If you wish to travel through time and catch a glimpse of the “gilded age”, then Hearst Castle maybe just what you are looking for. The castle is now a National Historic Landmark located on the central coast of California. It was once the primary home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who died in 1951. The site was opened to the public in 1958 and is open for public tours. Despite its out-of-the-way location, it draws millions of visitors every year. The castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan and actually resembles a Spanish cathedral. Hearst formally named the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill) but was commonly referred to as “the ranch”.
Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The elite political and Hollywood guests had to fly in to Los Angeles and then take a train to San Luis Obispo where they would be picked up by a taxi which would transfer them to the castle. Visitors included Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
The ranch once housed many exotic animals which was part of Hearst’s private zoo. If you happen to drive north on Pacific Coast Highway to Hearst Castle, keep an eye on the hills as you will most likely spot zebras roaming the fields. One of the last remnants of the zoo animals that once lived on the ranch. Parking is at the bottom of the hill at the visitors center where you can buy your ticket to the castle. Each ticket includes the tram to the top of the hill and a guided tour. After your 45 minute tour, you are free to roam the grounds of the castle. The castle is filled with tapestries and art collected by Hearst.
The grounds are also adorned with artifacts and art work worthy of museums. Again, feel free to roam the grounds but don’t touch the statues and art work. When you tour through the interior of the castle, you must also stay on the designated carpet, not to walk on the decades old marble. Basically, the entire enchanted hill is a museum.
No visit to central California is complete without a visit to this truly enchanted hill.