Once upon a time doesn’t have to be in the past. While fairytale castles may be more well-known in Europe, the U.S. is home to some spellbinding castles of its own. Whether you’re looking for a castle with spiraling turrets or never-ending stairways; castles perched on a clifftop or hidden in a forest, the U.S. has one for you. Take a look at 10 of our favorite fairytale castles in the U.S. to inspire your own magical travel story.
Ca’ d’Zan, Florida
Ca’ d’Zan is a palatial Mediterranean revival estate on Sarasota Bay that was built as a winter home for American circus mogul John Ringling and his family. Its distinct exterior design features multicolored stained glass windows and intricate terra cotta friezes, tile work, and statues, as seen on its Belvedere Tower.
Ringling’s wife, Mable, oversaw the interior design of the 36,000-square foot estate, which combines many European style elements. Among its 56 rooms are a ballroom, tap room, great hall, and service wing. The estate was completed in 1926 at the height of the Roaring Twenties and hosted some of the most glamorous social events on the Gulf Coast. Today, guests can tour the five-story mansion and other attractions on the Ringling property, including the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Bayfront Gardens.
Hearst Castle, California
If you dream of a lavish hilltop retreat, Hearst Castle will not disappoint. Designed by California’s first female architect, Julia Morgan, the complex, completed in 1947, is a showcase of luxury and excess. Nicknamed ‘La Cuesta Encantada’, Spanish for "the enchanted hill", by its owner William Randolph Hearst, the castle is perched above the coastal town of San Simeon. The castle has an incredible 165 rooms and 123 acres of terraced gardens with fountains, pools and views galore. Built to emulate a European country home, the castle and grounds are home to Hearst’s legendary art collection.
Boldt Castle, New York
In true fairytale fashion, Boldt Castle has a tragically romantic backstory. It was built by rags-to-riches hotelier George C. Boldt as a tribute to his wife, Louisa. It was to be the summer home of their dreams, located in their beloved Thousand Islands region, on Heart Island no less. Construction began in 1900, but four years later tragedy struck when Louisa sadly passed away. Bereft with grief, George vowed never to return to the island, and Boldt Castle lay abandoned for over seventy years. In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and has transformed the ruins. The castle is still fitted with period furnishing, and grounds include Italian gardens, a tower fortress, and a dove-cote - once home to a collection of fancy fowl.
The Kentucky Castle, Kentucky
First built as a private residence, this medieval-style castle in the heart of the Bluegrass State (just west of Lexington) is aptly named The Kentucky Castle. It was built as a private residence, but today, it's a luxurious hotel boasting 18 well-appointed guest rooms — including four tower suites — and amenities fit for a king, from the sprawling landscaped gardens and pool to the ornate grand hall and outdoor terrace.
Situated on over 100 acres, guests can enjoy horseback riding through the castle grounds or a visit to the farm, which is also the source of the hotel’s farm-to-table dining menu. Dinner theater, spa days, and Bourbon tastings are some of the other activities found at the castle. Castle tours are also available to those who aren’t staying on the estate.
Bannerman Castle, New York
The ruins of Bannerman Castle are the sole remaining occupant of the tiny Pollope Island on the Hudson River. Previously uninhabited, the island gained a reputation based on fanciful tales of hauntings and superstitions. Then, in 1901, Frank Bannerman, a munitions dealer, purchased the island to build a fortress for his cargo. The castle was designed to echo the medieval fortresses of Scotland, his birthplace. Equipment and ammunition of all types were stored there until Bannerman’s death in 1918. The castle has since been slowly crumbling into the river, fighting off storms and even a raging fire in 1969. The castle is still open seasonally for visitors willing to risk the buried hazards, crumbling walls, and unknown ghosts.
Iolani Palace, Hawaii
For a castle fit for a king, look no further than Iolani Palace in Hawaii. King Kalākaua built the palace in 1882 to equal the majesty of European castles he had seen on his global travels. He filled it with the finest furnishings, equipped it with the latest technology and made it his family’s home until the monarchs were overthrown in 1893. In fact, it's the only royal palace in the entire United States. The palace has since shifted purposes several times, serving as an executive building to a new republic, a prison to an overthrown queen and the headquarters for martial law. Today, Iolani Palace is a grand museum open for the public to walk its 7,000 square feet of wooden floors and revel in stories of days gone by.
Hammond Castle, Massachusetts
Hammond Castle sits high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Built in 1926 by John Hays Hammond, Jr., inventor and art connoisseur, the castle served as his home and laboratory. The setting of a true European castle on the New England coast is as unexpected as it is intriguing. The castle houses Hammond’s unique collection of inventions as well as Roman, medieval and renaissance art. Hammond designed a gigantic pipe organ as the centerpiece for his Great Hall, which has been played by some of the greatest organists in the world. Meanwhile, the building itself has a dungeon, an armory and even a secret passageway out of one of the many bedrooms.
Castello di Amorosa, California
For a more modern fairytale, Castello di Amorosa offers a taste of Tuscany to its visitors. Built in 1994 by Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation winemaker, the building is the only authentic medieval Tuscan castle in the USA. The castle is nestled in the hills of Napa Valley amongst 170 acres of forest. The castle has over 90 rooms purely dedicated to winemaking and wine storage across eight levels, four of which are underground. Its enormous Great Hall displays Tuscan frescoes, while outside a drawbridge, dungeon and torture chamber leave plenty of room for active imaginations.
Fonthill Castle, Pennsylvania
The romantic yet foreboding Fonthill Castle is straight out of a storybook, picked up and placed in the heart of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The 44-room estate, touted as the “Castle for the New World,” looks just as it did 100 years ago when archaeologist Henry Mercer lived there. It was completed in 1912 in a combination of medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architecture styles, and is filled to the brim with artifacts and antiques from Mercer’s travels, including prints, books, and pottery.
Fonthill boasts 18 fireplaces and elaborately decorated rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling tiles from Mercer’s own handcrafted collection. The castle, which is a National Historic Landmark, is now open to the public for tours and private events, and is also a popular wedding venue. Other buildings on the property include an additional museum that houses more artifacts (particularly Morovian pottery and tiles), a pottery shop, and the Little Stone House.
Cherokee Castle, Colorado
A 15th-century Scottish-style castle might be the last thing you’d expect to find in the central Colorado town of Sedalia, but perched on a hilltop is one of the most unique structures in the country, Cherokee Castle. It was built during the 1920s by the Johnson family after purchasing and combining the Flower Homestead and the Blunt Homestead into a 3,4000-acre ranch, now called the Cherokee Ranch & Castle Foundation.
The castle houses a collection of fine art, artifacts, and memorabilia from around the world, which can be seen during the public tour. The outdoor terrace is another major draw; it provides stunning views of the Rocky Mountain peaks in the distance. Guests can also visit the castle for afternoon tea, guided wildlife watching, whiskey and wine tastings, concerts, and many other events throughout the year.