If it's possible to make the overly extravagant Hearst Castle even more spectacular, decorating it for Christmas is the way to do it. During the holiday season, the main houses are gussied up as they might have been during the castle's heyday in the 1920s and 30s.
The Assembly Room, The Refectory, and The Morning Room sport lavish decorations of handmade garlands and bright red poinsettias. Two 18-foot-tall Christmas trees glow with lights and traditional ornaments.
Why You Should See Hearst Castle at Christmas
You can see the holiday decorations during regular daytime tours, but—as those late-night infomercials say — there's more. Hearst Castle also offers evening holiday tours. If you take one, you can pretend that you received a coveted invitation to visit newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst's house, a fun bit of make-believe.
During those special events, the house is set up for a holiday party. The castle displays about a dozen Christmas trees, from an 18-foot-tall one in the main lounge down to multiple smaller trees in some rooms.
Costumed docents dress in 1930s attire, portraying servants. Or acting as guests who play cards in the living room, drink cocktails, and play the grand piano. You might even catch a glimpse of a society columnist running off to his room to file an article about the day's events.
All of it makes the place come alive. In fact, it's almost as good as taking a time machine back a time when one of the world's richest men threw extravagant Christmas parties for his friends.
When to See the Hearst Castle Christmas Decorations
To see the Hearst Castle Christmas decorations at their best, take the Christmas season Holiday Twilight Tour which runs on selected nights from late November through the end of December. Get the dates and reserve tickets online at Reserve California.
Tips for Hearst Castle at Christmas
Be sure you understand what the tour is about. It's an evening tour of Hearst Castle with docents portraying servants and guests. The castle is decorated in the same lavish style as it would have been in Hearst's day. But the tour itself does not focus on holiday traditions.
But here's just one glimpse of Hearst Castle's Christmas traditions: Hearst would throw extravagant Christmas parties for his employees’ children. The kids could pick out whatever gift they liked from under any of the many decorated trees.
The evening tour leaves the visitor center in the dark, and you don't get to see much on the way up the hill. To see more and get a different point of view, take one of their regularly scheduled tours in the afternoon. Use this guide to pick one that appeals to you.
More to Do Around Hearst Castle
You can probably use a little rest from all the holiday stress at home. For a double dose of Hearst at the holidays, make a weekend out of the visit. Stay in a nice hotel nearby, sleep late, and get a good breakfast.
You can enjoy the Cambria Christmas Market at the Cambria Pines Lodge during your trip or watch the lighted holiday boat parade in Morro Bay. You can find more holiday events to enjoy in San Luis Obispo County, from elegant evenings to teddy bear tea parties.
December is also the beginning of elephant seal season at Piedras Blancas when those adorable baby seals are born. Best of all, it's easy to see them just a short walk from the parking area.