Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
I’m a huge fan of anything quirky, especially if it’s interactive. So, when I learned that there was a man who had created his own real-life castle about an hour away from Houston, I knew my family had to go. I just couldn’t seem to find too much about it other than it was open to the public for tours. So, I took a leap of faith and called to book our tour of Newman’s Castle with the hopes that it was as cool as the pictures made it seem.
On the drive there, my kids were asking all the questions. What were we doing? Was it going to be fun? When can we eat? I almost wanted to quote Mary Poppins Returns to them: “We’re on the brink of adventure, children. Don’t spoil it with questions.” (Especially when mommy does’t have the answers.)
We showed up on a wet, winter day with my fingers crossed that it really would be an adventure. Well folks, we were not disappointed—Newman’s Castle is a blast. Lucky for you, I’ve gone ahead and answered all of the questions you and your kids have before visiting. Read on for the full lowdown on why you should consider making the pilgrimage to Newman’s Castle, too.
Wait, it’s really a castle?
Yes, really. And it’s located in Bellville, Texas, just over an hour from Houston. When you go on the tour, you’ll meet Mike Newman himself—the owner of the castle. He will give you all of the details about how and why he decided to build this particular home. It has been a long passion project and it’s actually his primary residence! He spent eight years working on it before it was fit to live in, and he is still working on building several other rooms. For him, he really took the phrase, “a man’s home is his castle,” to heart.
What will you do?
When you arrive, you’ll wait for the whole tour group to gather before Newman will come out and introduce himself. He will then spend some time talking with you and setting the tone for the day. (He is the lord of the manor, after all.) All the visitors will listen to the rules of the castle before they all take part in a knighting ceremony—there are wooden swords and everything! Then, Newman will talk the kids through a little bit of role playing—the kids will be told to storm the castle for a “battle,” which will begin after Newman’s 16-foot catapult is launched!
What will you see?
After Newman demonstrates how his 3,000-pound drawbridge works with human power, you will be turned loose to explore the castle at your leisure. There are three different towers you can climb including a 62-foot bell tower will real working bells. There’s also a small “dungeon,” a chapel, a banquet hall, a training courtyard, a number of bedrooms/bathrooms and the kitchen. Newman is quick to point out that his castle is the only one in America with a working drawbridge and 360-degree moat. After exploring, we all convened in the kitchen for lunch and a story around the king’s table.
When can you go?
Newman gives tours six days a week at 10:30am, but they are by reservation only—call Newman’s Bakery to reserve your spot. On the day of your tour, you will go to the bakery first, pay, and then receive directions to the castle itself, which is about a 10-minute drive from the bakery. (The bakery is located at 504 E Main Street in Bellville at the junction of Highway 36 and Highway 159.)
How much is it?
Tours are $20 per adult, $10 per kid, and kids under six are free. Lunch is included and consists of a few different sandwich choices, chips, a drink (tea or water) and, of course, some bakery goodies.
Is it worth it?
Honestly, we went into our visit at Newman’s unsure of what to expect. And we left excited to share our adventures with everyone. I was impressed with how open Newman was with answering questions and sharing his home with us. What I loved even more was the sense of wonder all the guests felt during our visit. It’s also hard not to leave the castle without feeling inspired knowing that with hard work and planning, even your craziest ideas can come true. There is a real castle in Texas, people. And it’s amazing.
• One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive are the two huge Irish Wolfhound dogs—they are friendly, but very large so brace yourself and your kids.
• Feel free to dress up for your tour! Princes, princesses and wizards are all welcome here. Not a must by any means, though, definitely not frowned upon.
• You should expect to be part of a large tour group. There were about 25 people in our group that day from all over Texas. The kids were all a bit timid at first, but with a little encouragement, they really enjoyed getting into the role of pillager.
• There are great photo ops all over this place! You definitely don’t want to miss the Excalibur in the courtyard.
• Before leaving, ask Newman if there’s a story about the leprechaun picture that’s hanging in his bedroom. It may lead to your children leaving with a little bit of Newman’s “gold.”