For the first time in more than 50 years, tours at the famed Hearst Castle have undergone a complete revamp. Visitors can now roam some of the grounds by themselves.
On June 27, driven by state budget cuts, the castle began offering new summer tours that include self-guided access to the grounds, unlike previous years when tourists were confined to groups under the watchful eye of a tour guide.
Under the new rules, visitors are able to book three different types of tours of the ground floor of Casa Grande, infamous media mogul William Randolph Hearst’s private room, library, and guest suites; and the castle’s wine cellar, kitchen, and two guest houses. Tours of the North Wing and Casa del Sol will no longer be offered.
At the culmination of each tour, visitors will be able to trot around the famous Neptune Pool and gardens at their own leisure.
According to a California State Parks press release, the 11 state parks within the San Luis Obispo Coast District have had to reduce budgets by $2.2 million over the last two years—and more cuts are expected by summer.
“With the continuing budget cuts to State Parks and the possibility of park closures, we have to be more creative in how we deliver services to the public,” San Luis Obispo Coast District Superintendent Nick Franco said in the release.
With the new rules, Hearst Castle expects to save more than $100,000 in July and August by reducing the number of guides from about 42 to about 28 per day in the summer months.