La Cuesta Encantada – The Visitor Center

Most folks call this monument to tasteful pillaging Hearst Castle but its given name is La Cuesta Encantada, which means The Enchanted Hill. I’m here to tell you that when you sprinkle the fairy dust of money on ranch land, you conjure up a whole boatload ‘o enchanted architecture.

The real hero of this story, as I see it, is not William Randolph Hearst. What he taught us is that a great way to amass an immense fortune is to be born the only child of pretty-darned-wealthy parents. Hearst increased the family coffers by pioneering what was called at the time Yellow Journalism. Following his lead, people like Rupert Murdoch continue to thrive by giving the people the world they want to believe exists. Should we thank him for this?

No, the real hero(ine) is Julia Morgan the architect, artist and engineer. Most everything you see would not exist without her involvement. If you would like to learn more about her work on the Castle and beyond, click the link.

More editorializing later, but first let’s have a quick look at the Visitor Center.


It’s nice. There’s a huge gift shop, a restaurant selling mostly snack food, a spectacular near iMax movie theater showing an expensively-produced movie of Hearst’s life and indoor and outdoor seating.

There’s also a modestly-sized exhibit of artifacts from the Castle that didn’t make the cut for in situ display. I liked the collection of “high tech” gear and bits of Islamic decor.

The Castle sits high above the Visitor Center, which is near sea level. How high? High enough to be above the marine layer clouds in this photo.

We took three tours: the Grand Rooms, the Upstairs Suites and the Cottages & Kitchen tour. Each was about an hour but also involved a 15 minute bus ride up the hill and another down. Total time per tour was roughly 90 minutes.

Why not let visitors taking multiple tours stay at the top? I heard different stories, but I think it most likely involves security. There’s a lot of great stuff to steal and some would try.

I’m going to make one post per tour. That way you don’t burn out looking at too many photos at once. Maybe you’ll feel how we experienced the Castle since there’s a little bit of repetition from tour to tour.

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