13 Unique Castles in the United States Worth Visiting

Did you know there are over 145 castles in the United States? Some of those castles were built for the rich and famous. While others were fortresses manufactured for defense against foreign enemies. But we’re going to spotlight 13 unique castles in the United States that have such incredible back stories of why they exist. Their noble grandeur is an integral part of America’s history. And we think are truly worth the visit.

Definition of a Castle

A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by nobility, royalty and military orders. Scholars debate the definition of the word castle. A castle’s usual connotation is a fortified residence of royalty.

However, castles aren’t just for the rich and famous. Historically and culturally, castles were built to serve many purposes. They serve as powerful government structures where important decisions are made.

Forts, also known as castles, were built of simple masonry and prowess to protect against foreign infiltration. Smaller mansions, also construed as castles, were built as family homes. All of which were constructed with eccentric architectural style, lavish masonry and artistic detail.

These magnificent mansions signify strength and power all through the centuries. They represent nobility, wealth, freedom, love and fairytale dreams too. And, each of these castles on American soil has an incredible back story to tell. 

So, let’s take a sneak peek at these 13 Unique Castles in the United States that are well worth your visit.

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Why You Should Visit These 13 Unique Castles in the United States!

1) Biltmore Estate

Biltmore - Asheville North Carolina
Photo courtesy of Expert Vagabond
ADDRESS: One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC 28803
WEBSITE: Biltmore
CONTACT: 800-411-3812 or Contact Form

One of the most familiar castles in the United States, the Biltmore Estate. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, with the help of two architects, George Washington Vanderbilt constructed the majestic Biltmore in 1898.

Today, Biltmore Estate is a must-see attraction that presents the 250-room French Renaissance chateau also known as Châteauesque. Visitors can tour Biltmore’s 8,000 acres of woodland grounds and beautiful flower gardens. While you’re there, tour the Antler Hill Village and award-winning winery and vineyards. Lots of outdoor enjoyment, shopping, dining and so much more are awaiting your arrival.

Check out Christy Evers, Happily 4 Evers After’s  video 10 Tips for Visiting Biltmore Estates:

 If you enjoy walking amongst beautiful gardens,  check out our 15 Best Botanical Gardens in the  United States

2) Castillo De San Marcos

Castillo De San Marcos- Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©
ADDRESS: 1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084
WEBSITE: Castillo de San Marcos
CONTACT: Send electronic message or  Phone (760) 786-3200

Castillo is Spanish for Castle. Castillo de San Marcos, located in St. Augustine Florida, was constructed over three centuries ago. Argumentatively, this so called castle wasn’t built to be a fairytale dream or rich man’s mansion. It was actually a Spanish masonry fortress built for defense for the Spanish settlement on the western shore of Matanzas Bay.

Today, Castillo de San Marcos is a designated National Monument that memorializes the Spanish empire’s 300 year occupation of Florida. It stands as a reminder of how cultural groups helped build and unify what is now America. Visitors can explore almost every inch of the fort, including the prison, artillery, and museum.

 Visit another American fortress: Everything You    Need to Know Before Visiting the Alamo

3) Bishop Castle

Castles in the U.S. - Bishop Castle - Colorado
Instagram Photo by Maria Jackson @jamplus0003 (2016)
ADDRESS: 12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069
WEBSITE: Bishop Castle
CONTACT: info@bishopcastle.org

Bishop Castle, has quite a story built within its’ walls and intricate iron work. Located in Rye, Colorado in the Wet Mountains, this intriguing work of art is still a continuous work in progress with a hint of rebellion against the local government. In 1969, very determined Jim Bishop and his father began constructing the castle using the stones from nearby lands. They also did their own blacksmithing right on site.

However, Jim was often met with much resistance from the local government because he refused to file building permits and abide by building codes. Bureaucracy aside, Bishop Castle lays claim to being the largest self-built castle in the United States.

Adventurous visitors can climb up and walk the exterior steel plank and metal mesh walkways. However, I warn you that some are extremely hazardous for those weak in the knees (I’ve done it twice!). And if you dare to climb up to the bell tower, reward your courage by ringing the bell. Be sure to check out the interior room of artist-created stained glass features. The fireplace bellows smoke out of the mouth of the fire-breathing dragon to the outside.

