750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon, CA 93452
Art Or Design Tour
Hearst Castle Description
The highlight of any Central Coast trip is likely to be a tour of Hearst Castle, the extravagant art-bedecked mansion of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. But for kids it's much more than a mansion, it's a window into a bygone era of Hollywood glamour, and the guides narrate the tours with plenty of drama and flash. It's a breathtaking vision of artistic creation run amok; the buildings, terraces, gardens, and of course the famous pools are even more spectacular in person than in pictures. My girls still talk about the underground indoor "mermaid" pool, which gave them their first sense, I think, that some people live lives more fabulous than most of us can imagine.
Toddlers & Pre-K: Stroller alert; lots and lots of steps. I saw lots of babies and toddlers on our tour, but they were mostly riding in backpacks, snugglis, or just in mom or dad's arms. A stroller would really be a hassle, unless it's a light "umbrella" model you can whip up and down the stairs.
School-Age Kids: The interiors are gorgeous, but the narration is very detailed and focuses on history, culture and politics, and Hearst's roles in all these arenas. So if you've got young kids who need to blow off steam, include a tour of the gardens, where they can get some fresh air and let loose.
- Leave extra time for the bus. Getting to the castle is complicated; first you drive up to the vast parking lot, then you go inside the visitor's center, and from there you're scheduled onto a shuttle bus depending on the start time of your tour. Don't cut it too close or you'll miss your tour.
- Plan on at least two hours per tour. Most tours are an hour and 45 minutes, but by the time you add in the shuttle bus ride, you'll need to figure at least two.
- Take more than one tour. If you have time and your kids have the patience, it's worth taking more than one tour — in fact you have to if you wish to see both the main house and either one of the guest houses or the gardens. But make sure you leave time for a snack at the Visitor Center in between.
Just the Facts
Hours: Daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Day tours usually begin at 8:20 a.m. daily (December start times may vary.) The last tour generally starts at 3:20 p.m. in winter, later in summer and in December. Evening Tour start times vary according to the time of sunset.
Fees: More than $40.
Recommended Time: Half day