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6 U.S. Castles You’ll Want to Visit

The splendors of castles can be found in cities and towns throughout the U.S.

By Kari Kynard Ridge on April 21, 2015

Hearst Castle
Photo by Victoria Garagliano. Courtesy Hearst Castle®. All Rights Reserved

You don’t have to travel to Europe or Disneyland to experience the grandeur of a castle. Several cities in the U.S. have castles that display their opulence, storied collections and architectural feats for everyone who visits. And, just like the castles of fairy tales, these dwellings are as unique as the people who designed them and lived there.

Check out our list of U.S. castles you won’t want to miss.

1. Iolani Palace in Honolulu, HI

The only official state residence of royalty in the U.S., Iolani Palace was home to the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs, King Kalakaua and then his sister, Queen Liliuokalani until 1893. The downtown Honolulu palace once boasted Hawaii’s first flush-toilets and electric lights. Tours today teach about the royal family and display their private living quarters and the royal collection of swords, jewels, and crowns.

2. Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA

In 1919, William Randolph Hearst began building his sprawling estate, La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill,” overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Simeon. Today, the 165-room estate features 127 acres of elaborate gardens, terraces, pools and 25,000 artifacts – much of which includes Hearst’s legendary art collection. Hearst Castle, with its main house and three guest homes, is so immense that there are several tour options to make the most of your time here.

3. Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT

This 24-room mansion was designed to resemble a medieval fortress by William Gillette, the actor who is most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Built of local fieldstone, Gillette Castle was completed in 1919 and includes such oddities as 47 doors, of which no two match. Gillette, known for his creativity, included features such as built-in couches and a movable table on tracks.

4. Coral Castle in Miami, FL

A visit to Coral Castle inspires more questions than answers. Between 1923 and 1951, Ed Leedskalnin is said to have secretly, with hand tools and under cover of night, built his castle from 1,110 tons of carved coral rock. Ed told visitors that he understood the secrets used to build the ancient pyramids. Coral Castle Museum includes a 9-ton gate that moves with the touch of a finger and a Polaris telescope – all made of stone.

5. Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH

The smaller Castle in the Clouds offers views that are every bit as majestic as the grandest estate. The former Lucknow Estate, high in New Hampshire’s Ossipee Mountain Range, celebrated its centennial in 2014. The structure was built in harmony with nature with stone cut from the property. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of conservation land, with “knock-your-socks-off” views of the mountains and Lake Winnipesaukee below, says Michelle Landry, Castle in the Clouds curator.

6. Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, WA

This English Tudor/Gothic mansion has been the setting for several films. Thornewood Castle was built here in 1907, pieced back together from a 500-year-old Elizabethan manor in England, which had been dismantled and shipped to Lakewood. With more than 100 pieces of stained glass salvaged from 15th and 16th century churches, gardens designed by the Olmsted brothers, and a collection of rare artwork, Thornewood is a bed and breakfast inn and a popular location for weddings and receptions.

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