Living in luxury at every vacation stop is a travel lover’s dream, but some destinations can truly make you feel like royalty. Exploring grand castles straight out of a fairytale can seem like an alluring but distant fantasy, but fear not, as regal splendor is just around the corner, or rather sprinkled across the whole of the United States! That’s right, surprisingly, Europe is not the only place to see the most magnificent castles, but you can explore them on your USA trip.
Throughout the 1800-1900s, many wealthy American entrepreneurs purchased land and built large stately mansions and castles as vacation homes and even gifts for their loved ones. These dreamers left behind beautiful castles, all hidden away in states across America, and these 8 glorious ones are just waiting to be discovered.
Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington
With its rustic brick masonry and Tudor-style chimneys, Thornewood Castle seems like a classic castle pulled straight out of old Elizabethan England. And guess what, it really was! Designed by the founder of the Port of Tacoma in Washington, Chester Thorne, Thornewood Castle is a perfect mix of new American and old English architecture. In 1907, Thorne bought a then 400-year old English manor in Wales, took it apart and shipped its pieces to the U.S. to build Thornewood Castle as a gift for his wife.
This architectural masterpiece features more than 50 different rooms, all lavishly decorated with vintage antiques, rare artwork and elegant furniture. Sprinkled throughout the castle are magnificent details like stained glass artworks, dating all the way back to the 16th and 17th century. The castle’s vast windows grant you views of the serene sunken gardens and gleaming Victorian fountains which border the castle grounds. You can book a stay at Thornewood or even host a company retreat, wedding, or other large-scale social events there. Basically, find any excuse you can to visit this astonishing English abode on your USA trip.
The Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida
This “Legendary Pink Palace” will send you to a world full of old Hollywood charm, all while enjoying the splendid Florida tropics. The Don CeSar Hotel opened its pastel pink doors in 1928 and its grandeur captivated the likes of Scott F. Fitzgerald and Al Capone, who stayed there on some occasions. With its Mediterranean Revival building style and unique pastel pink color scheme, the Don CeSar is an old beauty. The hotel looks like it came out of the Great Gatsby universe, so much that you’d feel like you were living in the novel as soon as you walk inside.
The Don CeSar has over 275 rooms to stay in for the night, including 36 guest suites if you feel like taking your mansion-living experience to the next level. There’s also a wide array of restaurants to choose from, from cool ice cream joints to classy bars and grills. And let’s not forget the crystal blue St. Pete beach right on the hotel’s back lawn! One of the prettiest and most imaginative mansions on this list, the Don CeSar is the epitome of the Roaring Twenties’ taste and you’ll be dying to travel here and go back in time to that simply wild era.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California
A self-made millionaire rooted his fortunes into this majestic castle by the California coast. After earning a fortune through copper mining, George Hearst bought thousands of acres of land. His son, William Randolph Hearst and architect, Julia Morgan built the white wonder known as Hearst Castle. Also known as “La Cuesta Encantada”, or Enchanted Hill in Spanish, the castle feels like a portal to another culturally diverse world spliced with Greek, Asian and Italian influences. The Enchanted Hill has four “casas” or castle structures, all with their own magical looks.
The Enchanted Hill also has two pools, the Neptune Pool and the Roman pool. The Neptune Pool pays homage to magnificent Roman architecture, with its crystal blue pool surrounded a romantic white-pillared portico and lush greenery. The Roman pool is the most eye-popping indoor pool, with the blue waters reflecting the beautifully decorated blue and gold room inside. Check out Hearst Castle for a perfect castle getaway on your USA trip.
Boldt Castle and Yacht House in Alexandria Bay, New York
George C. Boldt built Boldt Castle as a gift to his wife and from the looks of the castle, his wife was one lucky lady! Unfortunately, before the castle could be finished Boldt’s wife passed away and the castle was abandoned out of heartbreak in 1904. Luckily, when the beautiful but undone castle was discovered 73 years later, it was restored to its current glory. Boldt Castle is no wonder to just stumble upon, as it was built on Heart Island and is only accessible by boat or water taxi. When you step foot on Boldt Castle’s island, you’re transported to a wonderland of Roman stone towers and arches, surrounded by the gorgeous blue Alexandria Bay.
Heart Island is full of magnificent structures to view around Boldt Castle, including the serene Italian Gardens decorated with marble statues and the stone Entry Arch surrounded by a lily pad pond. Boldt Castle’s features a vintage interior with its light wooden wall panels and flooring, musty bookcases, and grand hallways, all which make this castle paradise homey and beautiful. When you’re down touring the castle, take a boat to the Yacht House nearby, where you can see their collection of well-crafted boats and sea vessels. This castle is a sailor’s fever dream.
Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina
The great-grandson of the Cornelius Vanderbilt built this architectural wonder known as the Biltmore House. George Vanderbilt built this French Renaissance chateau in 1889. Since then, the Biltmore has only expanded into the marvel it is now. Biltmore House is mysteriously elegant, channeling the auras of the estates you read about in Agatha Christie novels.
Deep wooden interiors, red velvet curtains, fine artworks, cozy fireplaces are sprinkled around the estate. High ceilings decorated with crystal chandeliers invite you into royal living. The Biltmore House’s most extravagant features include a humongous library with a grand fireplace and warm atmosphere and the Winter garden with lush greenery and seasonal blooming flowers.
Surrounding the estate are three inns, inspired by the décor of the Biltmore House. So, you can have a just as lavish stay in these gorgeous inns after you tour the castle. The Biltmore property has the colorful Antler Hill village full of attractions to dabble in. There’s a fine winery where you can attend wine tastings. Additionally, there’s a farm where you can observe craftsman and purchase American handmade goods. Check out Vanderbilt’s progeny’s greatest castle as an incredible vacation spot!
Bannerman Castle in Beacon, New York
These mysterious Scottish castle ruins reign over the Pollepel Island, right in the middle of the Hudson River. In 1901, munitions dealer, Francis Bannerman created Bannerman Castle as a lofty fortress for his precious weaponry. Bannerman Castle went from a luxurious munitions storage site to an abandoned relic after its powder house exploded. After the explosion, the castle was mostly forgotten.
Arson overtook the Bannerman in 1969, leaving it more tattered than before. Like many of the other castles on this list, people rediscovered the Bannerman Castle and maintain it now for touring. Situated on a small island, you can only access the castle via kayak or ferry ride.
Many volunteers maintain a blooming garden that wraps around the worn down Scottish brick turrets of the Bannerman. The castle ruins have become a cultural hotspot, as plays have taken place on a small stage nearby. The Bannerman serves as a cultural centerpiece to any event, whether a play, a gardening event or a wedding. The castle also draws travel lovers in for its mystifying old appearance.
Those who come for the castle can stay for the city of Beacon nearby. After adventuring the castle ruins, ferry back to Main Street where you can grub at one of the local restaurants. Or dive into some fine art at the Bannerman Castle Gallery. Just because Bannerman Castle isn’t all in one piece doesn’t mean it isn’t full of the mystery and extravagance you’ve been looking for.
Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts
Hammond Castle is a medieval marvel you’ve got to travel to and explore. John Hays Hammond Jr. was a visionary. He believed in the power of architecture to tell history in a way your average collection of artifacts couldn’t. Hammond built the Hammond Castle as his ideal home and for his collection of precious medieval and Renaissance artwork.
This stunning castle by the Atlantic looks like the humble home of our favorite fairytale hero, King Arthur. Scoot into the servant’s quarters, view the Renaissance dining room and explore the inventions exhibit room. Hammond even has smaller passageways connecting throughout the castle (there’s a secret passageway you can look for as well!).
No castle is complete without an equally marvelous garden. You can stroll through the calm garden as you examine the commanding medieval exterior of the castle. The castle holds events throughout the year, many medieval themed! Therefore, you can see knights and partake in all the merriment of those from thousands of years before. Visit Hammond Castle for the ultimate medieval experience on your USA trip.
Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
A tropical castle oasis? Yes, please. The wondrous Iolani Palace, located in the most picturesque part of downtown Honolulu, is an important historical landmark. Iolani Palace was home to none other than Queen Liliuokalani, the former high monarch of Hawaii.
First built in 1879, Iolani Palace was the most innovative building in Hawaii. It was the first Hawaiian structure to implement indoor plumbing and electrical lighting. Queen Liliuokalani ruled over Hawaii in this palace. It was the site of her brainstorming for changes to Hawaiian social life. When the queen was overthrown, she left her palace for a prison and served hard labor for five years. Her homey palace became her newest prison after her sentence, as she was confined to one of the upstairs bedrooms.
We can remember Queen Liliuokalani’s reign by exploring this magnificent palace where it all went down. You can visit Queen Liliuokalani’s actual bedroom; a room gorgeously decorated with deep red tapestries and futons. The throne room is insane, with the two gold and crimson thrones which channel the regal presence from before.
Other amazing rooms in the palace include the King’s office and Quilt room where the Queen’s conviction trial took place. Also, the palace has a Music room, where the royal family played and listened to music. Outside the Iolani Palace is the Coronation Pavilion where the Queen was coronated in 1883. Palm trees frame the entire property and tie all the structures together into a scenic Hawaiian retreat. This castle experience is the closest you’ll ever get to living and seeing exactly as a powerful queen once did.
America has a colorful culmination of cultural art and architecture. It’s no surprise that these vastly different but unique castles send you to different eras, from the Middle Ages to the Roaring Twenties. Check out these palaces when you travel on your next USA trip to see old luxury living in a totally new way.