Did you know you don’t need to go to Europe to get your fairytale fantasies fulfilled? There are actually quite a lot of beautiful castles in the US that’ll make you want to put on your flowiest dress and frolic around!
So, I was, as I often do, listening to Taylor Swift’s back catalog, and one of my classic favorites, “Love Story” came on. This was like, my peak love of TS, and that song was probably played at least once a day for years. If not on my little mp3 player, in my head because it was absolutely my go-to song to sing mentally when doing planks. If I’m being honest, it totally still is, I just, ahem, don’t plank as much as I used to.
Anyway, as I was struck with some 2009 TS nostalgia, I remember she’d filmed the music video in a castle, and when I was a teenager, I was delighted to learn said castle was actually right in Tennessee! For the longest time I’d assumed she’d filmed somewhere in Europe or it was just the work of some editing magic, but nope, Castle Gwynn is a real place!
This memory led me down quite the rabbit hole of looking up castles in the US. Turns out there are quite a lot of beautiful places, and this list mirrors just how diverse our history has been! From castle remains dated to 1200 AD to places like Castle Gwynn, which is actually younger than my parents, there’s quite a diverse range of architectural designs, history, and more!
A Note on “Castle”
Okay, so as I was making this list, I realized castle can refer to quite a lot, and even its concrete meaning is up for debate. After all, what is the difference between castle and palace? Should estates and manors also be counted as castles? And what about fortresses? The answer is … I don’t know!
If I stuck to one arbitrary definition of castle, I’d have to cut out some truly iconic landmarks, like the Biltmore Estate, which felt wrong. And a lot of times, places that are more manors or mansions with castle-like designs, are called castles, but don’t fit the medieval definition.
So, sorry, this list doesn’t adhere to any specific definition. I looked through lists of castles in America from general country lists to state lists and more, and I just picked out the ones I’d want to make the effort to visit and, you know, put on a flouncy dress for!
40 Prettiest Castles in America
1. Bancroft Tower Castle
- Where: Worcester, MA
Located in Salisbury Park, Bancroft Tower Castle is 56ft (17m) high and made of stone and granite. It was built in 1900 to honor local George Bancroft, who’d died 9 years earlier. Bancroft’s biggest contribution to history was his establishment of the Naval Academy in Annapolis while he was the US Secretary of the Navy. Another fun, but not really fun, fact: He gave the eulogy at Lincoln’s funeral.
The structure is usually locked, so you can really only see it from the outside, but apparently if you visit around Halloween, it’s used as a haunted house!
2. Bannerman Castle
- Where: Pollepel Island, NY
Talk about one of the most unromantic castle origins!
While Pollepel Island’s history goes way back to the Dutch settlers, Bannerman Castle’s history began in 1901. Its name comes from Francis Bannerman VI, an Irish immigrant who moved to the US as a child. His family’s money started when his father began a military surplus business, and Bannerman himself purchased Pollepel Island in 1900 to store the surplus. He built the castle, which is visible from the Hudson, as a giant advertisement for his business!
Today, you can book a visit that’ll take out out to the island and consist of a walking tour.
3. Belcourt Mansion
- Where: Newport, RI
The Châteauesque Belcourt Mansion has quite the interesting history. Its creation between 1891-1894 was as a summer cottage for Oliver Belmont and his horses. The architect, Richard Morris Hunt, was the first American to study at the famous École des Beaux-Arts in France, and his designs can be seen on other landmarks on this list. Belcourt’s design was inspired by the hunting lodge at Versailles, and when Belmont married Alva Vanderbilt, who would later play a big role in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, she redesigned the mansion’s interiors to make them more regal.
The mansion has changed hands quite a bit since Vanderbilt’s death in 1908, and it’s currently in the hands of Carolyn Rafaelian, who founded Alex and Ani. She’s restoring the mansion to its former glory, and you can visit on an hour-long tour.
4. Belvedere Castle
- Where: NYC, NY
Belvedere is one of the castles on this list situated right in Manhattan! It’s in Central Park behind the the Met, the design is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. I’m not really sure what its original purpose was when it was designed between 1867 – 1869, but for the longest time from 1919, it served as Central Park’s weather station.
