Bucket List August 12, 2021
20 Castles You Might Not Expect To Find Hiding In The U.S.
The United States might not have the historical
gravitas that’s ubiquitous across the pond — but we don’t need it. Because we have something better: good, old-fashioned American imagination and ingenuity. Europe: we’ll see your Medieval castles and stony fortresses, and raise you expansive American chateaus complete with turrets, moats, drawbridges, and, yes, even a fire-breathing dragon. All across the country, there are incredible castles open for all to experience; some are hiding right in plain sight, while others are tucked away in the most unexpected places. Here are 20 castles you might not expect to find hiding in the U.S. — but you’ll be totally delighted that they are!
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Northeast United States
The Norumbega Inn - Maine
The Norumbega Inn, 63 High St, Camden, ME 04843, USA
There's already a fairy tale quality to Maine, a place of rugged beauty and old edifices. And The Norumbega Inn fits right in with this Maine mood, as it's a distinguished and stately stone house that can only be described as a real-life castle. It was built in 1886 for duplex telegraph inventor Joseph Barker Stearns and remained a private home for about 100 years before becoming a bed and breakfast in 1984. In 2013 it was sold to Susan Walser and Phillip Crispo, who have transformed it into the magical destination it is today. Come and
spend the night
in this winsome Maine castle; you'll dine on food fit for a king and enjoy kingdom-level views of the Penobscot Bay from your fireplace-warmed room.
Gillette Castle - Connecticut
Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT 06423, USA
In 1914, actor, director, and playwright William Hooker Gillette (of Sherlock Holmes fame) built this
in East Haddam, Connecticut, as part of his estate. What's so compelling about Gillette Castle is that even though the outside looks like ruins, the inside is full of modern luxuries and innovations. Gillette Castle is located on 122 staggeringly beautiful acres above the Connecticut River, and it's open for self-guided tours. Come and marvel at Gillette's attention to detail (each of the 47 doors inside is unique because William felt that no two should be the same) while delighting in this fascinating, royal-inspired masterpiece.
Boldt Castle - Alexandria, New York
Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY 13640, USA
Boldt Castle is a beautiful place with a heartbreaking story. George C. Boldt, the owner of New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, built this
on an island in the St. Lawrence River for his wife, Louise, in 1900. Sadly, Louise died unexpectedly a few months before it was completed, and a heartbroken George ceased construction. The structure was left vacant for 73 years until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority restored and opened it in 1977. When you’re out on the river and surrounded by the beauty of this region, you’ll think you’ve been swept away to a fairy tale land.
Belvedere Castle - New York City, New York
Belvedere Castle, New York, NY 10024, USA
New York City is probably the last place you'd expect to find a castle, but it's here in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world that you'll find a hidden castle that's just the most fantastic little folly. One of the most iconic features in Central Park,
is a miniature chateau that's perched atop Vista Rock, the second-highest natural point in the park. Created by Central Park co-designer Calvert Vaux and architect Jacob Wrey Mould in the mid-1800s, the structure and adjacent terraces and pavilions were all called the “the Belvedere,” which means “beautiful view” in Italian. Completed in 1872, Belvedere Castle was envisioned as a place from which to enjoy views of the surrounding landscape and skyline, and that's exactly what it remains to this day.
Fonthill Castle - Pennsylvania
Fonthill Castle, 525 E Court St, Doylestown, PA 18901, USA
Fonthill Castle is a charming chateau in Pennsylvania that was once home to Henry Chapman Mercer, an archeologist, artifact collector, and tile maker. He built this castle in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, from 1908 to 1912. Reflecting Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, Fonthill Castle looks like something from an idyllic European countryside. Today, visitors can tour the grounds, including the nearby
, and learn about the life and legacy of this American visionary.
Smithsonian Castle - Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Castle, 1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
The Smithsonian is a national treasure, and its eponymous Smithsonian Institute is a modern-day American castle. Located near the center of the National Mall in Washington D.C., this red, Norman-style castle stands out in a sea of grey presidential monuments and monoliths. It was made from red sandstone in 1855 and originally served as the home and office of Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian. Today, however, it's the visitor center for the Smithsonian Institute, and its history and uniqueness have made it an iconic (and iconoclastic) place in our
Midwest United States
Kentucky Castle - Louisville, Kentucky
The Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, KY 40383, USA
Deep in the heart of Kentucky atop a hill in Versailles, there is a majestic castle that overlooks a kingdom of rolling hills and pastoral countryside. The Kentucky Castle is a spectacular destination in and of itself; a place of pure revelry in the idyllic Kentucky blue hills. This majestic property is wonderfully unusual and has a top-rated spa, luxurious accommodations, and an award-winning
. The Kentucky Castle is as beautiful as it gets, and you'll be utterly blown away by this surprising royal treasure in the South.
