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Family Vacations in California

Family Vacations in California: Winchester Mystery House

In 1884, Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle Company, visited a soothsayer after the death of her husband and baby daughter. The medium told her that her fate was tied to her house: Continuous building would appease the evil spirits and help her attain eternal life. Winchester took the premonition very seriously. She continued building her San Jose mansion for the ensuing 38 years, spending the bulk of her multimillion-dollar inheritance in the process.

When the hammering finally stopped after Winchester's passing in 1922, there were 160 rooms. But there's more than just sheer size at work here: Winchester chose designs to ward off the evil spirits that she believed plagued her every move. Some stairways and doors lead nowhere, and the stained glass seems to be inspired by a disturbing spider web. A plethora of features are tied to a certain number. The number of palms lining the driveway? The number of hooks in the séance room? The number of lights in the chandeliers? The answer to all three questions is 13, a further sign of Sarah Winchester's superstitions.

Winchester Mystery House Information

Address: 525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose, CA

Telephone: 408/247-2101

Hours of Operation:

  • Mid Oct. - Late Apr., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily
  • Late Apr. - Mid Oct., 9 a.m. 7 p.m., daily

Admission: Cost varies by tour.

Continue to the next page for details on family vacations in Hollywood -- the city of dreams.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • San Francisco City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit San Francisco.
  • California State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in California, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.