Nowadays, it’s a visitor’s center and one of the many gorgeous buildings in Central Park. Its spot on the 130ft-tall (40m) Vista Rock over a little reservoir makes for quite a pretty visual, and the whole place just finished renovations at the beginning of summer 2019.
5. Berkeley Castle
- Where: Berkeley Springs, WV
Also known as the Samuel Taylor Suit Cottage, Berkeley really does look like something out of the medieval times, even if its architecture style is technically Late Victorian! It was constructed in 1885 for Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit as a personal retreat. Unfortunately, he passed away before its completion, though his wife finished it and entertained in it until she had to sell 3 decades later. The name comes from its location in Berkeley Springs, which is considered the US’s first spa town, not the castle of the same name in the UK.
While it once was open for tours, its last owner turned into into a private residence, and from what I’ve read, it was up for sale in 2018 for a little more than $1.5 million (not that bad actually?!). You can see it from outside its gates today, and at least at some point recently, you could rent it for your wedding.
6. Biltmore Estate
- Where: Asheville, NC
One of the more iconic castles on this list! Probably because of the connection to the Vanderbilt family and the fact that it’s the largest privately-owned house in the country.
Biltmore Estate is one of Richard Morris Hunt’s Châteauesque designs and was built between 1889-1895 at the height of the Gilded Age. Vanderbilt wanted it built as a summer house, and Hunt took inspiration from Château de Blois, Château de Chenonceau, and Château de Chambord in France and Waddesdon Manor in the UK.
Today you can, of course visit Biltmore, along with at least a million other people throughout the year!
7. Bishop Castle
- Where: San Isabel National Forest, CO
What a random place! Bishop Castle’s owner, Jim Bishop, actually purchased the land in 1959 when he was just a teenager! It’s surrounded on three sides by the San Isabel National Forest, and he originally started to build a stone cottage. However, he changed it to a castle when people commented it looked like one, and it’s known as the largest one man project. While Jim passed away in 2018, the castle with its three stories and fire breathing dragon design live on in his name. It looks as fun and eccentric as it sounds!
8. Bishop’s Palace
- Where: Galveston, TX
Much further south, Bishop Palace is quite a different look than Bishop Castle. Located in Galveston, it’s sometimes known as Gresham’s Castle. Its design is quite a mix of designs from Châteauesque to Tudor to Romanesque to Victorian, and it was built between 1887-1893 for Walter Gresham and his family. The current name is because for a while, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston owned the home for their bishop. When the Diocese moved, it opened the palace to visitors and tours.
9. Boldt Castle
- Where: Heart Island, NY
Boldt Castle is the result of George C. Boldt’s dream to create a full size castle on Heart Island in Alexandria Bay to showcase his love for. his wife, Louise. Construction began in 1900, but stopped in 1904 when Louise died suddenly. The castle never did become a home and was left to deteriorate for the next 73 years until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and have spent time restoring what remains. You can visit today via a tour boat.
10. The Breakers
- Where: Newport, RI
Of all the Newport mansions, I feel like The Breakers is the most famous! It was built between 1893 and 1895 for one of the Vanderbilts in a Renaissance Revival style. As you’d expect from a home built during the Gilded Age, its interiors are incredibly opulent. Today you can visit via a self-guided audio tour!
11. Cà d’Zan
- Where: Sarasota, FL
Cà d’Zan was built to be the winter home of John and Mable Ringling, of circus fame, and is heavily inspired by the Gothic architecture of Venice, especially the Doge’s Palace, Ca’ d’Oro. Today you can visit the first floor and a few other spots part of the Ringling legacy in Sarasota.
