Frequently Asked Questions
Planning Your Tour
- How do I get to Hearst Castle?
- What accommodations are available in the area?
Visit Friends of Hearst Castle’s Travel Planning Website or one of our local area
chambers for hotel information. Camping in San Simeon and surrounding areas is also
- How much do the museum tours cost?
For the daytime tours the price is $25 per adult per tour. For children (ages 5-12)
the price is $12 per child per tour. Children under the age of 5 do not require a
ticket when they sit on the lap of a paying adult on the bus. For the Evening Tours,
the tour price is $36 per adult and $18 per child (ages 5-12.)
- What is your tipping policy for the tour guide?
The tour guides are paid state employees and do not accept tips.
- Are strollers allowed on the museum tours?
Because of the number of stairs and terraces, strollers are not permitted on the tours. Child-carrier backpacks and front-packs are allowed. These are available on loan at the Ranger’s Office at the Visitor Center on a first-come first-serve basis for no additional charge.
- Do you offer any discounts?
We do offer a 10% discount on a second or third daytime tour for the same day when the first tour has
been purchased at full price.
We also offer a 10% discount on the daytime tours for groups of 12 or more when
purchasing tickets at the same time for the same tour.
The only other discount that is available for the Hearst Castle tours is the Distinguished
Veteran Pass for California residents who meet certain criteria. Applications for these
passes must be made in advance. For more information on these and other state park
discounts, refer to the special discounts page.
- What is the cancellation policy for tour tickets?
Subject to availability, visitors are permitted to make changes in tour date and up to 1
hour before the start time of the tour. In the event you change your tour date and/or time
a change fee of $3.50 per ticket will be applied. Cancellations can be made up to one
hour before the start time of your tour. Phone 1-800-695-2269. Once this reservation
is completed there is a $7.00 fee to cancel and a $3.50 non-refundable service fee per
- What are your hours of operation?
The Ticket Office opens at 8:00 am. Tour times vary, but generally the daytime tours begin at 9:00 am. Last tour times of the day depend on seasonal variations and operational needs. The Evening Tours are seasonal and are conducted in the spring and fall. For the Spring 2012 season, the Evening Tours will be offered on most Friday and Saturday evenings from March 2nd through May 19, with additional selected evenings during Spring Break in April.
Ticket times are the times when visitors board the bus at the Visitor Center for the 5-mile ride to the historic hilltop estate. It is recommended that visitors arrive approximately 15-20 minutes prior to the tour time in order to park and pick up tickets at the Ticket Office windows in the Visitor Center.
Check the reservations page for specific dates and times. Reservations can generally be made 7 to 8 weeks in advance. Hearst Castle is open on a daily basis with the exception of the dates listed below.
- Are you closed on any holidays?
Yes, Hearst Castle is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- Can I bring food or beverages on tour?
The only item that is allowed on tour is bottled water.
- Is photography allowed at Hearst Castle?
Still and video photography is allowed for personal use both inside the buildings and
throughout the grounds. Flash photography is not allowed inside the buildings, and
tripods are not allowed either inside or outside the buildings. Monopods can be used.
Although photography for personal enjoyment is encouraged, photographs taken on-site
may not be used for commercial purposes, nor may they be published in any medium
or format without prior written permission from the State of California. All commercial
rights to use photographs taken on the premises are reserved by the State of California
unless expressly granted otherwise in writing. Please review our on-site photography
- What should I do if there are road closures?
Highway 1, 101 and 46 can experience road closures during the rainy season which usually occurs between the months of November through April. Before your visit, you
can check the Caltrans websites for current road conditions and alternate routes. Refunds are also determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Do you still operate museum tours in the rain?
Yes, guided tours will continue in the event of rain, unless severe weather conditions exist. The guided tours include approximately 15 minutes or more outside. Following
the 45-minute guided tours, visitors can stroll through the gardens and visit the Neptune and Roman Pools, but there is limited coverage. There are no covered walkways when traveling from building to building; however, umbrellas are permitted.
