No need to hop across the pond to visit sprawling, storied castles—you can get your Downton Abbey fix here at home at these eight amazing U.S. castles.
1. Biltmore Estate, NC
Biltmore may lack the castle moniker, but with that glorious French Renaissance façade—and at almost 200,000 square feet—it certainly fits the bill.
Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the estate wasn’t even intended to function as the main residence, but merely as a summer home. (The other Vanderbilts at the time chose to erect more "modest" summer homes in Newport, RI like The Breakers.)
The estate is still owned by the Vanderbilts—making it the largest privately owned home in the country—but a pedigree is no longer required to visit. In addition to self-guided tours, visitors can stay on-site (just not in the estate) and explore the Downton Abbey costume exhibit.
2. Boldt Castle, NY
Like Biltmore, Boldt Castle was meant to be a summer home around the turn of the 20th century. Unlike Biltmore, it was never lived in: Millionaire hotel developer George C. Boldt commissioned the 120-room estate (on Heart Island, no less) as a display of love to his wife. Sadly, his wife passed away suddenly just months before completion. Boldt abandoned the project, leaving it to fall into disrepair.
Luckily, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority stepped in in 1977 to restore and preserve the property. Today, it offers self-guided tours, and as of this May, guests can now view the restored kitchen and servants' dining rooms.
3. Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii
While the grandest properties in the U.S. were inhabited by what was considered American "royalty," Iolani Palace was the only one in America to house an actual royal family.
King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani lived at Iolani in the late 1800s, and enjoyed cutting-edge conveniences such as indoor plumbing, electricity, and a telephone.
After the monarchy was overthrown, government officials were Iolani's next tenants, and in the 1970s, the palace was restored and opened to the public. Besides tours, the palace also holds concerts and offers classes in Hawaiian quilting.
4. Oheka Castle, NY
Oheka Castle was a product of the over-the-top Gilded Age homes, and is considered the second largest private home in the U.S. (behind Biltmore).
If it looks familiar, that's because it appeared in "Citizen Kane" and the TV show "Royal Pains," and is thought to have been the inspiration behind Jay Gatsby's manse in "The Great Gatsby."
It also follows a familiar tale of being abandoned and restored. Today, in addition to offering guided tours, Oheka is one of the few castles where you can (temporarily) live like royalty and spend the night (or nights) surrounded by claw foot tubs, roaring fireplaces, and four-poster beds.
See more amazing U.S. castles.
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