Cambrian: Arts & Events

Hearst Castle to offer first-ever twilight tours for holidays

For two weeks in December, Hearst Castle will offer its first-ever twilight tours that focus on holiday traditions and decorations at the former estate of the eccentric, wealthy media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

State Parks has offered night tours during previous holiday seasons, as it does during the spring and fall. However, the new “Holiday Twilight Tours” will replace those evening tours on most evenings from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2.

The new tours take a different route, going from the grounds and the Casa del Mar guest house to the grand social rooms on the ground floor of La Casa Grande, according to Ty Smith, chief of museum interpretation at the Castle.

The setting will be decorated to the hilt, including on two 18-foot Christmas trees in the Assembly Room and a unique poinsettia tree in the Morning Room. Volunteer docents will be dressed in 1930s period attire.

The primary change in the new tours is their interpretive focus, Smith explained.

“The theme is what’s different,” he said, because the tours highlight “the holidays and how they celebrated Christmas here when they were here.”

Hearst’s San Simeon holidays “tended to be quiet,” Smith said, “much more intimate in terms of setting and scale” than the busy social life the rest of the year. The Christmas focus “was on the staff and family of the staff. Mr. Hearst took a lot of time and attention to make sure he had gifts for his staff and their families. He had them come up and see the decorations and get their presents from under the tree.”

Because the new tour route is less rigorous, attendees will have more time to learn about Hearst holidays. The shorter route also means State Parks essentially can triple the number of available tours on any given night, Smith said, accommodating up to six buses per hour, rather than the six-bus total for each night of the regular evening tours.

Tickets for the “Holiday Twilight Tours are $30 for adults and $15 for children from 5-12 years old. Make reservations (strongly recommended) at or by calling (800) 444-4445.