750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, USA
Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media
Hearst CastleThis sprawling, 165-room mansion may be known as Hearst Castle, but officially, it’s called La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”), former owner William Randolph Hearst’s affectionate name for the property. Designed by legendary California architect Julia Morgan to the newspaper magnate’s specifications, Hearst Castle was considered completed in 1947, even though it was still unfinished. Now a national historic landmark and museum dedicated to art and excess, it’s filled with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, along with Old Master European artwork, Chinese and Near Eastern art, and art deco items—25,000 artifacts in all. There’s always something blooming in the 127 acres of gardens, whether it’s sweet-smelling hyacinth, walls of magenta bougainvillea, fragrant star jasmine, or orange California poppies (the state flower). Don’t get overwhelmed by the numbers during a visit here. Most tours of the estate focus on certain areas, instead of the entire grounds. Pro tip: The Hearst Castle private tour, a four-hour, in-depth exploration of the lavish grounds and mansion, is well worth it. The customized route can access any areas of the estate that are available to the public, but since it’s limited to a maximum of six guests, you can cover a lot of ground with your private guide and get information that shorter tours can only touch upon.