Hearst Castle is one of the largest of approximately 5,000 historic house museums in the U.S., with one of the most sophisticated guided tour programs in the country. Once the home of William Randolph Hearst, California State Parks strives to keep the estate looking like a private residence. The historic museum tours take the visitor back into time through the interpretation of a combination of many aspects regarding the historic California estate, including William Randolph Hearst and his family, and the collection, architecture, gardens and lifestyle at the Castle. Formal guide training is an integral aspect of Hearst Castle, resulting in a high quality interpretive experience for all who visit this magnificent California vacation attraction known as “The Enchanted Hill.”
Origins of the Hearst Castle Tours
As early as 1952, President Sproul of UC Berkeley proposed that William Randolph Hearst’s ranch at San Simeon be given to the Division of Beaches and Parks as a monument. Trial tours of the historic mansion and estate undertaken in September 1952, lasted over two hours but were quickly pared down to one hour plus the bus trip up and down the hill.
Donated to the People of the State of California in December 1957 by the Hearst Corporation, dedication ceremonies for the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument were held June 2, 1958 at the old visitor’s center. Following the ceremonies, attraction tours opened to the public at 1:00 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets were $2 for adults and $1 for children 6-12. There was only one tour, and its route was similar to today’s Grand Rooms Tour, covering the first floor rooms of Casa Grande and one of the three guesthouses. Today there are three distinct daytime tour routes, each with a guide leading visitors through different areas of the estate and museum.
In the summer of 1964, the State introduced Tour 2 to provide viewing and interpretation of the upper rooms of the main house, Casa Grande. In June 1968, Tour 3 was added, and in 1982, Tour 4. Accessibly Designed Grand Rooms Tour began in 1974, and cover the ground floor of the main house (including the kitchen), the gardens and pools, and the main level of one guesthouse, Casa del Mar.
The Evening Tour: History Comes to Life
Over the years the public indicated an interest in touring the estate at night. In response, a pilot program for an Evening Tour of the estate and museum was developed and presented for the first time on April 21, 1989. The interpretive objective of this program is to recreate an evening at Hearst Castle in the 1930s, with a general emphasis on the social history of 1930-1935 and, more specifically, on Hearst employees and former guests. Docents in the Living History Program, dressed in period clothing, provide tableaus illustrating the social history discussed on tour. The Evening Tour is available most Friday and Saturday nights in spring and fall.
Take a Tour Through the Castle
Today, the Castle is open all year long and offers three distinct daily tours to choose from, in addition the the seasonal Evening Tour. See the Castle’s grandeur for yourself—reserve your tour time and tickets today.
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