Sunday, July 29, 2007

Playing it smart at Hearst Castle

The two turrets will really take your breath away!!
I took this photo during Tour #2 in March 2007.

Hearst Castle is a must see destination when traveling up Highway 1 to San Francisco. Here are some top tips to get the most out of William Randolph Hearst's grand estate:

1. Arrive early to order your tickets and expect to wait. The attendant will provide you with a time to meet at the bus gate and instruct you where to go. You may purchase your tickets online, but I have found plenty of things to do while I wait.

2. Listen up for the loud speaker if you do not want to wait till your ticketed time. They are always looking for volunteers to jump in on an earlier tours. I actually heard the loud speaker the strongest in the ladies restroom.

3. There are four tours: The grand tour, the upper floors tour, a tour exploring the outer houses and the gardens tour. There is also an evening tour. If you will only be there once in your life, consider not taking the grand tour even though the web site recommends it. While the grand tour is a wonderful introduction, the other tours are smaller groups and you still learn just as much. When I took the grand tour, we had close to 50 people in our group. Tour 2 which visited the upper floors, Mr. Hearst's personal quarters and the kitchen only had 10-15 in the group. This allowed us more personal time with the tour guide. Keep in mind that all tours cover the highlight of Hearst castle: the pools.

4. Wear Sunscreen.

5. Go see the complimentary movie that explains how Hearst got his vision for the estate.

6. If you are waiting for a tour or you still have energy for additional sights, stop by the Elephant Seal viewing area 4 miles north of the Castle on Hwy 1 or swing by Cambria for an ice cream, glass of wine, espresso or tea. I will cover the elephant seals and Cambria in a separate article.

7. If you are coming from the south on hwy 1 to the castle, keep in eye out for the roaming Zebras. The Zebras roam the Hearst land and they particularly love to graze near the highway. However, if you see them and not know about them, you will not believe your eyes. I have been blessed with seeing them once. Unfortunately, I saw them before I was aware they existed. I rubbed my eyes and said nahhhh.

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