12. Castello di Amorosa
- Where: Napa Valley, California
What a spot for wine! Construction on Castello di Amorosa began in 1994, though the story behind the property goes all the way back to 1885 when Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant, founded St. Helena Wine Cellars. Years later his great grandson, Dario Sattui fell in love with medieval architecture after traveling Europe. Later he decided to re-open the family wine business. It was in 1993 that he decided he wanted to create an authentic European castle to complement the Italian-style wines he was selling. Today, Castello di Amorosa is a recreation of a 13th century Tuscan castle built using the same handmade materials and methods they would have centuries ago! It definitely looks like it belongs somewhere in the Italian countryside, not Napa Valley!
13. Castle Farms
- Where: Charlevoix, MI
Castle Farms reminds me a bit storybook estate meets the US. Which makes sense since it was built to be a model dairy farm and was inspired by the barns and castles of Normandy, France! It went through a few different owners and played a number of roles over the years, but it was restored to its current state by Linda Mueller in 2001. Today there’s quite a lot to do and you can tour the castle!
14. Castle in the Clouds
- Where: Moultonborough, NH
What a charming name! The Castle in the Clouds is located in the Ossipee Mountains in New Hampshire and was created between 1913-1914 when Tom and Olivia Plant decided to built a country estate there. The home was built to harmonize with nature and was then known as Lucknow. Today you can visit the historic grounds via a self-guided tour!
15. Castle Gould
- Where: Sand Points, NY
Built between 1902 and 1904, Castle Gould’s inspiration came from Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. Funny enough, the limestone building was supposed to be Howard Gould and his wife, Katherine Clemmons’, main home. However, when she decided she didn’t like it, it instead became the stable, carriage house, and servants’ quarters! Today it houses the visitor center to the area but is not available for tours.
16. Castle Museum
- Where: Saginaw, MI
Considering the Castle Museum is designed in a French Renaissance Revival style, it really looks like it would’ve been built for some princess during the age of Cinderella. However, its foundations are more practical — it was built in 1898 to be a post office!
It was in the 1970s that it transferred over to the County of Saginaw to become the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Now you can visit and explore the different exhibits that detail the town’s history!
17. Cherokee Ranch and Castle
- Where: Sedalia, CO
Um, hello Scotland? While Cherokee Castle looks like it belongs to the UK in the 1450s, it was actually only built around the 1920s when the Johnson Family purchased land that was known as the Flower Homestead. The family hired architect Burnham Hoyt to turn it into a year-round home and originally named Charlford Castle after their sons, Charlie and Gifford.
In 1954 heiress Tweet Kimball purchased the land combining two different homesteads to create Cherokee Ranch & Castle. These days you can book a castle tour if you want to see more! It also looks like they have high tea and brunch options too.
18. & 19. Disney Castles
- Where: CA & FL
What’s a list about castles in America without the Disney Castles?! It should be noted that the Disney World one is the Cinderella Castle and was inspired by a mix of real life locations including:
- Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
- Château d’Ussé, Fontainebleau, Versailles, France
- Châteaux of Chenonceau, Pierrefonds, Chambord, and Chaumont, France
- The Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
- Sire of the Notre Dame de Paris, France
- Moszna Castle, Poland
- Tyn Church, Prague, Czech Republic
Meanwhile, the castle at Disneyland and older sister to the Cinderella Castle, is known as the Sleeping Beauty Castle and has a nice shade of pink to its exterior. Before 2006, this was the castle you saw on all the Disney movie title cards. The Sleeping Beauty Castle is also mainly inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle.
20. Falkenstein Castle
- Where: Burnet, TX
Also inspired by a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, Terry and Kim Young built Falkenstein Castle in Hill County, Texas. They got the name from a design plan found in Neuschwanstein for a castle to be built 20km from the town of Fussen called Falkenstein but was never started. They managed to leave Germany with copies of the original artist rendering of Falkenstein Castle and proceeded to spend the next ten years building their own version in Texas!
Today the castle is often for events and weddings. For a cool $2K (split between 6 bedrooms and 12 guests), you can even stay here!
21. Fonthill Castle
- Where: Doylestown, PA
Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle is a gorgeous building in Doylestown of all places! It was built between 1908-1912 for Henry Chapman Mercer for him to both reside and show off his art collection, specifically the ones of tiles and prints. It’s got quite a mix of architectural inspiration from medieval to Gothic to Byzantine.
