Why is it that articles about places like Hearst Castle does not give you any advice how to plan when you want to go. If you did find one, it is not as detailed as one would like. How do you prepare yourself for trips like these? As a blogger, I would often research about the places I wanted to visit so I can have an idea of what to do ahead of time and what to expect so I can avoid long lines and all kinds of delay. So here are some tips that might be useful to you when you visit Hearst Castle:
Buy your tickets in advance – Visit www.hearstcastle.com to purchase your tickets. There are several tours available for visitors and each tour is ‘bookable’ by the hour. Before you go, print your purchase confirmation and present it to the ticket agent at the visitor center. There are also tour companies that offer group tours to the castle.
The Visitor Center is at the bottom of the Enchanted hill – The visitor center for Hearst Castle is at the bottom of the enchanted hill. This is where you purchase and pick up tickets and take the bus that takes you up to the castle. It also have a small cafe and a gift shop for purchasing souvenirs.
You need to take the bus up the hill – visitors are only allowed to park their vehicle at the visitor center parking lot. From the visitor center, the state parks department provide buses to take visitors up the enchanted hill. The road to the castle is quite narrow yet the school bus-style vehicles can manage the climb to the castle. The ride to the top of the hill will also give you a great view of the Pacific on a clear day.
All booked tours are guided – The State Parks department will not allow you to room freely inside the buildings without a guide. All tours you book inside the grand house and the cottages includes a tour guide that would show you around and tell you a little history about the buildings. Beside you will need a guide especially when visiting the grand house because it is so massive you can get lost. After your tour, you are allowed to room the gardens in the estate.
Book more than one tour – I recommend that you book more than one tour so you can see all the great collaborative work of both William Randolph Hearst and his architect for 28 years, Julia Morgan. Hearst had created a great collection of antiques including various rooms from European castles. One tour will not show you what Hearst has amassed in his lifetime. Other tours I would recommend are the Cottage & Kitchen tour to see how a large estate like this operates behind the scenes. and the Upstairs Suites tours to see the grand libraries (yes, there is more than one in the Grand House) and bedroom suites of W.R. Hearst and his mistress Marion Davies.
It can get foggy at the Enchanted hill – The morning I arrived at the top of the enchanted hill, fog was covering the great view of the pacific. After my first tour, the skies cleared up which is perfect for many photo opportunities.
The castle is actually unfinished – The bus will drop you off at the unfinished section of the castle, not far from Neptune’s pool. From here, you will immediately see unfinished sections of the exterior of the grand house. Unfortunately, Hearst died before he could finish the construction of the grand house and you will see evidence of this when you arrive at the castle. It stayed this way when construction ended with the death of Hearst in 1947.
Neptune’s Pool is under restoration – because of an earthquake that occurred on December 2013, many parts of Neptune’s pool was damage. This is not just because of the earthquake but because it has been a long time since it’s last restoration work. When you visit the estate today, Neptune’s pool is stripped to its bone. Restoration started in 2014 and will not be completed until 2018.
Don’t be dismayed if some of the things you now discover about Hearst Castle is not what you expect of it. I still encourage you to visit this grand estate not just for its grandeur but also for the drive you will experience to get there. Since Hearst have decided to purchase parts of European castle and incorporating all of it into his grand estate, this is also a good way of seeing the history of Europe without ever leaving the country. We must thank people like Mr. Hearst for bequeathing properties like this to the public for us to appreciate.
**All the photos that you see in this blog are shot by me unless noted. Please contact me if you wish to used them. The photos here are copyrighted.**