Think of castles, and you probably imagine a turreted wonder in Europe. But California has its own surprising crop of palaces and estates fit for a monarch, created by people with imaginations as big as their castles. Take publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, who commissioned renowned architect Julia Morgan to design Hearst Castle, a Mediterranean masterpiece along the Central Coast. And then there’s Walt Disney, who made the Sleeping Beauty Castle the soaring hub of Disneyland in Anaheim. Or Lora Josephine Knight, who created a Scandinavian-style castle along the shores of Lake Tahoe. California's state park system is also home to some of the Golden State's most majestic castles, too—such as the spires at Castle Crags State Park in the Shasta Cascade region.
Then there’s Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation Californian who built medieval-style Castello di Amorosa to house one of his wineries in Napa Valley. Ask him why, and the answer comes as easily as his next big idea: The Golden State is a place, he says, “where anyone can do anything, if they really want to do it.”
Here’s where to find these and other California-style castles and learn about the creative dreamers behind them, as well as a couple of castle-like locations created by the ultimate dreamer, Mother Nature.
—by Matt Jaffe