a VirtualTourist member from Stockton
The website is complicated by the need to choose from several guided tours. Can't I wander aimlessly looking at the architecture without a guide? If not, which tour is the best? Also, I'm going in a couple weeks during a weekday. Do I have to get a reservation, or can I just show up and expect to take the next tour without too much hassle. Any other tips on getting the most from this visit would be appreciated. I'm a native Californian who for some reason has neglected to see this monument.
Alan, it has been many moons since I went to the Hearst Castle. I don't think you can just wander around. From my recollection, diminished by many tastings of Cabs and Merlots, I believe your "tour" starts at the bottom of the hill at you drive up the 3-4 miles in your group bus, then tour with your group, and then return with your group. Karl
Yeah, the website says the "tour" price includes a shuttle service from the parking lot. Do you recall how exposed the parking lot was? The dog will have to stay in the car. It's only April, but we don't want a baked dog when we get back...
Each tour in the castle is just over 2 hours, including the bus up and back from the visitor center at the base of the hill. You are not allowed to just walk around, and actually the tours are so close together you are pretty much kept moving most of the time.
Even though it is along the coast and it is April, I would not leave a dog in the car alone for that long. But if you go early in the morning and they are used to being alone that long they may be able to handle it. There are trees around the lot but I can't exactly remember how much shade they provided. They should have the evening tour during this time and is actually a good tour to go on. I belive that this is Tour 5 on the web site. For this one you do need reservations as it can be popular.
It really depends on the day you go as to how long you have to wait. Normally I would say weekdays you don't have to get reservations for the basic tours, but it is always better to have one to be sure you get the time you want. Tour 1 is the general tour and I belive that it leave every 10-15 minutes. Tours 2 and 3 go through other areas of the main house. Tour 4 is a Garden tour that also goes through one of the guest houses.
The earlier you get there for any of the tours the better chance you will have for less of a wait.
Hope this helps.
If you will be staying overnight in Cambria you might try the Cambria Shores Inn on Moonstone Beach. They advertise themselves as dog friendly and I beleive it. I walk down there most days and I always see people there with their dogs. I'm not sure but I suspect you can leave the dog there while you go on the tour. Another VT member stayed there last year and loved it.