Evening Tours also continue in the rain unless severe weather conditions are present.
If the Castle is closed due to extreme weather conditions, tour tickets may be rescheduled for a different time or date at no additional charge. Refunds are determined on an individual basis. For questions about cancellations and/or refunds please call Reserve America at (800) 695-2269.
- Should I make reservations for my tour?
Tour reservations are strongly recommended to guarantee the tour, date, and time
desired. Please call (800) 444-4445. If you are calling from outside the U.S., please
call 1-518-218-5078 for ticket information. You can also reserve online. Reservations can generally be made up to 7 to 8 weeks in advance. Limited walk-up
tickets will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. For the daytime tours, additional
tours may also be purchased on the hilltop without having to return to the Visitor Center
- What daytime tours do you offer?
We offer three separate guided tours throughout the year during the daytime. These are
the “Grand Rooms Tour,” the “Upstairs Suites Tour,” and the “Cottages & Kitchen Tour.”
At the end of the 45-minute tour, visitors can stroll through the gardens and visit the
Neptune and Roman Pools at their leisure and remain on the hilltop until closing time.
Guides are located throughout the grounds to answer questions, and buses travel up
and down the hill at regular intervals to transport visitors back to the Visitor Center.
- Should I see the movie before or after my tour?
The movie is included in all daytime tours and is 40 minutes in length.
The Hearst Castle Theater shows “Hearst Castle-Building the Dream” every 45 minutes
starting at 8:15 a.m. You may view the movie whenever it is convenient for you since
you do not have an assigned time to view the movie. The theater holds around 400
guests for each showing so seating is not usually a problem.
- Are Accessibly Designed Tours available?
Yes, we have several options for special needs. In order to determine the tour that best fits your needs,
please go to the tour requirements page.
For visitors who have limited mobility, including individuals who have difficulty climbing
stairs, walking, or standing for a length of time, we offer Accessibly Designed Tours that have a specially
equipped bus to transport visitors to and from the hilltop estate and shuttles on the hilltop
to avoid stairs. We can accommodate wheelchairs up to 28 inches in width due to the size of the
doorways and also have wheelchairs available for special needs for no additional charge.
Reservations can be made online or by calling (866) 712-2286 at least ten days in advance to ensure the availability of the above tours. From outside the U.S. call (518) 218-5078 to make reservations or reserve online. Reservations made less than ten days in advance will be accommodated as available.
For visitors who are visually impaired, there are items throughout the estate that visitors
can touch during the tour to experience the collection. A guide will assist
you with this experience.
For visitors who are hearing impaired, we offer an assistive listening device. Arrangements for an American Signage Language Interpreter to accompany the visitor can also be made in advance by calling the telephone numbers listed above.
- Are service animals allowed on museum tour?
Yes, service animals are allowed on all tours. Although not required, we would appreciate an advance telephone call at (866) 712-2286 so we can be prepared and notify staff.
- When are the Evening Tours available this year?
The Evening Tours are offered seasonally during the spring and fall. Evening Tours for the spring of 2013 will be offered on most Friday and Saturday evenings from March 1st through May 18th with additional weeknight Evening Tours offered in the last week of March and the first week of April for the Spring Break holidays.
- When are the Christmas Tours?
Hearst Castle does not have a specific themed tour for Christmas. However, the main
house and the guest houses will be decorated for the holidays by the curatorial staff in
the manner in which Mr. Hearst decorated for the holidays.
- When is the estate decorated for Christmas?
Decorating Hearst Castle is a process which takes time to complete and usually begins
in mid-November. The Christmas decorations and the trees are
beautifully lit during all operating hours. The decorations are in place by Thanksgiving
Weekend and remain in place through the end of December.
- When do the decorations come down after Christmas?
The curatorial staff begins to take down the decorations on January 2. This can take up to a week to complete.
- What tour shows the most decorations?
- How much time should we allow between tours?
Tours should be booked at least one hour apart to prevent overlapping of tours and to provide a short break, although you may wish to allow additional time to enjoy the grounds between tours.
