Four American Castles Fit for a Queen

If you missed Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, you can still tour impressive castles on this side of the pond. 

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina was home to America’s version of royalty – the Vanderbilt’s

The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Few real castles rival the regal mansion built by George and Edith Vanderbilt in Asheville. Constructed against a backdrop of Blue Ridge Mountains, the design was inspired by two Renaissance chateaux that the Vanderbilt’s admired in the Loire Valley in France. The family patronized local craftsmen and filled the mansion with American decorative arts. Tour the Biltmore Estate to learn how a family, very much like the one featured on Downtown Abbey, entertained and relaxed. Take one of the specialty tours of the home – the newest is the climb to the roof for a bird’s eye view of the forests and gardens surrounding the mansion.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

The grand vision of William Randolph Hearst is now an iconic California landmark with daily tours. This castle, built high on a hill in San Simeon, was completed in 1947 and holds Hearst’s priceless fine art and antiquities collection. The newspaper magnate designed this masterpiece with architect Julia Morgan and furnished it with opulent décor and grand gardens. There’s a theater that shows a film about the history of the castle and a lobby filled with 17th century tapestries.

The Breakers is the home of another Vanderbilt. Located in Newport, Rhode Island, visitors can tour the opulent mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island

Cornelius Vanderbilt escaped New York City’s congestion and heat by retreating to Newport’s granite cliffs. Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, he named the stunning castle “The Breakers” and installed interiors inspired by the Italian Renaissance palazzo he revered. Constructed during the Gilded Age, the landmark is one of several you can tour among the illustrious Newport Mansions.

Vizcaya Museum in Miami is ornate and the gardens lush, but the owner’s sense of humor and love of entertaining is the theme that runs through the mansion.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami, Florida

James Deering, the owner of this ornate mansion on Biscayne Bay, was known for his sense of humor. He enjoyed dressing in costumes and watching as visitors toured the stunning interiors and gardens of Vizcaya constructed between 1914 and 1916. His goal was to create a castle like those he visited in Europe and spared no expense to display his collection of Renaissance paintings and 14th century murals. Like so many of America’s castles, the gardens are elaborate, and at Vizcaya open to Deering’s swimming pool grotto.

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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