A classic relic of the Middle Ages, castles of every stripe have for centuries been a stronghold of our imagination in books and movies, offering an irresistibly romantic vision of kings and queens. But one needn’t spend a princely sum flying abroad to experience their majesty — with America’s castles, you can let down your hair right here. Below are a few of the best, each fortified with enough turrets, escapism and fairy-tale splendor to make you feel like royalty.
Before you drive out to one of these iconic castles in the U.S., download this template to create paper crowns for the entire family to wear during your royal excursion.
Hearst Castle, California
Ever since his trips to Europe as a young boy, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst had a taste for art and opulence. After he inherited his father’s California ranch, he began building “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill) in 1919 to bring some of that European grandeur home. The sprawling estate — the main house, Casa Grande, alone has 42 bathrooms — boasted the world’s largest private zoo, a private airport and a cellar that housed the world’s finest wines. While you’re there, check out Hearst’s impressive art collection, which is framed by ornate, more-is-more interiors, as well as the luxe marble-lined Neptune Pool, bedecked with Italianate reliefs, sculptures and colonnades.
Getting There: Fly into Los Angeles International Airport, pick up your rental car and hop on Interstate 405 North in Culver City. Next, take U.S. Route 101 North about 180 miles to San Luis Obispo and continue on state Route 1 north for 40 miles to San Simeon.
Planning Tip: Reserve tickets to tour this California castle up to 60 days before your arrival. Ticket prices vary by tour, guest age and time of year, but children under 5 are always free.