23 Castles So Jaw-Dropping You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.

Real-life fairytale destinations—no passport required.

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If you have ever traipsed through Europe on a sight-seeing vacation, we're guessing that a castle or two made an appearance on your to-do list. The opulence and sheer magnitude of castles like Mont Saint-Michel in France or Edinburgh Castle in Scotland have long loomed in our minds as the only way to achieve that fairytale nostalgia. But, as is often the case, you're missing out on a plethora of magic right here in the United States.

From the Hearst Castle in California to the Hammond Castle in Massachusetts, these more modern castles have stood the test of time—and a century later, still manage to transport us into another dimension just with a simple feat of architecture. So, without further ado, these are the most jaw-droppingly beautiful castles in the United States—no passport needed.

1
Boldt Castle; Alexandria Bay, New York

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The construction of Boldt Castle was commissioned in 1900 by hotel magnate George C. Boldt and was designed to be the summer dream home for his wife, Louise. But tragically, a few months before the castle was completed, Louise passed away. After this loss, her husband was inconsolable and stopped the construction in its tracks—leaving the castle vacant for over 70 years. Since acquiring the property in 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority has renovated the castle for the public—and you won't want to miss your chance to see this historical opulence right in the United States.

2
Hearst Castle; San Simeon, California

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On an especially foggy day, Hearst Castle appears triumphant through the clouds as a shining beacon of America's opulent past. After his mother's death in 1919, William Randolph Hearst inherited the estate in San Simeon where the castle was eventually constructed. Today, visitors can tour its 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, and pools, including the famous 104-foot-long Neptune Pool. You may also spot zebras wandering the property, a remnant of Hearst's private zoo. (And yes, in case you didn't know, it is indeed the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane's palatial Xanadu in Citizen Kane.)

Pro tip: Perfect for a romantic getaway, the Avila La Fonda Hotel is an old-world Mexican hacienda that offers a private escape for couples.

3
Bishop's Palace; Galveston, Texas

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Architectural historians list the Bishop's Palace in Galveston, Texas, as one of the most significant examples of Victorian architecture in the entire country. The castle's construction was commissioned in 1887 by Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine after they returned to the south following the Civil War.

4
Castello di Amorosa; Calistoga, California

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Though this Tuscan-style hidden treasure in Napa Valley may look like it's from the 13th century, it's actually really, really new (it's only been around since 2007). Surrounded by vibrant vineyards, Castello di Amorosa will have you believing it's the real deal.

Pro tip: If you need a break from sipping wine, stay at Calistoga Ranch, where the intimate views and luxury amenities are a-plenty.

5
Fonthill Castle; Doylestown, Pennsylvania

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Constructed during the early 20th century, this Pennsylvania castle's mix of Gothic, Medieval, and Byzantine Empire-era design make this destination feel more like a European excursion. Not only is this castle worth the visit, but it may also provide the ideal backdrop for your wedding.

6
Thornewood Castle; Lakewood, Washington

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Though the castle itself was built only 100 years ago, Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma, instructed builders to dismantle the 400-year-old Elizabethan manor in England he purchased and reassemble it on a plot in Lakewood, Washington. The result? A 500-year-old ancient relic still standing in America.

7
Hammond Castle; Gloucester, Massachusetts

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Hammond Castle was constructed between 1926 and 1929 by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. Its main purpose was to be part residence and part museum for his collection of ancient toys. So, a visit to this castle is more than just a lesson in architecture—it's a full-scale museum tour filled with ancient artifacts.

Pro tip: Head to the Beauport Hotel for some of the area's best ocean views.

8
'Iolani Palace; Honolulu, Hawaii

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For a real taste of Hawaii's royal history, visit the 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Constructed by King Kalakaua in 1882, this palace witnessed the last years of monarchy in Hawaii.

Pro tip: While you're in Honolulu, go to Diamond Head State Monument for a beautiful hike along the rocky spine of Hawaii's coast.

9
Bannerman Castle; Fishkill, New York

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This abandoned castle perched alongside the Hudson River is brimming with mystery and intrigue since its creation in 1851. To truly capture the essence of Bannerman Castle, schedule a guided tour and climb to the top of the castle.

Pro tip: After your tour, sit back and relax at the Brinckerhoff Inn Bed & Breakfast, located just a few minutes up the road.

10
Lyndhurst Mansion; Tarrytown, New York

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For another great view of the Hudson, stop over for a visit to the Lyndhurst Mansion—also known as the Jay Gould estate. This grand mansion features manicured grounds and a collection of rare art and artifacts. Since its creation in 1838, the mansion has been home to New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.

Pro tip: For more old-world elegance on the Hudson, book a room at the Tarrytown House Estate and dine at its brand new restaurant, Goosefeather, by celeb chef Dale Talde.

