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Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

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Los Angeles...
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Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

I've read reviews, and done lots of research, but am still confused about the best plan for Hearst Castle.

We will be driving from LA on a Saturday morning in May. I originally thought we'd take an evening tour that night, and a day tour the next morning since I know my mother would want time to walk the grounds and see the estate in the daylight. However, now I'm wondering if taking a day tour will just replicate too much of what's covered already in the evening? Does it makes more sense to just take the Grand Rooms tour when we arrive, and the Upstairs tour the following day? I know the Evening Tour is more expansive, and since it's limited, it seemed silly not to take advantage of the fact we'd be there while they're still offered. But now I'm not so sure. I don't mind spending money on an additional day tour, but would hate to feel like it completely covered everything we'd already seen.

Has anyone done the Evening Tour? I guess I'm just trying to figure out if it's a great experience, or not all that much more special. For the date we're planning, the earliest tour we could take would be at 6:50 p.m. and the latest at 8:30 p.m.

I know this topic has been discussed repeatedly, but I really would appreciate any thoughts or advice. I've read through the forums and reviews, but it's so hard to tell! Thanks in advance!

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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1. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

The night tour is unique in that locals dress up in period costume and are strategically placed inside the castle to give the appearance of what life was like there at the time that Wm Randolph Hearst was alive. You don't get that on the day tour.

Cambria, California
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2. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

The rooms you see in the Grand Rooms and Upstairs tours would be replicated in the Evening Tour. I would suggest you look into the "Designing the Dream" tour, which is 75 minutes long and goes into a guest house and wing of the Main House not included on the Evening tour. It focuses on the collaboration between Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan, where the Evening tour's focus is what it was like to be a guest there in the 1930's. If you still want another day tour, the Grand Rooms would give you the chance to see and hear about the social gathering rooms and then going back in the Evening, it will look different (at nite) plus have the Living History docents as a part of the tour experience, so it is different even tho' you'll be seeing the same rooms again but in different context.

Just be aware that you are doing a lot of stairs!

Houston, TX
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3. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

We did two tours--first one the Upstairs Tour during the day, then the next evening the Evening Tour. There was a bit of overlap for the upstairs, but nothing that would put me off from recommending that combination. While the costumed volunteers do not interact with anyone on any of the tours, it was fun to see the Grand Rooms (as well as the Upstairs rooms) being used as they were in the day. Added a bit. As I recall, and I could be wrong, there were a couple of things included in the evening tour that we wouldn't have seen in daytime tours of the Grand Rooms and the Upstairs Rooms. We enjoyed seeing the gardens and the pools in both the daylight and at night time--the indoor pool is spectacular after dark. Whatever you decide, I would recommend that you view the movie at the visitor center before you go to the castle for the first time. Puts lots into perspective. Also, there are still a few zebras from the former private zoo that roam the property. We saw five of them, right by the fence along side the road, as we drove from the castle grounds back to Cambria. A bit surreal--zebras on one side, the ocean on the other.

BTW, the time you book is the time you get on the bus for the 15 minute ride up the hill to the castle. The guide meets the bus as it arrives and the tour begins immediately. At the end, the guide escorts you out and you may not re-enter. You can, however, spend as much time as you want seeing the gardens and the pools and then get back on a bus to go back to the visitor center.

Los Angeles...
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4. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

Thanks everyone for the replies. I think we've decided to go ahead and do the evening tour, as well as a day tour the next day. Any thoughts on whether the Upstairs, Kitchen and Cottages or Designing the Dream tour would be the best complement to the evening one?

I'm also trying to figure out the timing of the evening tour. One option is to take the 6:10 tour so we could have a late dinner afterward. But is it worth doing an earlier tour at 6:10 if the sun doesn't go down until 8?

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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5. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

If it were I, I would enjoy dinner first and take the later tour when it will be darker. I just think a cover of darkness on a night tour would add to the experience. Then, you would have contrast with the followup day tour.

The Upstairs tour is pretty cool, but it's really your decision.

Edited: 01 May 2014, 21:20
Houston, TX
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6. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

Since you will be doing two tours, I agree with the good (as always) advice from Kibbles. We had done our daytime tour first, so it was very interesting to be able to see the grounds again, after dark. As I said in my earlier post, seeing the indoor pool after dark was really spectacular.

7. Re: Still confused about Hearst Castle tours

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