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Touring Hearst Castle by night.

Touring Hearst Castle by night From a distance, bathed in floodlights, it looks like a small Spanish hill town--all towers and tile roofs. By night, William Randolph Hearst's compound at San Simeon takes on a special beauty, and you see the "castle" perhaps as it was intended--as a dramatic stage setting for the wealthy publisher's glamorous parties with the early Hollywood crowd.

The Julia Morgan-designed complex overlooks the Pacific 42 miles north of San Luis Obispo. On an evening tour, it's easy to imagine yourself as one of Hearst's guests at a 1930s-era party; volunteers in period costumes aid the illusion. Tested last winter, the nighttime tour runs every Friday and Saturday until May 25--or beyond, as staffing permits.

The tour begins at 6 and lasts 2 hours (later tours may be added). From the visitor center, buses shuttle you up the hill to the imposing main building--the Casa Grande--and the three cottages behind.

Guides show you the elaborate kitchens, Hearst's bedroom and study, and the Gothic refectory. You'll also visit the gilded indoor swimming pool and the over-100-foot-long outdoor "Neptune" pool. The tour ends in the small theater Hearst used for private screenings of films; here visitors view a brief film about the estate.

Reservations and tickets are available through Mistix; call (800) 444-7275. Tickets cost $21.80, $11.80 ages 6 through 12. Cameras are permitted (no flash or tripod allowed). For recorded information, call (805) 927-2000.

Four different 1 3/4-hour tours are offered regularly between 8:20 and 3:20. Each covers a different part of the compound (the evening tour combines highlights from regular tours 1 and 2); cost is $13.80, $7.80 ages 6 through 12. Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes--you'll be climbing 150 to 350 stairs.

Hearst San Simeon State Historic Monument is off State 1 in San Simeon, about 9 miles north of Cambria.
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Title Annotation:California
Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:314
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