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Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

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GREENVILLE
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Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

We will be in Monterey for 2 nights before heading up to Santa Cruz for a night and then heading home (already spending 3 nights in SF, 1 night Sonoma, 3 nights Yosemite before heading to Monterey). This will be at the end of our 10 day vacation. We have 2 teenagers, 13 & 17. Do you think we would enjoy Hearst Castle? Do you have to take a tour or can you pay a fee and just walk the grounds (gardens and pool?). I am not sure my kids will enjoy it and it seems very expensive. We live in SC and have been to the Biltmore Estate, the kids weren't overly impressed. Wondering if it is worth the drive down, or if we are better off exploring the gorgeous areas between Monterey and Big Sur?

Grover Beach...
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1. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

Hearst Castle sits high on a hill with 360 degree views of the ocean and the coastal mountain range. On a clear day the views are impressive. Heck, on a cloudy day the views are impressive. Not so much if it's foggy. Yes, you would have to take a tour to see any part of the castle grounds. Since it is located high atop a hill, they escort guests up to the hill via bus. If it helps, the tours have been seriously shortened to just 45 minutes and then you're free to walk the grounds as long as you like (at least until the last bus leaves for the Visitor's Center).

However, since your kids don't seem to be interested in historical residences, then exploring the sights of Big Sur might be more interesting to them.

Los Angeles
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2. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

I sure did enjoy it as a kid, as did my friends (whom my parents kindly invited along on more than one trip). I enjoy castles in general, but if you've been to castles in France or Italy, this one may not be so exciting (although, as a kid, I still marveled at the pools). I was sad they didn't let us go into the pools, though. For years afterwards, I dreamt of having a pool that had various rooms to swim into, though.

And Greek statues under the vast blue sky, with all that blue tile.

I have no idea which Biltmore estate you're talking about, but if it's the one in Santa Barbara, there's absolutely no comparison between Hearst Castle (a state monument, I believe) and the commercial property that is the Biltmore (which is lovely but it doesn't have the art or architecture of Hearst Castle, nor the views).

I think you mean exploring the areas just south of Big Sur back up to Monterey. There are many, many things to see along that stretch, most of it beach-oriented in nature, but some nice long approach walks to some of the more interesting beaches (like Garrapatta). But, again, these are not typically beaches where your kids can go in the water, except to wade. The tidal pools at Garrapatta (sp?) are amazing, but there are other good ones as well. But ending your drive at Big Sur, instead of driving at least part way down to Cambria, really robs you of some extraordinary views. There are frequently places to stop (don't miss Point Lobos - indeed, you could just spend a whole day there, but there is more to see) so you can judge how much car time vs how much outdoor time.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park itself is also amazing (just read the reviews here). And there are walks that take you up high enough to get similar vistas to those at Hearst Castle (although again, that takes time too). Some people prefer Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for scenery, though. We've always seen deer at Pfeiffer Big Sur (not sure if they still have the deer corralled up the way they used to, it's been awhile).

You don't say how long you have, but if your base is Monterey and you only have a couple of days, I would say that trying to fit in Hearst Castle might not be worth it, as there is so much to see in the Big Sur area - your intuitions may be just the thing to follow. Have a great trip - it's an area where you can be outdoors all day and have so many lovely experiences, it's not quite Yosemite, but very close in terms of grandeur and beauty (so maybe your kids are right about castles - who needs castles when you've got waterfalls and redwoods??)

Grover Beach...
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3. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

Cookie....

This is the Biltmore Estate the OP was referring to:

http://www.biltmore.com/

GREENVILLE
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4. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

Kibblesmom, you are right! The Biltmore Estate is Ashville, NC is the one I was referring to :) I think I will have Hearst Castle in our plan A, but also have a shorter plan B day in case the kids have had enough time in the car, etc. I think they may enjoy it, it is just a long drive and seems expensive, for something that may not "top their list". Hwy 1 and all the coastal views just sound magical....we are looking forward to it! We will have 2 full days in Monterey, so this trip down to Hearst Castle will be a full day trip. Thank you for everyone's input!

Santa Cruz...
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5. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

Hearst is not literally a "Castle". Folks from Germany, etc. who have actual "castles" make fun of us for calling this McMansion a "castle".

It is historical, as California history goes, and interesting, a tribute to a powerful man's wealth and the treasures he could purloin from Europe. The architect was a woman, Julia Morgan, who did quite a few lovely buildings in California.

Only you can tell whether the detour is worth the time, given the rest of your trip. I assume you going from Yosemite to take the Big Sur drive south to north before Monterey?

San Francisco
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6. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

IMO a one day trip drive from Montery to Hearst Castle and back is too long day. Especially if one of those directions is done on Hiway 1.

However, I think Hearst Castle is pretty cool. More so than the Biltmore. I suppose because of Hearst's eccentricities.

U.S.A.
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7. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

I love Hearst Castle, but mostly because of the work of the architect and the glorious artwork. Most homes/mansions/castles were built and decorated afterward. Hearst often had something : a 3rd century mosaic, a Renaissance ceiling, a set of choir stalls from a medieval abbey, a set of tapestries, a giant stone fireplace from a no-longer-standing castle......that he wanted to incorporate, and Julia Morgan had to adjust plans to incorporate these large works of art.

But with teenagers, I'd say "no" and spend more time just going south of Monterrey (sp?) to the Big Sur area, taking some long hikes. Point Lobos (just south of Carmel) is lovely! (Though kids do really like the pools!)

Barb in so cal

Cambria, California
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8. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

As mentioned by some of the other posts, Hearst Castle about the man...WRH... his dreams come true, and his media empire - the architect Julia Morgan (who was ahead of her time in so many ways, and this was one of over 700 buildings she did), a time in history, and the art/architecture. It is an art museum with pools, tennis courts, spectacular gardens and on a non-foggy day, spectacular views. That is one thing that majorly sets it apart from the Biltmore.

You can take the bus up and break away from the tour and just enjoy the pools and grounds, but at only 40 minutes, you might as well go inside. I am a guide there and find some teens are fascinated and others bored silly...so it all depends on what their interests are. Sounds like they might better enjoy hiking and taking in the sights on Hwy 1 in Big Sur, save the money and spend it on lunches and dinners along the way instead.

Edited: 23 April 2012, 02:33
9. Re: Hearst Castle....is it worth it?

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