The romantic royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry captured the attention of millions of people around the world — and for good reason. Markle’s two elegant wedding gowns, the celebrity attendees in their stylish fascinators, and the happy couple’s passionate kiss after the ceremony made this a captivating event that won’t be soon forgotten.
The pair exchanged vows in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, a nearly 1,000-year-old structure atop a hill overlooking the River Thames roughly 20 miles outside of London. It’s been home to many monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth, who spends a month living at the castle over Easter every year. Windsor Castle is also where the Queen often hosts foreign dignitaries.
Feeling inspired by the royal wedding venue? You don’t have to book a flight to Europe to visit a real-life castle — there are dozens located in the United States. Though they may not be as old as their European counterparts, these U.S. castles have plenty of stories to tell. And though they once served as grandiose private residences or government buildings, today you can eat, drink and stay inside many of them (and yes, sometimes even get married at them).
For inspiration for your next weekend getaway, here are 15 cities with unique castles you’ll want to consider visiting.
Oheka Castle — Huntington, New York
If you’re a fan of the movie “Citizen Kane” or the USA Network series “Royal Pains,” you’ve likely already caught a glimpse of Oheka Castle, located on a 23-acre estate on Long Island. It's easy to see why the castle, which was constructed in the early 1900s by philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn, has enjoyed such on-screen fame. It remains the second-largest private residence ever built in America — boasting 127 rooms and 109,000 square feet.
The castle has played a number of roles throughout history, including as a retreat for New York sanitation workers, a government training school for Marine Merchant radio operators and a military academy. After a $30 million renovation and a designation on the National Register of Historic Places, the castle is as beautiful as ever. Today, you can stay overnight, take a guided tour, and visit the castle’s refined bar and restaurant.
Thornewood Castle — Lakewood, Washington
Thornewood Castle is often called “the house that love built” because of its unique history. Chester Thorne, who helped found the Port of Tacoma, built the house as a gift for his wife, Anna. He actually bought a 400-year-old English manor and had its pieces shipped to the U.S. so that its bricks could be used at Thornewood.
The 27,000-square-foot castle has 54 rooms, including 22 bathrooms, a sunken garden and a private dock overlooking American Lake. Thornewood is now an event venue and a romantic bed and breakfast, with suites like “Lord Byron’s Attic” and, appropriately, “Anna’s Suite.”
Castello di Amorosa — Calistoga, California
If you spend a weekend wine-tasting in Napa Valley, it’s hard to miss Castello di Amorosa, a grandiose castle and winery located on top of a hill along Highway 29, the main road running through wine country.
Its name means “the castle of love” in Italian, since its design was inspired by 13th-century castles in Tuscany. Though this castle looks historic, it was actually constructed over 15 years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, finally opening to the public in 2007. Visitors today can take guided tours, taste wine and attend special events, such as wine and cheese pairings.
The winery also offers a decadent food and wine pairing lunch if you have a few hours to spare.
Hearst Castle — San Simeon, California
Built by millionaire and politician William Randolph Hearst over a period of 28 years, Hearst Castle is an impressive hilltop estate along the central coast of California. Hearst named the site La Cuesta Encantada, a Spanish phrase that means “The Enchanted Hill.” Though the castle was never technically finished, it has 165 rooms and more than 120 acres of pools, terraces, gardens and walkways.
Visitors today can learn more about the castle and its founder on several tours, including one through Hearst’s extensive art collection. Another tour explores the various Hollywood stars who visited the castle, including Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant.
Today, the castle is part of the California State Parks system, which is repairing and restoring many parts of the estate for future visitors.
Gillette Castle — East Haddam, Connecticut
It took 20 men five years to build most of this medieval castle located along the Connecticut River. Designed and built by actor William Gillette, who was best known for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes,” Gillette Castle was the crown jewel of a 184-acre estate on top of a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters (the castle was originally named the “Seventh Sister”).
The 24-room castle, constructed from 1914 to 1919, has a distinctive look about it, with its jagged walls made from local fieldstone. Inside the castle, you’ll find southern white oak woodwork, built-in couches, light switches made of carved wood and 47 unique interior doors.
After Gillette’s death, the State of Connecticut purchased the property and made it a state park complete with hiking trails, picnic areas and campsites. The castle is open to visitors during the summer months only, though many people visit during the off-season to take photos of the castle’s exterior and explore the nearby hiking areas.
Biltmore Estate — Asheville, North Carolina
Striking Biltmore Estate is enormous — which is why it carries the title of America’s largest home. The 250-room castle was constructed in 1895 as the luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, members of one of America’s wealthiest and best-known families.
George Vanderbilt fell in love with North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains during a visit in 1888 and set to work building his dream home, modeled after French Renaissance chateaus. After five years of nonstop construction, the estate was complete with 35 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces spread across four acres of interior space. Later, it became home to a winery and several hotels.
Today, you can take a winery tour, stay in one of the estate’s many lodging options, and explore 8,000 acres of greenery and forests. The Biltmore also hosts concerts, art exhibits, weddings and other events.
Glen Eyrie Castle — Colorado Springs, Colorado
Just north of the iconic Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Glen Eyrie Castle sits on a sprawling estate with manicured grounds, evergreen trees and red rock formations.
Gen. William Jackson Palmer, who founded the city of Colorado Springs and served in the Union Army during the Civil War, constructed the castle in the early 1900s. He discovered the property during a trip west with a Union Pacific Railroad survey party in the late 1860s, returning with his wife a few years later. The castle is now managed by a religious group called The Navigators, which moved its international headquarters there in the early 1950s.
