Did you know that the concept of the modern mansion can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome? It’s true! In fact, the word palace and the term palatial both derive from one area of the city where homes were known to be large and decadent, Palatine Hill. Nowadays, the idea of living in a massive house with luxurious accoutrements well beyond your needs, is a sign of prosperity and success—or winning the lottery.
But you don’t have to have wealth, accomplishment, or even the winning powerball numbers to know what it’s like to live in a mansion. Here are four amazing examples of humongous and grandiose homes in the U.S.A. that are open to the general public.
Graceland – Memphis, TN
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Probably the most iconic example of modern American materialism, Graceland was the home of Elvis Presley and is now a museum dedicated to the King of Rock and Roll. The 17,552 square feet building features three floors with 23 rooms, and is rather infamous as a reflection of Presley’s now-considered kitschy style (there’s a waterfall in the den). It’s also more visited by tourists annually than the White House.
The Breakers – Newport, R.I.
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Built in the 1800’s by the scion of the Vanderbilt family, the Breakers is the must-see mansion in a city FILLED with famous mansions. The Newport, Rhode Island house, which features 70 rooms across five floors, sits on a full acre of property and is right next to a cliff face against the ocean. The estate is renowned for its landscaping and is now considered a national landmark.
The Hearst Castle – San Simeon, CA
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Technically a collection of buildings, the Heart Castle is often simply referred to by the town name San Simeon since it’s really the only attraction that people come to the area to see. Owner and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (who was the basis for Citizen Kane) himself called it the ranch, and it was the playground of America’s celebrities and elite throughout the 20’s and 30’s. The estate features more than 90,000 square feet across the main building and three guest houses, with over 50 bedrooms and more than 60 bathrooms, as well as gardens, numerous swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor), tennis courts, a movie theater, a private airfield, and what was once the world’s largest private zoo (in fact zebras still roam the grounds).
Shangri La – Honolulu, Hawaii
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Inspired by her honeymoon travels through Islamic countries and culture in the 1930’s, heiress Doris Duke commissioned the gorgeous seaside manor she christened Shangri La to feature arabic-inspired architecture, and then spent the next six decades filling it with Islamic artifacts and art. The estate sits on about five acres and features the 14,000-square-foot main house, a playhouse, a pool, various courtyards, lanais, terraces, and expansive gardens. In 2002, it was opened to the public as the the Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures.
Have you ever visited a genuine mansion? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.
About the author
Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.