10 Fantastic American Castles To Visit This Summer

One doesn’t generally associate castles with America,but castles in the United States have been creatively reinvented. You don’t have to skip across the pond to indulge your royal fantasies—it turns out we have towering turrets, secret passageways, and medieval moats aplenty right here at home, not to mention some fascinating stories about how these great houses came to be.With a list that spans the East Coast to the West, we have re-discovered the beauty of castles, from the old, the new and the most magnificent. Though they’re not nearly as old as the fortresses that dot the European countryside, many of their designs were inspired by centuries of European castles.

1.Hearst Castle – San Simeon, Calif.


California’s Hearst Castle is the realization of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s dream of creating “La Cuesta Encantada,” or “The Enchanted Hill.”From 1919 to 1947, architect Julia Morgan led the construction of this Castle for him.And Hearst’s  never-ending changes and additions drove the architect near to desperation, but the range of styles — Mediterranean, Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Gothic among them — add up to a magnificent work of art.The result was monumental: 165 rooms, 127 acres of gardens, a to-die-for outdoor pool and various terraces all make this castle one of the country’s greatest. Now that it’s part of a state park, visitors are able to explore the castle and its incredible collection of historic statues, paintings, mosaics, and furniture.



2.Boldt Castle – Thousand Islands, N.Y


Perched on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in New York’s Thousand Islands region, Boldt Castle is one of the most extravagant Gilded Age mansions in the country.

What do you do when you come across a heart-shaped isle while vacationing with your wife in the Thousand Islands? If you’re Waldorf-Astoria hotel founder George Boldt, you buy it and hire 300 stonemasons, carpenters, and artists to build a six-story, 120-room testament to your love.But when his wife Louise tragically died in 1904, the heartbroken Boldt halted construction on the Rhineland-style Taj Mahal and left it to the elements for 73 years,, and it was finally restored in 1977.

The house is still fitted with Italian gardens, a dove-cote, and a turreted powerhouse, plus all the imported Italian marble, French silks, and Oriental rugs money could buy.Perched on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Boldt Castle is one of the most extravagant Gilded Age mansions in the country.

Built by millionaire George C. Boldt for his wife who tragically died before it was completed, the castle has 120 rooms, many of which are open to the public.



3.Castello di Amorosa – Napa Valley, Calif.


If you’ve ever wanted to sip wine inside a castle, here’s your chance. Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley has been producing award-winning wines since 2007, all within a recreated 13th century Tuscan-style castle.In the 1980s, vintner Dario Sattui didn’t want to simply start another winery. Instead, he sought to showcase his Italian-style wines in a setting that was true to medieval Italian architecture and absolutely stunning. Clearly, he succeeded.

The 107-room castle — complete with a moat — was built over 14 years, starting in 1995 with authentic medieval techniques, including hand-chiseled stone, hand-forged nails and hand-painted frescoes.

Tastings and tours are available 364 days per year (closed on Christmas), so visitors can combine a tour with a drink no matter the season.



4.’Iolani Palace – Honolulu, Hawaii


If we’re being perfectly honest, America’s castles are really castle-like mansions, except for one … ‘Iolani Palace.

The beautiful Florentine-style palace is the only American palace actually built for royalty, occupied by Hawaii’s last two monarchs before American annexation. King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani lived at Iolani in the late 1800s, and enjoyed cutting-edge conveniences such as indoor plumbing, electricity, and a telephone.

Highlights include the Grand Hall, lined with portraits of Hawaiian monarchs, the crimson-gold Throne Rome where King Kalakaua hosted grand balls and state dinners, and the Blue Room, which features a giant portrait of King Louis Philippe of France received in 1848.

A lavish red-and-gold throne room stands out in an interior that’s already rich, thanks to the abundant use of native koa wood. Upstairs living quarters include the room where Queen Kapiolani was held during the 1895 coup.

Today, the National Historic Landmark is a museum open to the public.Besides tours, the palace also holds concerts and offers classes in Hawaiian quilting.

5.Biltmore – Asheville, N.C.


