Craving castles? Royal residences aren’t exclusive to Europe―you can find them in the United States as well. From Venetian splendor to traditional châteaux, here are a few palatial homes you can tour.
–Eve Hart Smith
Hearst Castle in California
Experience life as one of William Randolph Hearst’s celebrity guests in San Simeon, California. On the bus ride from the visitor’s center to the castle, keep a lookout for the roaming descendants of Hearst’s zoo animals—zebras, mountain goats, and elk. You can experience the enormous castle through one of four guided tours: the grand rooms, upstairs suites, cottages and kitchen, or evening tour. Each tour offers you glimpses of some 25,000 artifacts, including 500-year-old tapestries, Egyptian statues, antique Gothic ceilings, and other art pieces. After your tour, take time to explore the gardens and to see the stunning blue and gold mosaic of the Roman Pool.
Iolani Palace in Hawaii
In downtown Honolulu, visit Iolani Palace, once home to the last Hawaiian royals. You’ll enjoy the unique design of the palace, built in the late 1800s to introduce Hawaii as a modern and prestigious nation with a mixture of western, Asian, and Hawaiian influences. Inside the palace you’ll find portraits of past kings and queens lining the Grand Hall, which leads to the red and gold Throne Room, the luxurious reception area called the Blue Room, and the elegant State Dining Room. Wander the grounds to discover the coronation pavilion; the Royal Mound, where Hawaiian chiefs are buried; and the Barracks, which house the gift shop and ticket office. Call ahead for reservations and check online for special events, such as Royal Hawaiian Band concerts.
Boldt Castle in New York
Explore Boldt Castle, a monument to one man’s incredible capacity to love. The castle was meant to be a gift from millionaire George C. Boldt to his wife, Louise. But after Louise unexpectedly died in 1904, Boldt immediately stopped construction, and the structure was left unfinished for 73 years in Alexandria Bay on Heart Island. The castle has now been restored to pay tribute to Boldt’s original purpose. You can access the island by water taxi, private boat, or tour boat, and tour the main castle and its beautiful grounds. Stay for lunch and watch the comings and goings of water traffic on the St. Lawrence River for a relaxing afternoon. If you’re a boating enthusiast, you an pay a few extra dollars to visit the Boldt Yacht House and view an original 1892 steam yacht.
Biltmore House in North Carolina
Experience the French-influenced Biltmore House, nestled in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. You can take a self-guided house tour for a peek into the opulent lifestyle of a Vanderbilt heir. Expect to be amazed by a massive private library, lavish furnishings in some 250 rooms, and a unique collection of vintage clothing. Afterward, walk through the blossoming English-style gardens; then fill your shopping and refreshment needs at Antler Hill Village and Winery, located just three miles up the road. You can also hike up to 22 miles of estate trails or take a private fly-fishing lesson at one of the nearby ponds or lakes. With unlimited options available, the way you experience Biltmore is completely up to you. Since ticket pricing varies by season and day of the week, plan on buying tickets in advance to get a discounted rate.
Ca’ d’Zan in Florida
Visit Ca’ d’Zan—“House of John” in a Venetian dialect—a tribute to the gothic beauty of Venice, where circus icon John Ringling and his wife, Mable, loved to spend time. Ringling’s estate juts out into the waters of Sarasota Bay, resembling an Italian landscape. Enjoy a public tour and see frescoed ceilings, marble balustrades, ornately carved furniture, and pieces from the Ringlings’ impressive art collection. Your ticket will include admission to other parts of the Ringling estate, including the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum. During the spring, catch one of many musical concerts at the historic Asolo Theater or plan a picnic on the bayfront promenade on the estate.