A nice touch I thought was that Mercer left the the castle to his housekeeper and her husband who resided in the castle until her death in 1975. It was after this that it became a museum, conserving Fonthill’s unique architecture and exhibitions.
22. Gillette Castle
- Where: Haddam, CT
Funny enough Gillette Castle has nothing to do with the razors we all know! Instead, Gillette comes from William Gillette, who was an an American actor at the turn of the century. His most famous role on stage was as Sherlock Holmes, and he lived in Gillette Castle from 1919 until his death in 1937.
The castle was built between 1914-1919 and was known as Seventh Sister until Connecticut purchased the property in 1943. It sits at the southernmost hill of a chain of hills called the Seven Sisters, hence the name. It looks kinda of like a crumbling medieval fortress with a stone exterior but the interior, made of 24 rooms, is fully visitable. Even during his life there, the castle was very modern with electricity, plumbing, and heating!
Today the castle is part of Gillette Castle State Park. Not only can you visit inside, you can also hike around the park and pack a picnic!
23. Glencairn Museum
- Where: Bryn Athyn, PA
Glencairn Museum oddly came to be during the Great Depression. It was built between 1928 and 1939 for multi-millionaire Raymond Pitcairn and his wife, Mildred Glenn (hence the name “Glencairn”). It’s designed in a Romanesque-style with a granite-and-ruddy-colored-stone facade. It’s pretty massive with 90 rooms over 10 floors!
While it was owned by the Pitcairn family for forty years, it’s now a fully functioning museum focusing on religious art and history from around the globe.
24. Grey Towers Castle
- Where: Arcadia University, Glenside, PA
So when I was looking at colleges in high school, I flat out refused to go to school in Pennsylvania. It was one of those situations where I felt like if I didn’t leave PA then, I never would. However, my parents were hoping I’d at least look at a few (after all PA is home to some objectively incredible universities), so I humored them by agreeing to visit some. One of them was Arcadia University purely because of the Grey Towers Castle photo they used on their promo material! It’s quite a beauty, right? Too bad the rest of the campus doesn’t look quite as romantic.
25. Gwynn Castle
- Where: Arrington, TN
The Taylor Swift “Love Story” castle! Gwynn Castle is located in Tennessee and is often used for the Renaissance Festival there. Its design is inspired by a 1100s Welsh border castle. From what I read (though it’s a few years old now), the castle is also a private residence so you can’t just go and visit like others on this list! However, it does seem partially open during the Renaissance Festival, which happens each May, so you can time your visit around then.
26. Hammond Castle
- Where: Gloucester, MA
While Hammond Castle looks like something from the medieval times, it’s actually less than a hundred years old, having been built in the 1920s. This super romantic looking place sits on a bluff and was built under John Hays Hammond Jr., who took inspiration from his travels through Europe. He actually wanted to build the castle to house the various artifacts he purchased during his travels. Fun fact — the MET Cloisters in NYC were inspired by Hammond Castle after Rockefeller saw what Hammond was doing!
In order to visit, you just have to purchased timed admission tickets in advance.
27. Hearst Castle
- Where: San Simeon, CA
Hearst is a name that should ring a bell! William Randolph Hearst with architect Julia Morgan, who is the first woman to study at the School of Beaux-Arts, built this castle between 1919 and 1947, and it’s also known as La Cuesta Encatada (The Enchanted Hill). It’s quite a mix of opulent styles — Spanish Colonial Revival, Mediterranean Revival, and more.
Like a real king and queen, the Hearsts hosted plenty of parties and social gatherings here and in its heyday it saw some of the most famous Hollywood stars and notable figures in the world. Think Charles Lindbergh, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin…
Today it’s part of California’s State Parks and you can visit for $25 and do one of the many tours they offer. Just remember to reserve at least 60 days in advance.