Landoll's Mohican Castle - Ohio
Landoll's Mohican Castle - Luxury Hotel in Central Ohio, 561 Township Road 3352, Loudonville, OH 44842, USA
Located deep in the heartland of central Ohio,
Landoll's Mohican Castle
is a place of unprecedented and unexpected luxury. As its name suggests, this one-of-a-kind spot was designed to emulate the beauty of European castles by local entrepreneur Jim Landoll. It opened to the public in 2002 and features myriad pointed towers and spires, as well as lush foliage and greenery that's downright enchanting. Throughout the property, you’ll find more than a dozen stunning suites and rooms from which to choose, each more fantastic than the next. You definitely won't be expecting to find Landoll's Mohican Castle in the middle of Ohio, but you'll be most definitely glad you did.
Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins - Missouri
Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins, Natural Bridge Rd, Camdenton, MO 65020, USA
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is one of Missouri's crown jewels, and its eponymous castle ruins are a breathtakingly beautiful place shrouded in intrigue and mystery. From its perch, the ruins of a turn-of-the-century stone castle overlook the Missouri Ozarks, treating visitors to utterly sublime views of the Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka Spring. Viewing this landmark is an epic adventure in and of itself; you'll find the castle via the park's Castle Trail, a
scenic, ADA-accessible trek
that's perfect for hikers of all abilities. Happening upon the ruins of what was once Ha Ha Tonka Castle, built between 1905 and 1922, will make you feel like a modern-day explorer.
Southern United States
The Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Estate Drive, Biltmore Estate Dr, Asheville, NC, USA
Easily the most famous castle in the United States, the Biltmore Estate is a place of pure magic. Built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895, this 178,926-square-foot mansion is located on 8,000 acres of pristine property just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. As the largest privately-owned home in America, it's a place of stunning scenery, lush gardens, ornate architecture, and historic relevance. While the house itself is a major attraction (the Biltmore draws over a million visitors each year), the massive and meticulously kept gardens on the estate are heavenly and only enhance the home's stunning beauty. The
is more than
a castle; it's an entire kingdom.
Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida
Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle, Orlando, FL 32836, USA
The most ubiquitous castle in the United States, the Cinderella Castle at
Walt Disney World
is an American icon. Inspired by several European castles (primarily Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and Craigievar Castle in Scotland), as well as the castle in the Disney film "Cinderella," it took 19 months to build and opened to the public in July of 1971. This enchanting edifice is the symbol of Magic Kingdom, and one of the most popular photo ops in the country.
Falkenstein Castle - Texas
Falkenstein Castle Way, Cypress, TX 77433, USA
Deep in the heart of Texas, there's a place that defies every Lone Star State stereotype... except, of course, the saying that "everything's bigger in Texas." Falkenstein Castle was built in 1996 by a couple inspired by a recent trip to Germany. Billed as "A Texas-Sized Fairy Tale in the Hill Country," the castle is a place of pure fantasy; a 14,000-square-foot palace with myriad balconies wherein guests can gaze upon the Texas Hill Country. A kingdom of 133 acres, those who believe in fairy tale endings can even have their wedding at
, which also has its own cathedral and luxurious accommodations.
Southwest United States
Bishop Castle - Rye, Colorado
Bishop Castle, 12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069, USA
Located in the tiny Pueblo County town of Rye is a place that stands as a fantastic testament to the power of the human imagination: Bishop Castle. This incredible 160-foot structure is billed as being an "inspiring castle built entirely by one man." Visionary Jim Bishop has been constructing his kingdom since 1969 when he purchased the land for just $450. To be clear, though, nothing about Bishop Castle feels
; Bishop's attention to detail and craftsmanship are in a league all their own. With myriad spires and stairs, gorgeous stonework, and even a fire-breathing dragon,
is truly a modern masterpiece.
Montezuma Castle - Arizona
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ, USA
In Arizona, there is a striking desert castle that's literally built into the earth. The Sinagua people built this 20-room castle on a cliff
an entire millennia ago
in what is now known as Camp Verde, Arizona. Established back in 1906, this natural monument was the third of its kind dedicated to preserving Native American culture and is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in all of North America. While
is so fragile visitors aren't allowed to go inside, the views from below this ancient dwelling are not to be missed.
Hovenweep National Monument - Colorado and Utah
Hovenweep National Monument, United States
More than 2,000 years ago, long before European travelers landed in North America, Ancestral Puebloan people lived in what is now known as the American Southwest. A drought around 1300 A.D. forced the people to leave their dwellings behind and migrate south. Luckily, some sites, such as Hovenweep National Monument, still stand. These Ancestral Puebloan ruins once served as home to 2,500 people and were built between 1200 and 1300 A.D. They are now part of the Hovenweep National Monument, which spans across southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. These ruins aren't just staggeringly beautiful, but they're also one of the best places to go
in the country.
