Hearst Castle, with Bells and Bows On

Enchanted Hill turns up the enchantment from Thanksgiving to the end of the year.

THE ONSLAUGHT OF IDEAS: Holiday mavens do enjoy a good seasonal catalog or web site cheerfully listing decorating tips in the form of a top ten list. Those tips and catalogs tend to multiply come November, and soon one is pondering if they should set out a spray of pine cones and acorns on the family dining room, in honor of the Christmas meal, or perhaps faux snow and tiny deer toys and shiny red ornaments. The choices are plentiful, and that overwhelmed feeling can creep in, but consider this: You'll never be called upon to decorate, from end-to-looooong-end, the dining room table in The Refectory at Hearst Castle.

BIG BIG BIG: It's one of the state's stretchiest -- a word suitable for our purposes here -- dining rooms, with a stretchy table to match (think of those long tables in old films where two people sat at opposite ends, sipping soup while about half the length of a football field apart). Suddenly putting a few pine cones and ornaments out on your own table seems doable, and one does not feel catalog-overwhelmed. Still, seeing this famous table and all of the Hearst holiday decorations up close can lend both cheers and ideas for future festivities. Eager to idea-up? Then make for San Simeon from...

THANKSGIVING THROUGH THE END OF THE YEAR: The big boughs and seriously super-sized swags and all of that great greenery is hung, with a nod to the feel of Christmas past, from the holiday of gratitude right through New Year's Eve. The era of William Randolph Hearst -- that would be the '20s and 1930s -- shines in the guest houses and main house, and visitors'll eye baubles and gewgaws and twirly bows aplenty. It should be noted that Hearst Castle has no specific Christmas tour, but the Grand Rooms Tour or Evening Tours are recommended as an "excellent" way to be bedazzled by bows -- and decorated dining room tables -- presented on a large and lavish scale.

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