We’ve had the first snow of the season, temps are dropping and it really is beginning to feel and look a lot like Christmas.
To fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, and for a bit of inspiration for decorating your own home, head to Newport and enjoy the opulence and beauty that is Christmas at the Newport Mansions. Just this month, the New York Times highlighted the festive experience as an affordable must-see trip this holiday season.
This popular annual event runs through January 1 and is a labor of love for the team at The Preservation Society of Newport County, who begin decorating in October. Of course there are the intricately decorated trees and majestic mantle displays, but they also decorate the houses with more than 3,000 poinsettias alone.
Upon entering the homes, you are greeted simultaneously by a wonderland of twinkling lights and the most Instagram-worthy floral displays you can imagine. The scent is intoxicating as you wander room to room, dazzled by the glittering displays and the heady scent of lilies and flowers grown right on the grounds of the mansions.
First stop - The Breakers
As the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages" and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial stature in turn of the century America, The Breakers doesn’t disappoint, showcasing the vast fortune made by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad.
Talk about an entrance! The iconic poinsettia tree that greets you majestically towering two stories tall in the grand ballroom is created with 150 poinsettias. The grand staircase to the left is lined with poinsettias while glittering trees and vivid red decorations are throughout, providing a view no matter which way you turn.
New this year are the Christmas trees on display in the bedrooms. The nine-foot trees reflect the style of each resident. Think top hats and trains for railroad tycoon Cornelius and rich pinks and florals for Gertrude’s room. No one tree is the same throughout the cottage and one of our favorites is the tree in the music room with every bit of the tree filled with golden musical instruments.
Built by William K. Vanderbilt, younger brother to Cornelius II who built The Breakers, Marble House was envisioned as Alva Vanderbilt's "temple to the arts" in America.
There’s something about those gleaming marble floors that reflects the twinkling holiday lights to make it feel like the lights surround you from all sides. And the house is aptly named with more than 500,000 cubic feet of marble.
The Elms was the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York, whose fortune was made in the coal industry. One of the more cozy feeling homes amongst the opulent cottages, you could almost imagine yourself sitting down to dinner here.
Unique to this cottage is a collection of figurines and collectibles that are on display throughout the house. This display of family favorites donated by the Berwind family represents how traditions like trimming the tree or exchanging gifts help make the holidays special. Among the antiques from the family collection are two American gray Appaloosa rocking horses and a set of American wooden toy soldiers (c.1900). Be sure to head downstairs to view the family collection reflecting a wide range of holiday decorations from around the world. In the cases are figures from Germany, Russia and the United States. Look closely at the village scene to see Rhode Island craftsmanship on display by the Bliss Company of Pawtucket (c.1900).
Christmas at the Mansions includes events all season long, including visits with Santa, concerts and more. Click the events below for a detailed schedule.
And when you visit the mansions this holiday season, be sure to post a selfie and you could win big! The Preservation Society of Newport County has a contest running titled “Make Your Own History.” All you have to do is post a selfie from your favorite holiday spot in the mansions by December 31 using #MakeYourOwnHistory and you will be eligible to win a fabulous prize package including personal tours, a one year membership, event tickets and more. Happy Holidays!!