Victoria Beach Castle - Laguna Beach, California
Pirate Tower, 2713 Victoria Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
In the middle of one of the most popular beaches in Southern California, there's an anachronism that looks like something out of "Peter Pan" -- or "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Victoria Beach Castle
-- also known as the "Pirate's Castle" -- is a 60-foot spire built into a rocky cliffside in Laguna Beach. This coastal treasure was actually constructed in 1926 by the owners of the house at the top of the cliff to serve as a private staircase to the beach. The owner, a wealthy SoCal eccentric, is said to have dressed up as a pirate and hide candies and coins between the rocks of the tower for the local kids to hunt and find. Today, Victoria Beach Castle is a real-life treasure on the California coast.
Hearst Castle - San Simeon, California
Hearst Castle, 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, USA
On the California coast, there is a real-life castle in San Simeon that commands attention. Once the residence of the business tycoon,
is now a historic house museum, California State Park, and listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. The estate of California media mogul William Randolph Hearst, the eponymous castle was built between 1919 and 1947 on 40,000 acres purchased by Hearst's father, businessman, and politician George Hearst. On a tour of the property, you'll see Heart's incredible collection of artifacts from around the world (including real Egyptian and Roman sarcophagi and white marble Greek statues), as well opulent artwork, the remains of the old on-site zoo, the iconic, outdoor Neptune Pool, and the equally as impressive indoor Roman Pool, which is lined with blue glass and gold leaf mosaic tiles. A place of pure fantasy, Hearst Castle is the epitome of old Hollywood glamour, an iconic destination that's truly bucket-list worthy.
Castello di Amorosa - Napa Valley, California
Castello di Amorosa, 4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
Located in California's resplendent Napa Valley is the only authentic 13th-century Italian Tuscan castle in the country.
Castello di Amorosa
officially opened to the public in 2007 after being constructed over a span of 13 years. This commanding castle is a real-life kingdom; its 136,000 square feet includes 107 rooms, 8,000 tons of stones, eight different levels, and an enormous wine-barrel room. Castello di Amorosa even contains some truly medieval features, including a drawbridge, dungeon, and church. It's a huge tourist attraction today, and definitely worth the splurge to tour its glorious grounds.
Northwest United States
Thornewood Castle - Washington
Thornewood Castle, 8601 N Thorne Ln SW, Lakewood, WA 98498, USA
In Washington, Thornewood Castle (known as "the house that love built") sits on the shores of American Lake in Washington, and it is absolutely stunning. Thornewood's tale begins with Mr. Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma. Chester bought the 400-year-old Elizabethan manor in England and had it dismantled and shipped, brick by brick, to Lakewood to be included in the building of Thornewood. Chester had the castle and gardens built as a gift to his wife, Anna Thorne, and construction took three years to complete. The gardens at this enchanting castle are extraordinarily beautiful and will sweep you off your feet. This castle is truly one of the most romantic labors of love in existence, and happily, you can experience the magic when you
book an overnight stay
Non-Contiguous United States
Iolani Palace - Hawaii
Iolani Palace, 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA
The one true royal dwelling on this list, Iolani Palace is Hawaii’s official royal residence and a place of majesty and beauty. The extraordinary edifice was built in 1882 in downtown Honolulu by King Kalakaua as a means of strengthening the then-Kingdom of Hawaii’s global clout and prestige. When the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 by the U.S., Iolani Palace served as the capitol building until it underwent extensive renovation, reopening as a museum in 1978. Taking design inspiration from European palaces, Iolani is said to be the sole example of American Florentine style (a mix of Italian Renaissance and Hawaiian architectural styles) and is the only official royal residence on U.S. soil. It is a beloved cultural center in Hawaii, and you'll definitely want to tour this
while you're there.
You don’t have to travel to Europe to enjoy a royal experience. Our wondrous country is home to some truly magical and impressive feats of the human imagination, inviting all to marvel and be inspired. Because when it comes to imagining truly great things, that’s where Americans shine most of all.
For more enchanting places to add to your bucket list, be sure to check out these
16 places around the U.S. that are straight out of a fairy tale! Address: Hearst Castle, 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, USA Address: The Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, KY 40383, USA Address: Biltmore Estate Drive, Biltmore Estate Dr, Asheville, NC, USA Address: Bishop Castle, 12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069, USA Address: Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY 13640, USA Address: Castello di Amorosa, 4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA Address: Belvedere Castle, New York, NY 10024, USA Address: Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle, Orlando, FL 32836, USA Address: Fonthill Castle, 525 E Court St, Doylestown, PA 18901, USA Address: Thornewood Castle, 8601 N Thorne Ln SW, Lakewood, WA 98498, USA Address: Smithsonian Castle, 1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA Address: Iolani Palace, 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA Address: Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ, USA Address: Pirate Tower, 2713 Victoria Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA Address: Hovenweep National Monument, United States Address: Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins, Natural Bridge Rd, Camdenton, MO 65020, USA Address: Falkenstein Castle Way, Cypress, TX 77433, USA Address: Landoll's Mohican Castle - Luxury Hotel in Central Ohio, 561 Township Road 3352, Loudonville, OH 44842, USA Address: The Norumbega Inn, 63 High St, Camden, ME 04843, USA Address: Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT 06423, USA