The grand Biltmore Estate never donned the name “castle,”but with that glorious French Renaissance façade—and at almost 200,000 square feet—it certainly fits the bill.

Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the estate wasn’t even intended to function as the main residence, but merely as a summer home. (The other Vanderbilts at the time chose to erect more “modest” summer homes in Newport, RI like The Breakers.)

The estate is still owned by the Vanderbilts—making it the largest privately owned home in the country,with 250 rooms.So big is this place that it even has its own winery. But when you use the same architect to dwarf your big brother’s Newport fortress, there’s probably some family competition etched into the blueprints.Equally impressive and castle-worthy are the estate’s manicured gardens, particularly in springtime.

Estate holdings include original Renoir paintings, Napoleon’s chess set, a 25,000-volume library and a pair of John Singer Sargent portraits of the Hunt and Biltmore landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York’s Central Park.

6.Fonthill Castle – Doylestown, PA.


Celebrating its centennial in 2012,Fonthill Castle was built by archaeologist, anthropologist, and scholar (and a whole lot of other titles)Henry Chapman Mercer,as a home and a museum for his assortment of artifacts from around the world.The castle is a mix of Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles.Thousands of handcrafted ceramic tiles were inset throughout, including Mercer’s own Moravian-style tiles plus Persian, Chinese, Spanish, and Dutch productions he collected. Today, the 60-acre Bucks County estate serves as a museum to pre-industrial life, with 900 American and European prints at Fonthill and even more artifacts (like a whale boat and Conestoga wagon) in its sister building, the Mercer Museum, a fun house–like six-story castle in its own right.



7.Lyndhurst Castle, Tarrytown, New York


Narrow hallways, pointy arched windows and peaked ceilings made this Gothic Revival castle — originally owned by New York City Mayor William Paulding Jr. in 1838 — an ideal “Collinwood” for two Dark Shadows movies.

Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, Lyndhurst castle sits on a 67-acre plot of land–much of which is covered by the gardenesque style landscaping work of Ferdinand Mangold–in Tarrytown, New York. Over the past two centuries, Lyndhurst has been modified many times by various owners. You can now see for yourself, given that Lyndhurst is open to the public.





8.Hammond Castle,Gloucester, MA


This medieval-style castle served as both home and laboratory for prolific inventor John Hayes Hammond Jr. after it was completed in 1929.

The building left Hammond with including a great hall with elaborate rose windows and pipe organ plus a courtyard featuring a two-story meat market/wine merchant’s house brought over from southern France. And, yes, like any proper mad scientist, he made sure there were secret passageways.

The castle is now a museum that displays his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance art,in addition to Hammond’s inventions.(Hammond is largely credited as the “Father of the Radio Control,” as in tanks and planes and remote-controlled cars.)

The house and museum are open for visiting Tuesday through Sunday.


9.Bannerman Castle,NY


About 1,000 feet off the coast of the Hudson River’s eastern shore lies a small, rocky island called Pollepel. It was here Bannerman Castle built by Scottish immigrant Francis Bannerman.Intended to be a warehouse for the businessman’s arsenal of military surplus goods, the castle faced deterioration and destruction due to explosions and fires over the years. Bannerman designed the castle himself, and had his crew build it without help from professional architects or engineers. A smaller castle served as a private home for Bannerman right next to the warehouse, where the Bannerman family lived until 1940.


After everyone eventually left, in 1957, the castle was left vacant for decades, until the Bannerman Castle Trust dedicated itself to preserving the remains of Bannerman Castle it remains abandoned.


10.Belvedere Castle,NY


No American castle is as fabulous as the Belvedere Castle, which was designed  by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould.Built in 1869 as a lookout point over Central Park, this Gothic-style castle still offers some of Manhattan’s prettiest vistas.Since 1919, the National Weather Service has used it for a weather tower, but visitors can still enjoy the views from its upper floors.

Built in 1865 as a novelty lookout point in the park, the castle now houses National Weather Service offices, but visitors can still enjoy the views from its upper floors.Today it also houses a visitors center and the Henry Luce Nature Observatory.

Belvedere Castle is free and open to the public daily. pond and the open-air Delacorte Theater.