded by Willam Randolph Hearst, and the castle, as a warehouse of European art, symbolized the self-dulgence of the ultra-rich during the heady days of the 1920's to 1940's. Also, as a newspaper magnate, Hearst is historically reputed for having helped orchestrate the opportunistic Spanish-American War just to sell more newspapers, and thus was the inspiration for the main character in the movie "Citizen Caine".

Being a child of the 60's though, my most vivid memory of the Hearst family was that of Patty Hearst, just two years my senior, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a gang of California bank robbers with a psychotic view of liberty. Patty, grand-daughter of Willam Randolph, joined the gang and was videotaped weilding an assault rifle and wearing a red military style beret. By Patty's own admission, her grandfather had been stingy about the charitable food distribution program that was her ransom. Patty Hearst was eventually caught, defended by famed attorney F Lee Bailey in court, incarcerated in jail, and was later pardoned by President Jimmy Carter. She married a prison guard who presummably shares in the Hearst fortunes today. The Hearst family now remains a secretive and self-indulgent family, forced to give up the castle because of the cost of maintaining it. It has always been hard to admire such charitable contribution to the great state of California. But having finally visited the castle, I've had a change in attitude.

Ticket Prices are High, But So is the Ride

The Hearst Castle is as busy a tourist attraction as any in California, so it pays to purchase tickets in advance for the time slot in which one is interested. The $20- per person, per tour price is certainly much higher than is required for a California State owned attraction, but the Hearst family still owns at least part of the pie and wants things run in a certain way. The buses pick passengers up according to a strict schedule, and during the ride up the winding hill, a recorded presentation provides a quick run down of the Hearst fortunes that led to the construction of the exotic structure. Except for dignitaries, all visits must by by one of five 1-1/2 hour tours:
Tour 1: Experience Tour includes Main Floor of Casa Grande and 45 minute I-Max Video Presentation
Tour 2: Second Floor Rooms of Casa Grande, Including Hearst's Own Gothic Suite, Guests Rooms, Libraries, Kitchen, and Tennis/Swimming Pool.
Tour 3: Casa Del Monte Guest House, Casa Grande North Wing, Tennis/Swimming Pool
Tour 4: Gardens of Hearst Castle and another Guest House
Tour 5: Special Event Evening Tour with Actors in Period Costumes and Other Festivites (less frequently scheduled)

Since I had seen various television documentaries on the Hearst Castle Estate and the Hearst Family Fortune, I decided to skip the I-Max of Tour 1 by taking tours 2 & 3. These tours hoped to provide greater access to the museum collection of art which the castle is known to contain. The I-Max presentation may be seen separately in the theater which is in the hospitality building at the bottom of the hill near the parking lots. Also in that building is a large gift shop, food concession, bathrooms, and ticket sales windows.

My Tours 2 & 3

We ate a good lunch and arrived in the afternoon. There are some 300 steps to climb and many more inside the house, so we prepared for a major hike. The ticket sales representative on the 800 number told me that some people take take tours 1 through 4 in one day. I don't recommend this as we were pretty tired after just two tours. Had we come before lunch, I suppose with a good break between, we might have been able to take in another couple tours physically, but the tours do overlap a bit, and after awhile, the theme begins to wear on one in terms of content, making the visit itself tiresome for the visitor. I order my tips according to the chronological order of the tours themselves, ordering the photos in the exact sequence that I took them. With each tip, I provide additional details about Julia Morgan's architectural genius that underlays the castle construction, which in the long run is the real beauty of Heart's Castle.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Excellent Collection of Italian and Spanish art combined with Morgan Architectural Style
  • Cons:Tour Prices High and Tours Tiresome in the Long Run
  • In a nutshell:Hearst Castle is a Museum--A Combined Collection of Architecture and Art
  • Last visit to Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument: Apr 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (33)

Comments (11)

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Dec 28, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    The advice about avoiding the hotels and staying in much better communities is particularly appreciated.

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Dec 24, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    I always had this a on want to see list-and maybe one day. YOu have great detail explanation of the rooms and decor. NIce job, and Merry Christmas & New Year

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    May 21, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    Hi, Alan~! Thanks for your detailed and interesting virtual tour of that great place.... Keep well! ~

  • omidamini's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2007 at 2:49 AM

    Thanks a lot for wonderful Page

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Aug 2, 2007 at 11:01 PM

    Opulence, extreme expenditure, palatial rooms and pools befitting a rich oil baron. Thanks for sharing. I missed the tour and only saw Hearst castle from a distance. SL :)

  • Maggies's Profile Photo
    May 11, 2007 at 2:54 AM

    We won't be visiting the castle, that's for sure but we might want to see a bit from the outside, driving around. Is it possible?

  • ATXtraveler's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2007 at 4:49 PM

    Memories of that 8th Grade field trip have come back to me thanks to this page.

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2007 at 8:58 PM

    Nice start to your best-selling book :) Great photos as well; that's a beautiful area and an impressive estate.

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2007 at 2:54 PM

    Wow!!!! What a lot of information, and great photos! Who needs to visit? Your pages are a true virtual tour.

  • Vulindlela's Profile Photo
    Apr 18, 2007 at 6:27 PM

    Neat place! Thank you for sharing.


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