If You Need More Reasons to Visit Hearst Castle

Article excerpt

If you need more reasons to visit Hearst Castle

William Randolph Hearst liked to refer to San Simeon as "The Ranch," but the opulent grandeur of his hilltop hideaway might have drawn the envy of Kublai Khan. The ultimate expression of the legendary newspaperman's personal wealth (and of Julia Morgan's architectural mastery), Hearst Castle was a private preserve from its construction in the 1920s until 1957, when the Hearst family donated it to the state. Since then, guided tours have allowed more than 20 million visitors to glimpse a way of life that rivaled the most extravagant fantasies enacted by Hearst's movie-star guests.

But facilities for people waiting to tour the property were surprisingly crude-- especially considering that the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument is the state park system's most profitable attraction. That has changed. A large new visitor center completed last summer now makes the wait more pleasant, and even offers something for drop-in coast-combers when the tours are full.

The new center's exhibit hall opens this month. Graphic displays and memorabilia document Hearst's far-flung interests and pursuits, ranging from politics to art collecting. Original drawings by Julia Morgan suggest the creative process that resulted in "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill). Also in the exhibit are some fine examples from Hearst's enormous art collection, including an ancient Roman mosaic and two Italian Renaissance paintings.

Across from the exhibit area, a wall of windows lets you look on as experts restore other pieces of art from the castle. A chalkboard identifies work in progress.

Nearby campground is also improved

The state has revamped its campground at San Simeon State Beach, adding rest rooms with showers. …