SAN SIMEON, Calif. -- Hearst Castle, officially known as Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, is all set to reopen to the public this Wednesday, May 11.
The world famous attraction, located in San Simeon on the North Coast in San Luis Obispo County, has been closed since March 16, 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and weather-related issues.
"This is momentous for not only the museum, but also California State Parks," said Dan Falat, District Superintendent San Luis Obispo Coast California State Parks. "To have the opportunity to reopen it, looking as the grounds do right now, looking spectacular, we're all just very excited to really reopen after such a long hiatus."
With the property closed to visitors over the past 26 months, Falat said State Parks was able to take advantage of the unexpected and unprecedented down time.
Prior to the pandemic, the longest the park had been closed was nine days, caused by the Chimney Fire, which threatened the property in 2016.
"This has really been a challenge for everybody the last two years, but the one benefit is we've had the opportunity to not only maintain the castle, but also do a lot of projects that we haven't been able to do," said Falat. "The grounds are spectacular right now. The house is in wonderful shape. We've been able to do a lot of conservation work, and not only let folks see things that they've seen before, but also in some cases, some things that have never been shown or have been down for a number of years for various reasons."
One of the projects completed during the closure was the reconstruction of the upper 2.25 mile access road that leads up to the hilltop estate. The re-engineering of the roadway was needed to help ensure safe passage for all visitors and staff to the historic monument.
With the park now in prime condition, visitors will have the opportunity to experience a brand new tour which focuses on the life and career of the groundbreaking mastermind behind the sprawling estate.
"We're offering a brand new tour, the Julia Morgan tour," said guide Sharon Foelz. "This tour will definitely show her influence on this estate and talk about Mr. Hearst and how they collaborated together."
In addition to the two-hour Julia Morgan tour, there are three other tours for visitors to choose from.
"Our staff has done an outstanding job," said Falat. "They've been preparing for two years. Many of them have not seen the grounds with visitors present, so it's going to be a unique experience for everybody involved, and honestly we're just excited and we are looking forward to welcoming our folks back and hopefully enjoy this magnificent place."
The reopening will also allow California State Parks to finally celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hearst Castle, which was originally planned to begin in spring 2020, to commemorate the beginning of the estate's initial construction in 1920.
"In the spirit of making sure folks kind of a little taste of both Julia Morgan and Mr. Hearst, we're continuing the tradition for this year as well and making sure by offering new tours and having different aspects that we've implemented, we'll be be able to carry on that celebration as we planned, just slightly delayed," said Falat.
In the past, Hearst Castle typically attracts about 5,000 visitors daily, totalling more than 850,000 annually. Having the park reopen will provide an important boost to the local economy.
"The castle has been a significant anchor to the Central Coast, and especially up here on the North Coast," said Falat. "We are destination, just as the Central Coast is, so we're glad to be back in that fold. It's significant not only for the castle, but also the local businesses and the community, and we are the last stop for folks heading up to Big Sur, and the final stop for those coming down, so I think it's really an opportunity for folks to enjoy this wonderful place, but from a community standpoint, we're glad to welcome visitors back not only here, but to the entire coast."
For more information on Hearst Castle, click here.