Four Road Trip Worthy Castles in the US

You love your camper. Everything is right at your fingertips and since it’s mobile, you can change the view any time you like. But sometimes, don’t you wonder what it would be like to have more bedrooms and bathrooms than you can use in one lifetime, ceilings that soar, and towers that seem to pierce the clouds?

Of course, you don’t really want to live in one. But with this list of four castles in the U.S., you can take a tour and imagine yourself as a king or queen—at least during your visit!

Exterior of the Smithsonian Institution Building (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

1. Smithsonian Institution Building

Also known as “the Castle,” be sure to add a tour of the Smithsonian Institution Building to your bucket list during your next visit to our nation’s capital.

Located in Washington, D.C., the Castle is the perfect stop to view some 19th Century architecture and view highlights from collections from each of the Smithsonian’s museums. It opened its doors in 1855 and has witnessed countless historical moments for the Smithsonian, the U.S., and the world.

Here’s a brief history of this amazing building:

The Castle was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. in the Norman style and constructed of red sandstone. Completed in 1855 and awarded Historic Landmark status in 1977, it’s filled with objects, works of art, and specimens totaling nearly 155 million. The Castle is also the final resting place of James Smithson, who left his estate in the United States to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” to be aptly named the Smithsonian Institution.

Exterior of Biltmore Estate (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

2. Biltmore Estate

Next, head down to North Carolina for a stop at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

While “castle” may not be in the name, it’ll be the first word to come to mind when you get a look at it. The structure and the surrounding grounds certainly make it feel like a castle with its four acres of floor space have earned Biltmore Estate the title of America’s Largest Home®.

The Biltmore has dubbed itself an “8,000-Acre Oasis” with its historic home and gardens. There’s also dining, wine tasting, and shopping on the grounds. Sounds like the perfect place to visit to relax!

Here’s a brief history of the Biltmore:

George Vanderbilt decided to build Biltmore after several visits to the Asheville area, and the result is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. But more than just a tourist destination, Biltmore has been recognized for its sustainability initiatives and environmental focus that earned it the Asheville GreenWorks Hall of Fame Award.

Exterior of Bishop’s Palace (Photo Credit: Galveston Historical Foundation and Illumine Photographic Services)

3. 1892 Bishop’s Palace

Cactus, cattle, corrals… castles?

If you think the fourth word doesn’t belong in this list, then you need to mosey on down to Galveston, Texas for some sarsaparilla at the 1892 Bishop’s Palace.

Also known as The Gresham House, Gresham’s Castle, and Gresham’s Palace, the Bishop’s Palace is Galveston’s grandest and most well-known building.

Okay, maybe that beverage isn’t available, but you’re bound to find plenty to enjoy there, starting with its appearance: a three-story Victorian castle constructed of steel and stone.

Inside the castle, you’ll find a forty-foot-tall octagonal mahogany stairwell, a massive Santo Domingo mahogany fireplace, and numerous stained-glass windows. Want to see it all from top to bottom? Sign up for the Bishop’s Palace Basement to Attic Tours!

Here’s a brief history of Bishop’s Palace:

The Bishop’s Palace was designed by Nicholas Clayton and built by lawyer Colonel Walter Gresham. It took six years to build and was completed by 1892. Its bones of steel and stone allowed it to survive the Great Storm of 1900 virtually unscathed. If you’ve never heard of the Great Storm, it’s considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history. This mighty hurricane destroyed more than 3,600 buildings with winds surpassing 135 miles per hour.

Exterior of Thornewood Castle (Photo Credit:

4. Thornewood Castle

The final stop on this four-castle tour is, appropriately enough, Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington—one of the few genuine private castles in the United States and the only one on the West Coast.

The “house that love built” has enchanted visitors from all over the world. Take your sweetheart on a tour and hear about Thornewood’s story. Chester Thorne built the castle and its beautiful gardens as a gift for his wife, Anna.

Though the Washington home is only a century old, it has a 500-year history.

Here’s a brief history of the Thornewood:

Completed in 1911, the castle is a recreation of a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor in England that was owned by Chester Thorne, who had the original structure dismantled and many of the pieces including the front door, oak paneling, and oak staircase shipped to the States for inclusion in the main house.

Located on three acres of grounds, the 54 rooms of the 27,000-square-foot Castle include 22 bedrooms and 22 baths.

Don’t miss the priceless collection of medieval stained glass inserts mounted in windows throughout the estate, the gardens, including the half-acre sunken English perennial garden designed by the Olmsted Brothers and dubbed the “Secret Garden” by Anna, and a collection of statuary from Europe and the U.S.

Note: The Castle is only open to those who are coming for overnight lodging or attending a scheduled event or tour. It’s not open to walk-up visitors.

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