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The Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
Pernelle Voyage | Adobe Stock

America’s 12 Most Extravagant Castles and Villas

SmarterTravel

If you can’t jet to Europe right now in search of fairytale castles, fret not. America has plenty of lavish homes fit for royalty, even if they don’t date back quite as many centuries. Turrets, towers, drawbridges and secret passages—you can find it all stateside at these extravagant chateaux, manors and villas.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
David | Adobe Stock

Originally called “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill in Spanish), this 20th-century estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst encompasses 127 acres and four magnificent buildings. The largest of these, Casa Grande, is indeed perched on a hill. Visitors today take a bus to reach the castle, where they can enjoy not only the sculptured façade and European ceilings from the 14th century but also priceless art—Hearst was quite the collector.

Hearst Castle also has two of America’s prettiest swimming pools: the outdoor Neptune Pool, with its temple, colonnades and sculptures, and the indoor Roman Pool, with floor-to-ceiling shimmering mosaics and marble statues of gods and goddesses.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron, Ohio

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron, Ohio
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Stan Hywet looks like a scene out of a storybook. Inspired by English country manors, the sprawling brick building completed in 1915 is pleasantly asymmetrical with its half-timbered gables, dozen chimneys and four-story crenellated tower. And the grounds are immaculate, too, from the walled English garden to the Japanese garden with its own miniature Mount Fuji.

The swanky interior, meanwhile, is nearly all original. Admire the 16th-century tapestry in the Great Hall, antique harpsichord in the Music Room, and the stained glass, luxurious carpets and expensive hand-carved wood throughout.

The Breakers, Newport Rhode Island 

The Breakers, Newport Rhode Island
jiawangkun | Adobe Stock

There are several mansions in Newport built over a century ago by America’s elite, but The Breakers is king of them all. This summer cottage (as the rich used to call their vacation homes) boasts 70 rooms, 27 fireplaces, four floors roughly an acre each, and one incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean.

This Gilded Age Castle is modeled after the 16th-century palaces of Genoa. Tall columns frame the entrance, and inside, you’ll find classical elements like a central loggia and mythological figures peering down from overhead frescos. If you see something glimmer, it’s probably 22-karat gold. There’s even a 500-year-old fireplace in the library, repurposed from a French chateau.

Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts
TheTrustees.org

A 165-acre National Historic Landmark, Castle Hill is dotted with century-old buildings, but crowning them all is the appropriately named Great House. The hilltop mansion borrows heavily from European styles. You’ll see Baroque carvings, Georgian woodwork, Gothic ceilings and Italian gardens. Part of the paneled library hails from the ancestral seat of the Earls of Essex. 

The approach from the main entrance is particularly fine: a broad allée, lined with trees and statuary, stretching half a mile to the sea. On the way, stop at the Casino complex, an elegant pavilion featuring stone urns, staircases, a ballroom and more.

Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore

Taking the lead as America’s largest home, Biltmore is George Vanderbilt’s vision of a European chateau set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s grand on every scale. The sweeping staircase, modeled after the Chateau de Blois, curves around a 1,700-pound chandelier suspended from a bronze dome. The banquet hall, one of 250 rooms, stretches 72 feet long.

The 8,000-acre backyard is just as impressive. Explore gardens, meadows, a river, conservatory, farm and even a winery. 

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami, Florida

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami, Florida
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

A Mediterranean-style palace in a tropical Florida setting, Vizcaya blends elements from both cultures. It looks every bit an 18th-century Italian villa, with its tiled roof, painted walls and sunny central courtyard. Everywhere you turn, there are priceless art pieces and antiques, some dating as far back as the first century.

But Florida holds sway outdoors. The east facade fronts Biscayne Bay where a fanciful stone barge breakwater with columns and carvings sits half-submerged offshore. To the south, terraces of formal gardens cover 10 acres, in bloom year-round thanks to Miami’s warm climate.

