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Bannerman Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

The most stunning castles in the U.S. for pretending you're in Europe

The most stunning castles in the U.S. are worth taking a trip around the country for—you have to see them all

By Tolly Wright and Sarah Medina
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Americans may be banned from Europe this summer, but luckily you don't have to book a flight across the Atlantic to see Medieval ruins. There are dozens of stunning castles in the U.S.—from California to New York—and with their stunning grounds and spacious halls they're a good option when considering socially distanced, domestic day trips this year. So when you're planning an old-fashioned American roadtrip or considering what USA attractions you can tick off your bucket-list, don't forget to add these seriously cool castles in the U.S. to your list. 

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Castles in the U.S.

Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Alexandria, NY: Boldt Castle

On Heart Island, part of New York’s famed Thousand Islands, is this extraordinary summer dream home. Construction on this six-story private home began in 1900 by hotel magnate George C. Boldt as a gift to his wife, but was halted abruptly four years later when his beloved died. Boldt never returned to the premise, and the unfinished castle fell into disarray, until the island was bought by the Thousand Island Bridge Authority in 1977 for a single dollar. Boldt Castle and its nearby yacht house have since been completed and can be visited during the warm months.

Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle
Photograph: Courtesy Visit SLO

2. San Simeon, CA: Hearst Castle

Note: Heart Castle is temporarily closed to visitors

Easily the country’s most famous castle, this National Landmark took decades to be built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morga. Hearst had grand ambitions for his retreat, La Cuesta Encantada (“Enchanted Hill”), which was built on his family’s expansive ranchland. Situated almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the scenic Pacific coast, Hearst Castle is a popular stop for road trippers. Visitors can check out the 165-room estate, 123 acres of gardens full of exotic flowers, the ornate pools and Hearst’s legendary art collection.

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Gillette Castle
Gillette Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. East Haddam, CT: Gillette Castle

Note: The castle is temporarily closed to visitors though park grounds remain open 

Stage actor, playwright and director William Gillette originally built this castle towering over the Connecticut river as his private residence back in 1919. Designed to look like Medieval ruins, the castle boasts thousands of refinements created by local craftsmen, including 47 unique doors (no two within the structure are the same), light switches carved of wood, built-in couches and, perhaps most strangely, a series of hidden mirrors that allowed Gillette to spy on visitors from the master bedroom. Upon his death, the state of Connecticut took over the property in 1943 and turned it into a state park. 

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 Fonthill Castle
 Fonthill Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Doylestown, PE: Fonthill Castle

Built in the early 1900s by Henry Chapman Mercer—an archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian—Fonthill Castle functioned as Mercer’s home and showplace for his many artifacts. He referred to the unique structure as his “Castle for the New World.” It is built out of concrete and includes quite the hodgepodge of building traditions (Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine). Upon his death, the massive structure was turned into a museum showcasing Mercer’s collection of tiles and prints. 

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Bannerman Castle
Bannerman Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Pollepel Island, NY: Bannerman Castle

This abandoned castle in the Hudson River Valley near Cold Spring was built on the uninhabited Pollepel island in 1901 by Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman. Bannerman owned a military surplus supply company but his Brooklyn store could not hold his entire arsenal, so he decided to design a replica of the castles like those in his homeland to store the extra ammunition. After 200 tons of shells exploded in 1920, the castle was left partially in ruins. Visitors can see the outside of Bannerman Castle up close (it’s dangerous to walk inside) by taking a passenger boat around the island, or by traveling with a tour by canoe or kayak.

Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa
Photograph: Courtesy Castello di Amorosa/Jim Sullivan

6. Calistoga, CA: Castello di Amorosa

Note: Reservations are required to enter the grounds 

This Napa Valley winery was built to resemble a 13th century Tuscan castle. Castello di Amorosa visitors can appreciate the architecture, including fun details like a drawbridge and moat, and beautiful scenery while on a tasting tour. Various tours include access to the vineyard’s two levels and samples of five or more wines. Cheese and food pairings are also available.

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Loveland Castle
Loveland Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Loveland, OH: Loveland Castle

This stone castle was built by one very remarkable man, Harry Delos Andrews. Andrews served as a medic during World War I where he became sick with meningitis and was declared dead prematurely. By the time word got back to America, six months later, that he was alive, his fiancée had already married someone else. Andrew took off on a grand tour of Europe and explored many castles. He eventually became a boy scout troop leader of a squad he called the Knights of the Golden Trail, which frequently camped at a secluded part of the Little Miami River in Ohio. Andrews decided to build stone tents to keep their camping gear and supplies by the creek safe and dry. The structures became a full blown medieval castle—Loveland Castle. Now, troops can still spend the night on the premise while visitors can tour the property while admiring a collection of swords and other old weapons.

