First time visitors should start with the Grand Rooms Tour, although there are several different sensational tours from which to choose. Expect to spend a bare minimum of 2 hours: Arrive at the Visitor Center 15 minutes before your tour time (book online for ease, convenience and to ensure your spot at the tour time of your desire.) The bus ride up the hill takes approximately 15+ minutes and Alex Trebec’ voice fills you in on some of the history and facts about Hearst Castle. Tune in! This monstrous castle (once referred to as “the ranch”) was built for William Randolph Hearst, newspaper mogul, in 1919 in hopes of having somewhere a “little more comfortable” to stay in than tents when he would venture up on the hill. This became his home, a place where he lived and entertained his friends, dignitaries, and other A-list guests. Eventually this compound would house an airfield, power plant, tennis courts, swimming pools, gardens, movie theatre, and the world’s largest private zoo complete with exotic animals. Every single outrageously lavish detail was planned and thought out and the views are breathtaking!
Cattle, bison and zebra dot the countryside as you look down at the coast and up at the castle at the top of the hill.
The tour will last about 45 minutes and then you can stroll around the grounds at your leisure to admire and take photographs. You can catch another bus to head down the other side of the hill, which will take another 15+ minutes. You may also want to spend some additional time at the Visitor Center watching the movie on the history of Hearst Castle (45 minutes – kind of IMAX-like for those of you who are “motion-sensitive” to such types of movies may want to skip this. Otherwise it’s a very cool and interesting movie to watch), as well as grab a bite to eat and peruse the gift shop full of really neat Hearst-related objects. This castle and the man who created it….so fascinating! So over the top decadent! The indoor and outdoor pools are both mouth-wateringly inviting and splendid!
I think my very favorite part of the tour was at the end, sitting in the luxurious theatre, watching the old home movies from so many years ago. Watching legends like Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable play in front of the camera. I loved loved loved it! Next visit I want to take the evening tour so I can fantasize that I am there as a guest of Mr. Hearst back in the 40’s or 50’s! I can’t wait! Spectacular!