Hearst Castle Tour Basics
Visitors must choose a tour in order to see Hearst Castle. Tours occur with a group and start with a bus ride up the mountain. After the tour, you are free to wander the exterior areas of the castle until closing time. To go inside the castle rooms you must be on a tour, with the exception of the pool room. Initially, we resisted being forced to pick a tour but afterward, we were glad to have a knowledgeable guide! We learned so much that it just flew by.
Parking at Hearst is free and easy. There is a large Visitor’s Center next to the Hearst Castle lot where you can buy tickets, purchase souvenirs, grab a snack, and use the restroom. This is where you board the buses up to the castle. Keep in mind there’s no food available at the castle itself, so be sure to eat beforehand.
Picking A Hearst Castle Tour
Hearst Castle offers 8 different tours that showcase different parts of the Castle. Some are only offered seasonally or at night. The Grand Rooms Tour is recommended for first-time visitors and lasts about an hour. This is the tour we took and would recommend.
The Grand Rooms tour costs $25 per adult and $12 per child. The Hearst website “strongly recommends” reserving tickets online beforehand but we checked the site and found that most of the timeslots were completely open. There’s also an $8 service charge to book online. We took our chances and purchased the tickets at the Castle with no issues. However, if you have a tight schedule or a large party I recommend booking beforehand.
The Grand Rooms Tour
The Grand Rooms Tour offers an overview of the Castle’s main building. This includes Casa Grande, the Assembly Room, Refectory, Morning Room, Billiard Room, and Theater. Tours start at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Castle. You will walk up about 150 steps or take the handicap-accessible Grand Rooms Tour instead.
This Tour was a really interesting look at the life of William Randolph Hearst and the elegant parties he threw. Don’t forget to stop at the Neptune pool outside for that perfect pool selfie!
When to Visit Hearst Castle
We recommend visiting Hearst in the late afternoon because there are less visitors and you can stay for sunset. The views from the top of the mountain at sunset are absolutely stunning and worth the wait.
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