28. Hempstead House
- Where: Sands Point, NY
The beginnings of Hempstead House started with Howard Gould, son of railroad tycoon, Jay Gould, in 1900, who hoped to create a replica of Ireland’s Kilkenny Castle. It took 12 years to complete the granite and limestone Tudor-style castle and was bought by Daniel Guggenheim (same name as the famous NYC museum). I swear Fitzgerald must’ve been talking about places like these in The Great Gatsby.
You can tour the house through the Gatehouse.
29. ‘Iolani Palace
- Where: Honolulu, HI
Back when Hawaii had royalty, ‘Iolani Palace served as their royal residence. The current palace was first established in 1879 and completed in 1882 and the unique architecture is known as American Florentine. ‘Iolani Palace is literally the only example of this architecture in the world.
If you want to visit, you can either do a docent-led tour or a self-guided audio tour depending on the day. Make sure to dress respectfully.
30. Loveland Castle Museum
- Where: Loveland, OH
Also known by the French name of Château Laroche, Loveland Castle will have you thinking you’re looking at some very old castle in Europe, not a museum in Ohio. The castle was only established in 1929, so it’s not even a hundred years old!
You can thank its design and name to Harry D. Andrews who was a medievalist and wanted to name it after the military hospital he was stationed at during WWI. He actually worked on this castle for fifty years until he died in 1981, using stones from Little Miami River and molding bricks with cement and milk cartons. All of its current upgrades and renovations are thanks to the Knights of the Golden Trail, a Boy Scout group who inherited Loveland Castle.
It’s only $5 to visit and you can do a self-guided tour. If you’re lucky, you can meet a Knight on Duty to get a history.
31. Lyndhurst Mansion
- Where: Tarrytown, NY
Located near the Hudson River, Lyndhurst Mansion has more of a Gothic Revival design and feels somewhat medieval both outside and inside, though it was designed in 1838!
It’s been used in a lot of different movies and tv shows, but I recognize it best from the unapologetically romantic Winter’s Tale (which like everyone in the world seemed to hate but I enjoyed).
If you just want to visit the grounds, you just need to pay $10 for parking. For tours, you can choose from a few different tours, though the Classic Mansion Tour is probably best for first-time visitors.
32. Montezuma Castle
- Where: Camp Verde, AZ
Okay, Montezuma Castle might actually be the coolest one on this list. This castle was used by the Sinagua people as far back as 1100 – 1425, has five stories, and almost 60 rooms and was more like an apartment complex than a castle. It also has as much to do with the Aztec emperor Montezuma as Native Americans have to do with India…
While you obviously can’t go in and roam around, you can walk a short trail from the visitor center to see it from below! At the visitor center itself, you can learn more about Sinagua culture and the construction of the castle. Movie-wise you might recognize it from an old Western called Flaming Feather.
33. OHEKA Castle
- Where: Huntington, NY
A castle you can stay at! The gorgeous OHEKA Castle was built by Otto Hermann Kahn over a century ago in Long Island in the style of a French chateau. Fun fact: it is still the second-largest private residence built in the US and has seen the likes of royalty and Hollywood stars during the Gilded Age. Unfortunately, from 1934 through 1984 it saw quite a less glamorous existence until developer Gary Melius purchased the property and began to restore it as historically accurate as humanly possible. Today it’s often used as a wedding venue and, of course, you can book an actual stay!
34. Singer Castle
- Where: Dark Island, NY
Located on Dark Island as part of the Thousand Islands region of New York, sits Singer Castle, also known as “The Towers” or “Dark Island Castle.” Its name comes from the fact that the Frederick Bourne, who lived in the house from 1905 to the 1960s with his family, was President of the Singer Sewing Machine Co. The design of the castle is inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s novel Woodstock and created by Ernest Flagg who was a beaux-arts architect. It makes for quite a pretty view from the water and almost feels like you’re looking at a much older building!
35. Smithsonian Institute Castle
- Where: Washington, DC
While the White House is kind of our version of a royal palace, there’s also an actual building in DC that looks like a castle – the Smithsonian Institution Building! The design is a faux Norman style mixed with late Romanesque and early Gothic vibes and dates back to 1855. The same architect who built it, James Renwick, built the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC! Fun fact: the red sandstone comes from the nearby Seneca Quarry in Maryland.