Trust me, you’ll want to visit this uniquely constructed monumental castle. You’ll see why Jim Bishop went through such trouble of building it. While you may be awestricken by its’ unique appearance, be cognizant of your personal safety upon entering Bishop Castle. 

4) Solomon’s Castle

Solomans Castle - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©
ADDRESS: 4533 Solomon Rd, Ona, FL 33865
WEBSITE: Solomon’s Castle
CONTACT:  Phone: (863) 494-6077 or email 

In 2021, we took a cool field trip to visit Solomon’s Castle in Ona. From the outside, it looks like a castle wrapped in shiny aluminum foil. Hence, why some refer to it as the Aluminum Foil Castle. However, the closer you get, it’s exactly aluminum foil but old aluminum newspaper printing plates.

Built by Howard Soloman (sculptor, painter, author, builder of dreams) himself, In 1974, Soloman started construction. By the time he finished, his chrome castle towered 3 stories and 12,000 square feet. But, Soloman’s Castle isn’t the only shiny attraction here. His castle houses his repurposed metal and steel sculptures art collection

In the 1990’s, he created his “Boat in the Moat”. It’s an old 16th century Portuguese Galleon ship that has an actual moat around it. Today, it serves as a restaurant with an outdoor gift shop nearby. It didn’t take long for Soloman’s Castle to become a Roadside America sensation.

Sadly in 2016, Howard Solomon passed on. But his visionary legacy continues as his family runs the business and tells his story.

 

5) Hammond Castle

Hammond Castle - Gloucester Massachusetts
Photo source: Hammond Castle
ADDRESS: 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester, MA 01930
WEBSITE: Hammond Castle Museum
CONTACT: (978) 283-2080 or email

While we were stationed up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, we’d frequent visiting Hammond CastleThis royal estate sits high on a cliff overlooking Gloucester Harbor. Its’ location is not far from the fishing village in the Magnolia area.

This American fortress took 3 years (1926 to 1929) to build this medieval style castle by the highly acclaimed inventor, John Hays Hammond, Jr.  He wanted a stately home to also be his invention laboratory. Hammond, known for holding over 400 patents, pioneered studies on remote controls. He was known as “The Father of Radio Control”.

But, Hammond was also an impressive collector. So, his castle housed his collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance historical and cultural artifacts. Ironically, one of the most notable of his collections according to History of Massachusetts is “one of his prized possessions still on display in the castle is a human skull rumored to be from one of Christopher Columbus’ crew members.”

6) Scotty’s Castle

Scotty's Castle in Death Valley National Park
Photo by: Source: Visit California – Photographer, Carol M. Highsmith
ADDRESS: 123 Scotty’s Castle Rd, Death Valley National Park, CA
WEBSITE: Scotty’s Castle
CONTACT: (760) 786-3200 or Email

Scotty’s Castle is a unique attraction to visit considering where it reigns in Death Valley National Park. Built in 1922, the Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival architecture style castle was inspired by the illustrious and colorful Walter E. Scott. Known as Death Valley Scotty, the gold prospector became infamous for his con jobs and gold mining scams. He convinced Chicago couple, Albert and Bessie Johnson, to build a dream castle in the California desert.

Scotty’s Castle still stands but is closed to the public until 2023. an unprecedented flood in 2015 took out utilities and left mud and debris up to 10 feet deep. And later, a fire that destroyed the historic garage and complex in 2021.

7) Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle California

ADDRESS: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
WEBSITE: Hearst Castle
CONTACT: Hearst Castle Contact Page

The Hearst Castle oftentimes can be seen sitting above the clouds in San Simeon, California. It was built in 1919 to serve as a private residence for American businessman, newspaper publisher, and politician William Randolph Hearst

Calling his fortress estate La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for The Enchanted Hill, it sits atop a hill overlooking San Simeon. However, Hearst’s illness got the best of him, so he never got to see his castle finished.