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Lyndhurst Mansion
Lyndhurst Mansion
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Tarrytown, NY: Lyndhurst Mansion

Built in 1838, Lyndhurst is one of America’s greatest Gothic Revival mansions. The architecture and design details (narrow halls, intricate woodwork and peaked, vaulted ceilings) make the home romantic and gloomy, befitting a 19th-century gothic romance like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. The mansion houses a large collection of antiques and furniture and boasts a stunning view of the Hudson River alongside well-manicured grounds.

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Belvedere Castle
Belvedere Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. New York, NY: Belvedere Castle

Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, Belvedere Castle in the middle of Central Park was originally meant to be purely ornamental but, over the past century, it has become a weather tower. Visitors from around the world climb the stairs of the castle daily, admiring the view of Central Park, including Turtle Pond and the Delacorte Theater. 

Castle in the Clouds
Castle in the Clouds
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Moultonborough, NH: Castle in the Clouds

While certainly not the biggest castle in the country, this beautiful example of arts and crafts-style architecture is nonetheless a sight to behold. Built on the top of the Ossipee Mountain by millionaire Tom Plant in 1918, Castle in the Clouds offers great views of the surrounding natural landscape, including Lake Winnipesaukee. Visitors take a trolley up the mountain to reach the premise.

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Thornewood Castle
Thornewood Castle
Photograph: Courtesy Thornewood Castle

11. Lakewood, WA: Thornewood Castle

A hundred years ago, a 400-year-old English Tudor was shipped all the way from Great Britain to the Pacific Northwest. The original gothic mansion was bought by Chester Thorne as a gift to his bride and rebuilt brick by brick under the supervision of architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter at a scenic location just a short trip from Tacoma, Washington. The mansion has a beautiful “sunken garden” designed by the Olmstead brothers that be seen through gorgeous stained glass windows. Today the castle operates as a bed and breakfast and event venue.

Grey Towers Castle
Grey Towers Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Glenside, PA: Grey Towers Castle

Just outside of Philadelphia is this large, 40-room, late-19th century castle that was built using limestone and greystone to resemble the famous Alnwick Castle in England. The structure was the home of sugar magnate William Welsh Harrison and includes an extravagant-looking ballroom and dining hall. Today, it is part of the Arcadia University campus and is used as an administrative office as well as a space to host college events.

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Coral Castle Museum
Coral Castle Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Coral Castle Museum

13. Miami, FL: Coral Castle

Note: Coral Castle is temporarily closed to visitors 

Dubbed one of the world’s most “mysterious accomplishments,” Coral Castle was crafted single-handedly by Edward Leedskalnin, an eccentric self-taught engineer and sculptor. Among the jaw-dropping structural features is a two-story tower where Leedskalnin lived, an accurate sundial and celestial stars and plates and eclectic furniture (including a table shaped like the state of Florida and another heart-shaped one). 

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Bishop’s Palace
Bishop’s Palace
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Galveston, TX: Bishop’s Palace

Known locally as Gresham Castle, this late 19th century home was designed by the Gresham family. The four-story, 19,082-square-feet house includes French revival elements, a complex roof and exotic building materials. The rooms are very grand and sturdy (the house withstood the devastating Great Hurricane of 1900). 

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The Breakers mansion
The Breakers mansion
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Newport, RI: The Breakers

Though this late 19th century Vanderbilt family mansion stands in a part of Rhode Island that is chock full of grand mansions, The Breakers still stands above the rest. Designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, the 125,339 square feet, 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo was inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turi. The elegant and extravagant home is situated on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most visited house-museums in the U.S.

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Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Asheville, NC: Biltmore Estate

Built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century as a country home in the idyllic Blue Ridge Mountains, the Biltmore Estate is America’s biggest private residence. The extravagant home is filled with 16th century tapestries, a banquet hall with 70-foot-tall ceilings and a library boasting over 10,000 books. The lush grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame, are glorious in the warm months.

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Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Honolulu, HI: Iolani Palace

The only official royal residence in the United States, Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, one of the last monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The monarchy was overthrown 10 years later, but the palace remains and has since been restored to its original grandeur with meticulously replicated furnishings and artifacts and made into a National Historic Landmark.

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Hammond Castle
Hammond Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

18. Gloucester, MA: Hammond Castle

Though this stone castle might look like it’s straight out of medieval Europe, it was actually built in the 1920s by inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. to serve as his home, laboratory and gallery for his sizable collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts and antiquities. Today, you can see the collection and check out exhibits about the former home owner's life and inventions as you tour Hammond Castle, including the guest bedrooms, war room and manicured grounds. 

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19. Charlevoix, MI: Castle Farms

Built in 1918 by Sears executive Albert Loeb, this elegant farm was designed to replicate the stone castles of Normandy, France. Originally a working dairy farm open to the public for browsing farming equipment sold through the Sears catalogue, the venue has since been used as a rock music venue and is currently a World War I museum. Visit and take a self-guided tour of the gardens, hop on a coach ride or ride around the ground on a train. 

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