A Holiday Day Trip in Newport, Rhode Island

The holidays are here and that means it’s time to take a trip to Newport to see the Mansions and do a little shopping. The Mansions at Newport are welcoming visitors for Christmas at the Newport Mansions through January. Create holiday memories and enjoy music, tours, gingerbread mansions, shopping and visits from Santa Claus at three of America’s most outstanding historic houses. The glitter and elegance of holidays at the Newport Mansions are not to be missed!

We spent the day in Newport last Saturday that started with a quick lunch at the The Wharf Pub and ended with dinner at The Muse at Grace Hotels.

Lunch at The Wharf Pub at Rowen’s Wharf

Lunch at The Wharf Pub at Rowen's Wharf, Seafood Chowder

Bowen’s Wharf was the first stop on our day trip to Newport. There are so many quaint shops and eateries you could literally spend the entire day there. But, on this day, we had mansions to visit so we made a quick lunch stop at the The Wharf Pub for pork belly sliders, a cup of their homemade New England seafood chowder, fresh bread and local beer.

Self-Guided Audio Mansion Tours

The mansions are dressed in their holiday best, boasting a total of 24 decorated Christmas trees, reflecting the individual room décor in which they stand. Tables are set with period silver and china, and individual white candles will illuminate each window. Thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens and wreaths will also fill the magnificent rooms. Returning to the Great Hall of The Breakers this year is the 15-foot-tall poinsettia tree. The “tree” is made up of approximately 150 individual poinsettia plants grown in the Preservation Society’s own greenhouses. The plants are removed and replaced several times during the six-week holiday season to ensure the display remains fresh and flawless.

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey on PBS, you will surely enjoy the mansion tours. Pick up one of the audio headsets and walk at your leisure through the halls, bedrooms, and great rooms of the Marble House, The Elm, or The Breakers. The mansions display all of their holiday finery and you will feel like you stepped by in a grand era.

One new highlight at The Breakers this season is a working scale model of the New York Central Railroad, the source of the Vanderbilt family fortune with which The Breakers was built. The train runs on a custom built and landscaped platform located upstairs.

model of the New York Central Railroad

Gingerbread Houses, created by local pastry chefs, are on display in the kitchen at The Breakers. Local pastry chefs include: Jonathan Cartwright of Muse at Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, RI; Janet Fatulli of Fatulli’s Gourmet Deli & Bakery of Middletown, RI; Gerry DuPont of Edible Creations of Westport, MA; Elci Pimental of Dream Cakes by Elci of Dartmouth, MA; Russell Morin Fine Catering of Newport, RI; and the students of Baking & Pastry Arts at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA. Designs are modeled after the Isaac Bell House, The Chinese Tea House, Kingscote, Chepstow, Green Animals Topiary Garden and Hunter House. These creations are made entirely from edible materials.

Gingerbread Houses, The Breakers, Mansions Newport, Rhode Island

Three Mansions Open Daily

The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are fully decorated and open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through January 2. A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to all three houses can be purchased to save you money. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free.  Individual house tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased online at www.NewportMansions.org, or at each property.  The Breakers opens daily at 9 a.m., and The Elms and Marble House open at 10 a.m .The last tour admission at all three houses is at 4 p.m. and the houses and grounds close at 5 p.m.

Marble House Mansions Newport, Rhode Island

Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions

With Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions, guests are given the unique opportunity to experience the historic mansions lit up for night time festivities.  Once entering the house, you walk into the great hall where carolers and other holiday entertainment awaits. If you prefer, climb the stairway and watch from above. The experience includes a leisurely self-guided tour through the  house, live holiday music and a stop for cookies and pastries, eggnog and cider.  Holiday Evenings at The Breakers are scheduled for Saturdays in November and December. In December, guests can enjoy a Holiday Evening DuetThe Elms and Marble House, and see both of the houses for the price of one, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Check the Mansion’s website for current dates and times.

Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions

The Muse at Grace Hotels

After spending the day touring the Newport Mansions and then attending the Holiday Evening at The Breakers, we finished our day at Grace Hotel’s “The Muse” restaurant where we dined at a beautiful table by the crackling fireplace. A pianist serenaded us while we ate, creating a relaxing atmosphere. We tried signature cocktails include the Big Apple and French Gimlet, sampled roasted beet salad and butternut squash soup for appetizers, ate pan seared duck breast and cheddar glazed beef tenderloins for our entrees and topped it all off with Pretzel and Milk Chocolate Crémeaux with Peanut Butter Mousse and a selection of Artisan New England and Imported Cheeses with Fruit, House Made Chutney and Crackers for dessert.

The Muse by Jonathan Cartwright, has won many awards and accolades since it opened in 2011. The Muse is open daily for dinner, with service commencing at 6pm and running later on weekends. The dining room itself reflects this style with period features contributing to a freshly modern and inviting aesthetic.

The Muse at Grace Hotels, Newport Rhode Island

More you should know about Christmas in Newport

The Newport Mansions Stores will be bustling with activities for the holiday season. The shopping season gets underway with the annual Members’ Sale in November.  Preservation Society members enjoy 25% off all purchases at The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House, and the downtown Newport store at Bannister’s Wharf. For additional holiday shopping events, check our Events Calendar at NewportMansions.org.

Santa Claus will take a break from making his list and checking it twice to come visit the houses for Christmas. Children can visit with Santa Claus in a spectacular setting from noon to 3 p.m. at The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms in December. The visit with Santa is included in the regular admission price. Eggnog and cookies will be served, and don’t forget a camera!

More About The Mansions

The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad.  Its interiors include rich marbles and gilded rooms, a 50-foot high Great Hall, mosaic tile floors and ceilings, and open-air terraces with magnificent ocean views.

The Elms is an elegant French-style chateau built in 1901 for Philadelphia coal magnate Edward J. Berwind.  It serves as a backdrop for monumental artworks, including wall-sized 18th century Venetian paintings and Chinese lacquer panels.  The Elms is situated on a 10-acre park with an elaborate sunken garden.

Marble House was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Built and furnished at a reported cost of $11 million, it was the most lavish house in America when it opened in 1892.  It became a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes and decorative arts.  Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

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