The majestic castle includes 3 guesthouses and 2 turret-style towers. The estate grounds span over 127 acres of meticulously groomed gardens, water features, pools and fountains. Hearst’s third floor private suite and study, Casa Grande, was the highlight of his dream mansion. It is there where he proofread his newspapers before sending them off to print. The 165 room citadel fortress, now serves as a public museum.  

8) Boldt Castle

Unique Castles in U.S. - Boldt Castle

ADDRESS: 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY 13607
WEBSITE: Boldt Castle
CONTACT: (315) 482-9724

Located on Heart Island in Alexandria, New York, the Boldt Castle has a tragic heartbreaking love story. In 1900, Millionaire Hotel Magnate, George C. Boldt started constructing this beautiful castle as a summer mansion for his wife, Louise.

However, she never got to see it due to her untimely passing just months before completion. Heart-stricken and inconsolable, George stopped construction and walked away; leaving it vacant for 73 years. Then, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority finished it to completion. It opened for visitors in 1977.

Today, the Boldt Castle is a highly acclaimed visitor attraction. And, it’s a prominent Thousand Islands landmark on the Saint Lawrence River. However, it’s  open from May to October and only accessible by boat.

Boat tours from both the U.S. and Canada stop at Heart Island. Extensive docking is available for private pleasure craft. Passengers arriving from Canada must provide proper identification. For further information, refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Check out Cruising Off Duty’s video showcasing Boldt Castle:

9) Castle Williams

Unique Castles in U.S. - Castle Williams

ADDRESS: Governor’s Island, New York, NY 10004
WEBSITE: Castle Williams National Monument
CONTACT: See website

Castle Williams, named after Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Williams, Chief Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers, was completed prior to the War of 1812. It was designed and constructed to protect New York City from British attacks and shipping interference. Castle Williams was just one of several components of New York’s inner harbor’s larger defensive protection.

The Governors Island fort was the first casemated battery in the United States. A casemate is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. Originally, the term referred to a vaulted chamber in a fortress. 

Fifty years later, the red sandstone circular fortification was turned into a Civil War prison. It remained through the first half of the 20th century.

In 1966, the United States Coast Guard took control of Governors Island making it a major military base and support center hub for several Cutters, Search and Rescue Station, Aids to Navigation Units and Operations Center.

In 1972, Castle Williams was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, budget constraints kept the Coast Guard from maintaining Castle Williams’ and Governors Island property. In 2003, the Coast Guard transferred complete ownership to the National Park Service. Thus, Castle Williams and Governors Island becoming National Monuments a short time later. 

Today, Castle Williams is waiting for visitors to explore and learn the history of its’ grandeur of New York’s naval defense. The Castle Williams fort is free to tour. However, you’ll need to check in the visitor information before arriving. Be aware that Castle Williams is not handicap accessible because of the architectural design and stairways.

Unable to visit Castle Williams? Check out National  Park Planner’s Complete Guide to Visiting Castle  Williams.

 If you enjoy visiting military parks or venues, be  sure  to check out these great reads:  

10) Bishop’s Palace

Bishop's Palace - Galveston Texas

ADDRESS: 1402 Broadway, Galveston, Texas 77550
WEBSITE: 1892 Bishop’s Palace
CONTACT: (409) 762-2475

If you’re ever in Galveston, Texas, we recommend visiting the magnificent Bishop’s Palace. You’ll be awed by the turret-shaped ornate architecture. Designed and constructed by two Galvestonians from 1886 to 1892, the Victorian Castle made its’ grand appearance.

Also known as the Gresham House, the Texas castle was built for Colonial Walter Gresham and his family of 10 to live out their lives post Civil War. But, Attorney, Entrepreneur, Texas Legislator Gresham didn’t sit still after leaving military service. He founded the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad which later merged; becoming the Atchison and Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

Today, Bishop’s Palace is cited as one of the 100 most important buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects (I can’t find that claim, but okay). It is also deemed as a National Landmark.