Staying at the castle is like taking a journey back to simpler times — there are no televisions in the rooms, which are lavishly decorated with antique furniture. When visiting, be sure to schedule a tour of the castle and its grounds, and to relax during an elegant morning or afternoon tea service. Glen Eyrie also regularly hosts events and retreats, including concerts and writing workshops.
Manresa Castle — Port Townsend, Washington
Located just a few blocks from Port Townsend Bay, the 126-year-old Manresa Castle now serves as a peaceful retreat for overnight visitors and wedding guests. Starting in 1892, the castle was the home of Charles Eisenbeis, a prominent businessman who served as Port Townsend’s first mayor. The 30-room castle, which is reportedly the largest private residence ever built in Port Townsend, was constructed with a slate roof, tiled fireplaces, intricate woodwork and 12-inch-thick brick walls.
The castle changed hands several times following Eisenbeis’ death in 1902. In the modern era, its owners have renovated the structure and made it more hospitable to guests (the castle had just three bathrooms when it was originally constructed — now there are 43!). It’s now a hotel and event space, providing a stunning backdrop for weddings and other gatherings.
The Norumbega Inn — Camden, Maine
Known as “the castle by the sea,” the Norumbega Inn overlooks stunning Penobscot Bay along the Maine coast. Joseph Stearns, who invented the duplex telegraph, built the castle in 1886, inspired by his travels around Europe on a business trip.
Today, what was once a grandiose private residence is an adorable bed and breakfast. If you stay overnight in one of the castle’s tastefully decorated rooms and suites, you’ll also get to taste the delicious creations of co-owner and chef Phil Crispo, who won Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2013.
There’s even a unique library suite, complete with wall-to-wall books and a reading loft. Admire the warm, hand-carved woodwork inside or the serene gazebo surrounded by greenery outside.
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol — Baton Rouge
This stately castle has seen its fair share of historical events. The building served as Louisiana’s state capitol building from 1850 to 1932, when a much larger capitol was built less than a mile away. The building’s architect wanted Louisiana’s statehouse to look as unique as possible, so he designed the building in the Gothic style.
In 1862, the capitol experienced a major fire, which destroyed nearly all of the interior. After years of renovation work and an expansion, the building reopened to legislators in 1882. When lawmakers moved to a new capitol building, the castle became home to other government offices over the years, though it largely sat empty during the 1980s and 1990s.
The castle, a National Historic Landmark, is now open to the public as an event venue and a museum dedicated to political history.
Lyndhurst — Tarrytown, New York
Today, this stunning New York estate is open for weddings, tours and recreation, but when it was first constructed in 1838, Lyndhurst served as the elaborate country home of former New York City mayor William Paulding.
With its turrets and asymmetrical shape, the building was designed in the romantic Gothic Revival style. As the estate changed hands over the years, its new owners expanded and renovated its structures, but they left the furniture, art and antiques inside relatively unchanged (you can still see many of the original furnishings today).
After you’ve seen the intricately decorated 19 interior rooms, you can explore 67 acres of manicured grounds and formal gardens along the Hudson River.
Spicer Castle — Spicer, Minnesota
Venture 90 miles outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and you’ll find yourself at Spicer Castle, a gorgeous bed and breakfast on the shores of tranquil Green Lake. The building was once the home of John M. Spicer, who founded the small city of Spicer in the late 1890s.
The castle stayed in the family and is now owned by Spicer’s grandson, who opened the retreat-like estate to overnight visitors and event organizers. There are eight guest rooms in the main building, as well as rooms in the castle’s carriage house, honey house, garden house, cottage or cabin.
Spicer Castle also regularly hosts murder mystery dinners during the summer months and offers lakeside patio dining if you just want to stop by for an evening.
Miramont Castle — Manitou Springs, Colorado
Located in the quirky mountain town of Manitou Springs, Colorado, this castle sits nestled in a hilly residential neighborhood not far from downtown.
Crews began constructing Miramont in 1895, using local green sandstone to build the castle’s walls. The castle’s founder was Father Jean Baptiste Francolon, a French priest who came to Manitou Springs in the 1890s to serve as a missionary. By and large, Francolon did not socialize much with local residents, though he did host two fundraising balls at the castle in 1897.
Today, Miramont Castle is a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The castle regularly hosts events, including a Victorian Christmas party and a Victorian Easter egg hunt.
If you visit, take a self-guided tour of the castle’s 30 rooms or sip afternoon tea in the queen’s parlor tea room, featuring a magnificent view of the mountains. Miramont also has stunning gardens full of colorful blooms in the spring and summer.
Hammond Castle — Gloucester, Massachusetts
Built by inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. in the late 1920s, Hammond Castle offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Hammond Jr., who was friendly with both Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, was best known for his prolific work related to radio control, and held more than 800 patents for 400 inventions.
You can visit the castle, which is now a museum, on weekends during the summer months, exploring its many rooms and medieval artifacts during a self-guided tour. Because Hammond Jr. loved nighttime, he frequently worked all night and slept during the day. In that spirit, the castle offers candlelit tours on Thursdays evenings in the summer. It also hosts a summer renaissance faire and spooky Halloween festivities.
Castle Farms — Charlevoix, Michigan
Plan to spend at least an afternoon at Castle Farms, a 100-year-old castle in Charlevoix, a small town on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. Albert Loeb, then the acting president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, built Castle Farms in 1918 as a dairy farm, drawing inspiration from the stone buildings in Normandy, France.
Since then, it’s been home to a cafe, an art gallery and a concert venue where big-time artists such as The Doobie Brothers, Aerosmith and Tina Turner have played. Since 2001, it’s been an events venue and a northern Michigan tourist attraction.
Visitors to Castle Farms can today explore the state’s largest outdoor model railroad (there’s more than 2,500 feet of track!), a World War I museum and gorgeous gardens.