We don’t all have billions of dollars to spare on our living quarters. Fortunately, we can still get a taste of the high life — at least, for a few hours — by touring a few of the finest mansions in history. Use this time to revel at the architectural whimsies of some of the wealthiest — and often most eccentric — echelons of the American elite. Gape and gawk all you want at these six incredible houses. They were built to be admired!
1. Hearst Castle (San Simeon, California)
Also known as La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), Hearst Castle was commissioned by early 20th-century media magnate William Randolph Hearst. The lavish estate consists of multiple houses, swimming pools, and gardens. It is set upon a coastal mountain on 250,000 acres of Hearst’s own ranch property. In its heyday, it hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, Charlie Chaplin, Lionel Barrymore, and George Bernard Shaw — along with many others.
A tour of the Castle’s Grand Rooms costs $25 for adults. For more information on this incredible estate, visit the Hearst Castle website.
2. Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)
Completed in 1895, the 250-room Biltmore Estate was once home to iconic American philanthropist and tycoon George Vanderbilt and his wife Edith. Take a self-guided tour through the chateau’s three floors and basement to explore the vintage clothing, artwork, furniture, and accessory collections. If that’s not enough, check out the 16th century tapestries, a grand library, all 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley.
Afterward, view the lush estate gardens from its 2.5 miles of walking trails among the manicured property. Estate admission is $44 in advance. Visit the Biltmore Estate website for more information.
3. The Breakers (Newport, Rhode Island)
When the Vanderbilt family found their 250-room estate too confining, they would often travel up to their summer “cottage” in Newport. Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, this home is a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo drawing inspiration from 16th-century palaces in Genoa and Turin.
There are multiple options for exploring all of Newport’s mansions. The cost of admission for a tour of The Breakers is $19.50. Visit the website for more details.
4. Oak Alley Plantation (Vacherie, Louisiana)
Built in 1837, Oak Alley was a product of the South’s booming sugar industry. The plantation lies upon the Mississippi River coast and is a grandiose relic of days past. The mansion was adaptively restored in 1925 by then-owner Josephine Stewart. Admission to the house and historic grounds cost $19. Learn more at the Oak Alley website.
5. Winterthur (Wilmington, Delaware)
Astounding 175-room Winterthur was the childhood home of American collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont. The home is now a museum of American decorative arts consisting of 90,000 pieces of historical artifacts made or used in America between 1640 and 1860. Winterthur is located upon a 1,000-acre preserve of scenic meadows and forestry and also has a beautiful 60-acre manicured garden.
Adult admission costs $20. To learn more, visit the Winterthur website.
6. Monticello (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Built atop a mountain in the late 18th century, Monticello was the primary estate of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. This estate consists of a 43-room home along, a 5,000-acre former plantation site now home to cultivated gardens. Admission costs $25 for adults. Learn more on the Monticello website.