When Abe and I first graduated college, we did a road trip up the CA coast and stopped at Hearst Castle. When we found out how much money the tour would cost, we kept on driving. Nowadays we can afford the price of admission (varying from $25-36 with an $8 service fee) but we can see why they charge what they do.
We got tickets for the Grand Rooms (recommended for first-time visitors) but there's a lot of other tour options. Included is a bus ride, thorough guides, and lots to see.
Abe took all the photos, obvi.
It was actually cold on the day we went (the 4th of July!) so after the 1-hour guided tour, he stuck around the gardens while I went back down to the visitor center to stay warm.
Before re-boarding the bus down you get to hang out by the indoor pool, which was probably my favorite part.