Boldt Castle, Alexandria Bay, New York

Boldt Castle, Alexandria Bay, New York
Boldt Castle and the Boldt Yacht House

This island castle begun in 1900 has all the classic touches to lend it a romantic air—towers, terraces, a drawbridge, stained glass dome, marble floors—plus a tragic backstory. It was originally intended as a gift from millionaire George Boldt to his wife, but she died suddenly before it was finished. Heartbroken, he halted construction, and the site sat vacant for decades.

Today, much has been restored, including the six-story replica of a Rhineland castle. There are two other whimsical structures on Heart Island open to the public: Alster Tower, with its buttresses and basement bowling alley, and the picturesque Power House, which seems to be floating in the water, connected to the island by an arched bridge.

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Winterthur, Delaware

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Winterthur, Delaware
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

If you’re looking for castles in America, heading to Delaware’s “chateau country” is a good place to start. The largest one here is Winterthur, expanded over several years by the fabulously wealthy Henry Francis du Pont. The 175-room French Provincial manor spans eight stories and is surrounded by a thousand acres of woodlands and gardens.

While its aesthetic may be European, its heart is American. Winterthur’s vast collection of decorative arts, around 90,000 pieces, includes antiques like Washington’s china and tankards made by Paul Revere. And the rooms themselves feature hand-crafted architecture from all original 13 colonies.

Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan

Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan
Meadow Brook

This grand 1920s manor looks like it belongs more to the English countryside than a Midwestern university campus. Famous for its Tudor-revival architecture, Meadow Brook Hall shows off intricate brickwork, half-timbered walls and 39 chimneys.

Get a glimpse of old-world charm as you tour 16 themed gardens and the best of the 110 rooms, including a two-story Gothic ballroom. While the mansion is filled with art, like Sèvres porcelain and Tiffany glass, it’s an art piece itself thanks to original furnishings and ornate plaster ceilings swirling with classical vines and acanthus leaves.

The Kentucky Castle, Versailles, Kentucky

The Kentucky Castle, Versailles, Kentucky
The Kentucky Castle

This 1960s dream home built by a couple just off their European honeymoon went through a few iterations before arriving at the Versailles-esque palace it is today.

The ballroom is filled with mirrors, gold trimming and cream-colored crown moulding. In the foyer, three hand-blown glass chandeliers from Murano illuminate a ceiling covered in Renaissance-style paintings. From the roof, you can survey your temporary kingdom, which encompasses lavender fields, an orchard, stables and gardens.

Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley, California

Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa

In some ways, Castello di Amorosa is both the oldest and newest castle on this list. It’s a faithful recreation of a medieval Tuscan castle, completed in 2007 with nearly a million antique bricks from European palaces.

For castle lovers, this Napa Valley winery has it all: ramparts, towers, hidden passageways, a moat and drawbridge, a torture chamber and Pit of Despair. To enhance its authenticity, it was built using designs and construction methods from the Middle Ages. Marvel at hand-painted frescoes, hand-forged ironwork, suits of armor, and vaulted cellars stocked with barrels of vino. The surrounding vineyards give it that extra flavor of Italian countryside.

Oheka Castle, Huntington, New York

Oheka Castle, Huntington, New York
Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate

With its châteauesque architecture and formal lawn of hedges, fountains and reflecting pools, Oheka Castle would be at home in the Loire Valley, but instead it’s perched on the highest point on Long Island. Costing financier Otto Hermann Kahn $11 million to build (over $150 million today), the 1920s chateau turned luxury hotel is second only to Biltmore in size.

Once you get past the gardens, the entry foyer makes a statement with a double staircase reminiscent of the Château de Fontainebleau outside Paris. As you tour, look for the symbol of the linden tree, incorporated throughout as a nod to Kahn’s hometown in Germany. One thing you’ll find here that you won’t in France: the Charlie Chaplin room, filled with photos and memorabilia of the silent film star who was Kahn’s longtime friend.

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