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The House on the Hill
I’ve driven past the entrance to Hearst Castle many, many times over the years. I’ve been to the old warehouses and the pier that Mr. Hearst built on the beach in San Simeon. I’ve even hiked out on the some of the Bluffs on the Hearst Corporation’s property along the coast. But I’ve never actually been to the top of the hill to visit the famous Hearst Castle and take one of the Hearst Castle Tours.
This trip would be different. We were going to take one of the Hearst Castle tours.
We stay in the areas around Morro Bay and Cayucos when we visit the areas. So for us, the trip to Hearst Castle entails getting on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, CA Highway 1) and driving North for about 30 minutes. Hearst Castle is located in a gorgeous part of the Central Coast called San Simeon.
As a side note, if you are just passing through and have no interest in seeing the castle or paying for a tour, stop by the parking lot at the pier and beach in San Simeon. It is worth a quick eye blast. Also, it’s free. And if you want to spend more time, walking down the beach leads to some nice walking trails out on the cliffs.
The Hearst Castle Tours
We decided to take the Grand Rooms Tour since this was my first time visiting the castle. Tours, for the most part, are $25 for adults and $12 for kids 12 and under. My advice is to buy your tickets at the visitor center when you arrive. You can buy them online. However, you will incur a charge for $8 per ticket. 8$ per ticket! Thanks California State Parks!! So I would suggest buying them at the park in person and save the service charge.
It may be worth pre-booking online and paying the charge to be sure you get your tour time if you are visiting on a busy summer day or are limited for time. But for us, paying an additional 30%+ for our tickets was not something we wanted to do.
The Grand Rooms Tour
The Grand Rooms Tour gives you a quick overview of the history of the house. You get to visit the Assembly Room, Refectory, Morning Room, Billiard Room and Theater.
The tour takes you some of the grander rooms. But it feels like you barely get to scratch the surface of the house. I would say, if that is all you got for the ticket price, it wouldn’t be worth it. Where the real value of the visit comes in is after the tour. Each ticket allows you full access to the exterior property around the castle. Check out the video below for a glimpse at what it is like. Also, consider subscribing to our YouTube channel.
We spent a good hour or two wandering down to the Neptune Pool and around the other villas. We went during winter, so there were very few people. Obviously, the gardens were not in bloom. But they were still accessible to walk around.
Should You Visit?
Overall, it was a great experience. I love places that romanticize an era. Hearst Castle definitely does that. It’s one of those places that feels frozen in time.
Our tour of the interior was short. It lasted about an hour and only visited a few rooms, but I understand why the tours are broken up. Many people can’t take stairs or stand around too long. So breaking them into multiple experiences was good. It also helped keep the individual tour cost down.
We think we will definitely be back for a different tour next time. the Upstairs Rooms Tour looks intriguing. But for now, we walk away with a taste of Hearst Castle. Until next time…