- When we sign up for multiple tours do we ride back and forth to the castle or meet up with our next tour at the castle?
Visitors can sign up for as many as three 45-minute guided tours during the daytime and can remain on the hilltop between tours strolling through the gardens and visiting the Neptune and Roman Pools. In peak season, visitors may also purchase additional daytime tours on the hilltop as well (based upon availability.)
Visitors may take the bus back to the Visitor Center and then return to the Castle the same day if they wish to space their tours out for lunch or a break. Due to scheduled tours, there may be a wait until there is space available on the bus to transport visitors back to the hilltop estate. If you wish to return to the Visitor Center between tours, please notify the Ticket Office when you pick up your tickets. However, the grounds will close between daytime and Evening Tours, so visitors planning to take the Evening Tour must return to the Visitor Center on the last daytime bus.
For the Evening Tours, visitors ride up and down on a designated bus at the end of the tour. Visitors cannot remain on the hilltop between daytime and Evening Tours due to operational procedures and scheduling requirements.
Animals on Tour
- Are dogs allowed on the state beaches or campgrounds?
Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds and developed sites in state parks only on a
leash that is no longer than 6 feet in length. Service animals are permitted on all Hearst
Castle tours and State Park lands. The California State Park
website has more information about specific areas. Also, you may contact your local
county parks for their guidelines. Dogs are allowed at the campsites in Hearst San
Simeon State Park, Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay State Park and Montaña de
Oro State Park campgrounds as long as they are on a 6 foot or less leash, with a person
holding the leash. Dogs are allowed on a leash for walking on the beach from the south
end of Studio Drive in Cayucos to the Cayucos State Pier and the beaches of Pismo
State Beach with the exception of Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve.
Rules and regulations are subject to change. Be sure to contact the individual agency that manages the
area first to confirm current regulations, including required vaccinations, leashes that must be used or
- Can I bring my pet?
Pets are not allowed on the tour routes; however, service animals are permitted on all tours.
- How Can I Help?
By joining the Friends of Hearst Castle. FHC is a nonprofit cooperating association
affiliated with the Monument. It supports education and interpretive programs, as well
as artifact conservation projects at the Castle. Through memberships, fundraising and
special events, it helps to preserve this unique cultural resource for future generations.
- What is your donation policy for fundraising events?
The organization requesting a donation must be a non-profit, non-religious organization.
all inquiries are submitted at least four weeks in advance by a letter, email or
fax including the 501(3)(c) number to the Museum Director of Hearst Castle at
firstname.lastname@example.org or fax number at (805) 927-2110. Letters can be sent to the
Museum Director’s attention at 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452.
- How many people visit Hearst Castle per year?
Hearst Castle calculates its visitation on a fiscal year basis from July 1st, through June 30th.
In 2008-2009, there were 646,027 visitors on tours between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009.
In 2009-2010, there were 625,635 visitors on tours between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010.
In 2010-2011, there were 635,585 visitors on tours between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011.
Since Hearst Castle opened to the public in 1958, there have been over 38 million visitors as of June 30, 2011.
Engineering and Construction
- How much did it cost?
The cost of construction over such a lengthy time span is impossible to calculate exactly.
However, records from estate architect Julia Morgan’s office indicate that the total
expenditure for construction costs and purchase of the art collection did not exceed ten
- How long did this home take to build?
Initial plans were discussed in 1919. Mr. Hearst left San Simeon in 1947, and
construction ceased that year, concluding a 28-year building span.
- How many rooms are there?
- How many fireplaces are there?
There are 30 fireplaces in Casa Grande alone, and a total of 41 fireplaces including the
- How many bedrooms are in the Main Building?
There are 38 bedrooms altogether.
- Why is the building unfinished?
A combination of factors contributed to the unfinished state of the building: Mr. Hearst’s
penchant for simultaneous projects and constant modifications of projects underway;
financial crisis and subsequent project shutdown; his absence from the Hilltop during
WWII; and eventually his failing health and advanced age.