At $20 per ticket (and 10 for children) for a short tour, a visit to the castle can get expensive if you go on multiple tours or have several people in your party. You will need to go on a couple to see all that is available for viewing. I have mixed feelings about posting this as tourist trap as I assume the Park Service uses the proceeds for maintaining the estate and preserving the artwork which is likely costly.
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Avoiding San Simeon Hotels
I've have to say that staying in San Simeon is not ideal unless a person is determined to see all 4 tours in a short period of time, and therefore can't afford the 15 to 30 minute drive from Cambria, or Morro Bay. We stayed in pleasant and quite Morro Bay, which has moderately priced hotels with a view of the impressive rock, and charming fishing village. Cambria is also a charming and quiet option, where I would try to find a B&B at a price that's affordable--good luck on this though.
Unique Suggestions: San Simeon is mostly a corporate town with corporate hotels, chain restaurants, and a windy beach. There is a good RV and tent camping beach though near Hearst Castle. Another option during particulary cool or foggy weather is to drive over the mountain highway 46 to warmer Paso Robles and the Hwy 101 corridor, where there are a variety of options at reasonable prices. This trip shouldn't take more than 45 minutes. The wine country outside Paso Robles is entertainment in itself for adults, that is.
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