11
Gillette Castle; Haddam, Connecticut

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Though it may look like a medieval fortress, this early 20th-century home of William Gillette—famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes—includes a rich interior complete with Gillette's own uniquely designed wood furnishings. In recent years, the property has become a state park, complete with a visitor center and hiking trails.

12
Grey Towers Castle; Glenside, Pennsylvania

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Grey Towers Castle currently sits on the Arcadia University campus in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Inspired by Alnwick Castle in the United Kingdom, architect Horace Trumbauer wanted to make this late 19th-century home the most elegant fixture in the city.

13
Oheka Castle; Huntington, New York

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This sprawling mansion lays at the highest point of Long Island, and serves as a testament to the riches of financier Otto Hermann Kahn, who commissioned the building of the estate in 1919. Fun fact: It was also featured in Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" music video.

Pro tip: Not only can you tour the mansion, but you can also book a room on the upper floors. Just don't try to visit during the busy wedding season.

14
Loveland Castle; Loveland, Ohio

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This hidden gem, located just outside of Cincinnati, was built in the 1920s by area legend Harry Delos Andrews, a medic during World War I and founder of the Knights of the Golden Table. He established this castle as a sort of headquarters for this group—and the rest is history.

Pro tip: While you're in the Cincinnati area, head over to Mt. Adams for cocktails and unparalleled views of the city.

15
Biltmore Estate; Asheville, North Carolina

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George Vanderbilt, the grandson of famed industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt, erected this 250-room French Renaissance chateau as a testament to his wealth in 1889. Also on the property is the Biltmore Estate Wine Company—offering some of the best vintages in North Carolina. (Fun fact: This is where they filmed Richie Rich!)

Pro tip: Settle into the Vanderbilt hospitality by booking a room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate.

16
Castle in the Clouds; Moultonborough, New Hampshire

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Also known as the Lucknow Estate, this castle in the clouds was constructed in 1913 by Thomas Gustave Plant. It has been open to the public since 1959, and offers a truly spectacular take on the Arts and Crafts Architecture movement in New England.

Pro tip: While you're in Moultonborough, head over to the Center Harbor Inn for great views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

17
Belvedere Castle; New York City, New York

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Tucked inside of New York City's expansive Central Park, this fairytale castle provides a mystical escape for city slickers. The faux-medieval fortress (really built in the 19th century) was imagined by architect Calvert Vaux. And while you're strolling through Central Park, don't miss out on other great treasures like Strawberry Fields (an ode to John Lennon) and the Shakespeare Garden, located just outside of Belvedere Castle.

18
Bishop Castle; Rye, Colorado

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Perhaps the most inventive piece of architecture on the list, Bishop Castle in Rye, Colorado, was dreamt up by Jim Bishop in 1972. This towering castle features a dragon, winding walkways on the exterior of the building, and many more secret corners.

19
Berkeley Castle; Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

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Before Americans settled the land, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, brought Native Americans and foreign visitors from hundreds of miles away, seeking the healing powers of its mineral water. This Medieval-inspired castle was built by Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit in 1891 as a gift to his wife, Rosa Pelham. Come for the historic architecture, stay for the abundance of paranormal activity that many have claimed to witness at Berkeley Castle.

20
Scotty's Castle; Death Valley National Park, California

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Though this mansion is currently closed due to flooding (it will likely reopen in 2021), the wait will be worthwhile. The desert oasis is summed up perfectly in the words of author Bessie Johnson in Death Valley Scotty by Mabel. "Moonlight anywhere is a delight. But there's no moonlight in the world that can compare with the moonlight in Grapevine Canyon, our desert canyon, where the Castle stands."

Pro tip: While you're in Death Valley National Park, book a room at the Inn at Death Valley, and sneak out for one of the most spectacular views of the night sky in the country.

21
The Breakers; Newport, Rhode Island

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Yet another testament to the Vanderbilt family fortune, the 70-room Breakers is the largest of the mansions lining the coast in Newport, Rhode Island. The opulent 19th-century "summer cottage" was designed in the Italian Renaissance style, modeled after the 16th century palaces in Genoa and Turin. While the tour of the house itself is worthwhile, don't miss wandering through the fragrant gardens.

Pro tip: To get a seaside view of all the mansions in a row, stroll along the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk.

22
Castle Farms; Charlevoix, Michigan

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This estate was built by Albert Loeb, the acting President of Sears, Roebuck, and Co., in 1918 as a model dairy farm intended to resemble the stone barns and castles found in Normandy, France. In its heyday, the farm employed more than 90 people and even had its own baseball team—the Sodbusters.

23
Cliff Palace; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

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This ancient dwelling provides a rare look into the past of Colorado's original settlers. Located inside of Mesa Verde National Park, the cliff palace is said to have housed approximately 100 people—though only 75 percent of the dwelling still remain standing.

Pro tip: While you're in the national park, stop by Metate Room Restaurant, which dishes up wild game, fresh fish, and local produce—all prepared with an authentic southwestern flare.

And for more hidden gems, check out these 100 Destinations So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.

Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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