Winchester Mystery House
Lonely Planet review for Winchester Mystery House
The billboards up and down every highway in California may have triggered your tourist-trap alarm, but Winchester Mystery House is a bona fide curiosity. It's a ridiculous Victorian mansion with 160 rooms of various sizes (many of them utterly useless), dead-end hallways and a staircase that runs up to a ceiling all jammed together like a child's build-a-house game.
The woman responsible for it is Sarah Winchester, heir of the Winchester rifle fortune, who, beginning in 1884, spent 38 years building this sprawling mansion because the spirits of those killed by her husband's guns told her to do so. Apparently no expense was spared in the construction and the extreme results sprawl over the 4 acre grounds. You'll have to decide whether it's enough to have heard the story, or if it's worth shelling out the overpriced admission fees to see the house for yourself.
The house is west of central San Jose, just north of I-280. Most people shell out around US$20/US$13.95 (adult/child) for the 65-minute guided mansion tour, which includes a self-guided romp through the gardens and entry to an exhibit of guns and rifles. The 50-minute 'Behind the Scenes' tour is for diehards willing to pay an additional around US$17/US$15.95 to see the house's basement, plumbing facilities and other underwhelming features. A combined tour is around US$25/US$21.95. All tours are offered every 30 minutes or so from 09:30 to 17:00 daily, until 19:00 in summer.