Visitors can take a tour of this huge mansion to see the contents inside. From bronze dragons, intricately carved sculptures and ornaments, worldly mahogany woods, and brilliant stained glass, it’s a regal palace all of its’ own. Even one of fireplaces is actually lined in pure silver! Back in the day post build estimated the house castle at $250,000. Today, Bishop Palace is worth over $5.5 million.

Planning a trip to Galveston? Check out our Top Things to do in Galveston, Texas – Galveston Island too!

 

11) Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace - Honolulu Hawaii

ADDRESS: 364 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813
WEBSITE: Iolani Palace
CONTACT: (808) 522-0832 or Contact

Iolani Palace takes claim as being the only royal palace in the United States. Therefore, it comes as no surprise of why it’s a registered National Historic Landmark. Located in downtown Honolulu, the cornerstone for Iolani Palace was laid in 1879 with full Masonic rites. Construction of this grand fortress was completed 3 short years later in 1882. It served as the Capitol and official residence of Hawaiian monarchs. It also served as a place to conduct business and lavish functions.

The royal palace’s history set when King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani ruled the Hawaiian Kingdom. Hawaii’s last two monarchs lived in the castle from 1882 to 1893. But, through negligence and age, the royal palace fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until 1978, it reopened after extensive renovation. 

Today, the Iolani Palace is open for guided tours. Visitors will enjoy seeing the meticulous restoration; the Grand Hall, State Dining Room, Blue Room, and the Throne Room. The second floor consists of the private suites, the King’s and Queen’s suites, and Music Room. The palace also shows the Imprisonment Room where Queen Liliuokalani was held under house arrest following the overthrow of her government.

12) Singer Castle

Singer Castle - New York

ADDRESS: GPS coordinates: 44°27.156 N, 75°48.689 W
WEBSITE: Singer Castle
CONTACT: (877) 327-5475 or 315-324-3275

How amazing it would be to live in a castle on its’ own island?! And that’s exactly what Frederick Bourne, fifth President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company did. 

Singer Castle sits majestically alone on Dark Island near Chippewa Bay on the St. Lawrence River in New York. According to Singer Castle history, the estate remained in the possession of the Bourne family, from 1905 until the mid 1960’s. When the Bourne family summered there, it was called The Towers, inspired from Sir Walter Scott’s Woodstock.

Today, the Dark Island fortress is open for guided public tours. However, the Singer Castle is only accessible by water. Regardless, who wouldn’t want to see such intricate architecture and mysterious secret passages in this magnificent 100-year old island fortress?

 

13) Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle

Disney World Cinderella Castle - Orlando Florida
Photo source: Olga Thompson, WDWNews
ADDRESS: 1375 E Buena Vista Dr Orlando, FL  32830
WEBSITE: Walt Disney World Resort
CONTACT: Princess’ don’t have a phone or email

We saved America’s most famous castle for last because of its’ grand popularity. And, for good reason, this American castle certainly deserves the red carpet treatment.

The Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort reigns center stage. It’s inspired by many real palaces, most notably the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The fairytale castle took 19 months to build. It was originally intended to be where Walt Disney and his family would stay during their visit to the Disney theme park.

The Walt Disney World castle opened for dreamers and believers in July 1971. (I missed visiting it by a year in 1972 and later in 1981!) The grand mansion’s iconic white spires and blue roofs are the main attraction of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Cinderella’s ‘sister castle’ duplicate is at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan.

The Cinderella Castle truly is made for a Princess or Prince (at heart). The Cinderella Castle Suite in Magic Kingdom is the most exclusive hotel room at Walt Disney World. But it can’t be rented. Only contest winners or guests invited by Walt Disney World can stay there.

According to Travel and Leisure, “This suite cannot be bought. Disney has allegedly declined bribes of up to $40,000 for just one night in the exclusive suite. So no amount of money will allow you to make Cinderella Castle Suite reservations.” Check out their 60 second video tourof Cinderella’s Castle!

Final thoughts on these must visit castles in the United States

As you see, not all castles in the United States are about wealth and power. These American fortresses continue to stand as a reminder to believe in your dreams. Their stories are a part of American history that makes our Country so interesting.

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