6 Castles in America Where You Can Get Your Fairy-Tale Fix
Is it just us or does every European itinerary seem to include at least one castle? (It’s no wonder—the continent is full of ’em.) But you don’t have to travel abroad to see battlements and turrets: There are plenty of regal architectural wonders stateside. Here are six castles right here in the U.S. to gawk at without leaving the country. And no, not one of them is in Disneyland.
HEARST CASTLE (SAN SIMEON, CALIFORNIA)
Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s erstwhile home might be the most famous U.S. castle, and for good reason: Designed by architect Julia Morgan, the 90,000-square-foot estate (yep) is inspired by Spanish Revival style and features lavish gardens, two of the most gorgeous swimming pools ever constructed, a collection of zebras on the property (the remnants of Hearst’s private zoo) and a dining hall that served as inspiration for the set designers of Harry Potter .
‘IOLANI PALACE (HONOLULU, HAWAII)
The only true royal palace on U.S. soil, this cultural landmark once served as the official residence for Hawaiian monarchs. Commissioned by King Kalakaua in 1883, the structure features an architectural style—American Florentine—that can’t be found anywhere else in the world: It combines traditional Roman influence with local aesthetic, in details like a koa wood staircase, floral ornamentation and wide verandas.
BOLDT CASTLE (ALEXANDRIA, NEW YORK)
Nope, that’s not the backdrop of a new Disney movie—it’s ridiculously picturesque Heart Island, where millionaire hotelier George Boldt built a castle as a gift for his wife, Louise. (Sadly, she died suddenly, and a heartbroken Boldt left behind the unfinished mansion as a monument to his love.) After lying abandoned for 73 years, it was finally restored to its intended glory. P.S. The most charming structure on the island might be the Power House (once used to store generators), which features fairty-tale-perfect turrets.
BISHOP’S PALACE (GALVESTON, TEXAS)
This stately Victorian, located in Galveston’s historic district, is so named because it once housed a Roman Catholic bishop. Despite a modest lot size, the four-story house is flush with opulent touches like stained-glass windows, a hexagonal staircase and ornate Tudor carvings. And it’s not form over function: Thanks to its sturdy stone construction, the mansion withstood a massive hurricane in 1900 (and welcomed hundreds of survivors afterward).
HAMMOND CASTLE (GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS)
Striking Gothic style and seaside location aside, the most fascinating thing about Hammond Castle might be its former occupant: John Hays Hammond Jr., a prolific inventor. Among the quirks he added to his home are secret passageways and an indoor swimming pool with its own weather system. He was also notably fascinated with the occult—which may be why the castle is rumored to be haunted. (Really: It made an appearance on Ghost Hunters .)
BILTMORE ESTATE (ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA)
With the tagline “America’s largest home,” this sprawling manor originally served as the summer escape for George Washington Vanderbilt II. If you’re thinking it looks more like the Loire than the Blue Ridge Mountains, that’s because the style was inspired by French châteaus, from the dramatically sloping roofs to the intricate carvings and gargoyles. And the grounds are no afterthought: Vanderbilt tapped landscape architect extraordinaire Frederick Law Olmsted to create a mix of formal gardens, farmland and forest.