Today the castle is home to some different offices for the Smithsonian as well as the main visitor center.
36. Squire’s Castle
- Where: Willoughby Hills, OH
Look at Ohio with the hidden gem! Squire’s Castle was commissioned by Feargus B. Squire who was both an exec at Standard Oil Company and a mayor of Wickliffe, Ohio. Her purchased the land that Squire’s Castle sits on in 1890 and wanted to create a sort of English country estate. He started with the gatekeeper’s house, designing it in a Romanesque Revival style with walls made from locally-quarried Euclid bluestone windows of leaded glass.
He never did finish the rest of the estate and the developers he sold it to went bankrupt, so it was the Cleveland Park Board who purchased the land in 1925 and started calling the gatekeeper’s house Squire’s Castle.
Today you can visit the castle, and it’s even a starting point for a hiking trail! Even looks like quite a cute place for a picnic in warmer months and especially looks stunning with the fall foliage and/or freshly fallen snow!
37. Stokesay Castle
- Where: Reading, PA
Nope, not the one in England! Stokesay Castle is in Reading, PA and was built in 1931 to be the vacation home of the Hiester family. It was then turned into a restaurant, and now it’s mainly used for weddings and events as well as fine dining.
It’s funny because Reading, PA doesn’t have a stellar reputation, but it’s home to a little castle, Taylor Swift, and a Japanese pagoda, so it’s really not doing too badly!
38. Victoria Beach Castle
- Where: Laguna Beach, CA
Nicknamed “Pirate Tower,” Victoria Beach Castle looks like the remains of some former storybook setting, but really it’s just a set of stairs to an estate that sits on the cliff above it lol. You can’t go in the tower, of course, but you can visit the area at low tide to see!
- Where: Lake Tahoe, CA
I mean… I do think we’re stretching the word “castle” here just a bit, but Vikingsholm is such a charming place. Plus it calls itself “Tahoe’s Hidden Castle,” so who am I to disagree? I made sure to visit while I was housesitting in Truckee, and let me tell you, it really is hidden! In order to even visit, you have to hike down about a mile from the parking lot. It’s totally fine getting there, but it’s not fun hiking back up.
Anyway, this castle was built pretty recently in between 1928 and 1929 by Lora Knight as a summer home. I’m sure you can tell by the name, but inspiration for the design came from Scandinavia as she sent her architect to the area for ideas. Today it’s part of Emerald Bay State Park, and you can visit the museum to learn more.
40. Villa Zorayda
- Where: St. Augustine, FL
Built in 1883, Villa Zorayda was originally created to be the winter home for Franklin Webster Smith. Smith took inspiration from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and the villa is designed in a Moorish Spanish revival style. Since Smith’s death, the villa has been everything from a club to a gambling casino and is now a museum under the Mussallem family. You can take a tour to get to know more about the castle and St. Augustine.
And that’s all I have for the coolest castles in the US! BRB while I plan an epic road trip to see as many as I can!
for more travel in the usa
The USA is a massive country, and I always love discovering new places to visit. I’m actually pretty sure I’ll still be hearing of new gems when I’m 90 years old and need a wheelchair to get around! Since I’ve been interested in travel, I’ve visited a number of different places in the US alone. Check out some of posts:
- Cool Things to Do in Cleveland, OH
- Fun Things to Do in Atlanta, GA
- Pennsylvania Bucket List
- Unique Things to Do in Portland, ME
New York Travel
- Where to Stay in NYC
- A Guide to Owego, NY
- Hiking Watkins Glen
- Christmas in NYC
- Niagara Falls in the Winter
- Fun Things to Do in Truckee, CA
- Going to San Francisco for the First Time?
- A Local Guide to Los Angeles
- One Day at Disney World
- Universal Orlando in a Day
- Fun Spot America: Florida’s Best Kept Secret
- Things to Do in Kissimmee Besides the Parks
- Where to Stay in the Florida Keys
- An Easy Florida Keys Itinerary
- Fun Things to Do in Key West
New Orleans Trip
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