Christmas is a wonderful time of year when magical seasonal decorations add joy to our everyday life. Over-the-top, ornate Christmas decorations are key to ringing in the holiday season at 4 Newport mansions. Beginning November 20, you can stroll through gorgeous, expertly decorated rooms at three of Newport, RI’s wealthiest “summer cottages.” The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms. Additionally, nearby Blithewold offers a garden viewing beginning November 26th. A visit to the Newport mansions when they are dressed to impress in their finest show-stopping seasonal decor is a wonderful way to bring on the Christmas wonderment.
Decking the halls takes on an entirely new meaning when you are gilding and frosting miles of mantels, dozens of Christmas trees, and acres of gardens. If you have never visited the mansions during the holidays, now is the time. You will definitely find a decor that can be scaled down and applied in your own castle.
The Newport Mansions
Holidays at the Newport Mansions is a wonderful time to explore the life and style of the rich and famous. At Christmas, the rooms sparkle with glittering objects that adorn every room visitors enter. Under the direction of Jim Donahue, Curator of Historic Landscapes & Horticulture for The Preservation Society of Newport County, each room receives a thoroughly planned, room specific, seasonal trapping. A Christmas tree, adorned with room-inspired bobbles, graces every room on the tour. The properties will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Preservation Society of Newport County manages the collection of Newport mansions, ensuring they are preserved for future generations to experience.
Pro Tip: download the Newport mansions tour app before you arrive. It is easily identified with a dark green and white pineapple icon. Explore the app and tours before you arrive. It will impart a sense of what the mansions are all about and how their families influenced Newport society and the world. The app not only takes you room by room through The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms, it also adds tidbits of historic information. Armed with a thorough background, your in-person visit will be sensational as you can sit back and take in all the opulence framed with a rich understanding of the houses you tour.
1. The Breakers
The largest and most prestigious of all the Newport mansions is The Breakers, a Gilded Age château from 1895, built for the Cornelius Vanderbilt family. The great hall with its massive archways, soaring ceilings, and rich draperies is the perfect setting for the mansion’s traditional 15-foot poinsettia tree. As the focal point in the great hall, the poinsettia tree sets the opulent tone for the rest of the festive decor.
Every room on the mansion tour is decorated with gorgeous ornaments, lights, wreaths, and boughs. Every free nook is embellished with gorgeous seasonal arrangements. Many of the arrangements, mantel swags, and wreaths are constructed with plants and flowers grown in the mansion’s greenhouse.
Twin Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the dining room set the stage for a spectacular glittery show-stopping culinary experience. Gold leaf gleams with reflected light as you discover unique decorations that enhance the room’s architectural beauty.
The morning room dazzles with original platinum panels that offer a reflective shine that only serves to enhance the room’s beauty. Imagine enjoying a sumptuous breakfast while immersed in the festive decor.
Be sure to visit Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, it will give you a peek into the day-to-day life of the lord of the manor. Decorated with toy trains and top hats, reflective of Vanderbilt’s railroad empire and love of entertaining, you can envision the luxurious lifestyle of the mansion’s owners.
Sparkling Lights At The Breakers: An Outdoor Magical Wonderland Returns!
After its spectacular debut in 2020, the festive Sparkling Lights at The Breakers is back. Twice the size of last year, the dazzling evening event begins November 20, 2021, and runs through January 9, 2022. The light show delights guests as they traverse the serpentine paths. The display covers approximately half of The Breakers’ 13 acres, affording guests gorgeous views. Each turn is illuminated with surprising tableaus, enchanting characters, musical interludes, and beautiful lighting displays.
As you approach the mansion, the lit globes along the drive and the exterior decorations bring an anticipatory smile and an expectation of wonderment. You will be enchanted.
A special ticket, on sale beginning October 1, is required to enjoy the sparkling lights at The Breakers. It includes an interior house tour. The outdoor pathways are accessible and the interior is partially accessible, with an elevator available to view the second floor.
In addition to the lights, The Breakers is open for house tours Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Note: Sparkling lights at The Breakers will be closed Thanksgiving Day; Saturday, December 18; Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
2. Marble House
As you would expect, the Marble House is a spectacular ode to the gleaming marble that covers every surface of the foyer. Completed in 1892 for William K. and Alva Vanderbilt, brother to Cornelius, the Marble House is the epitome of opulence and excess.
The library, with its warm wood paneling and tufted furnishings, is in complete contrast to the cold marble of the main hallway. The rooms off the foyer and hall area soften in feel as you step from hard, sparse surfaces into warm and opulent rooms. The juxtaposition is striking and sets the stage for a variety of wonderful seasonal decor opportunities.
The scale of the Christmas decorations in the grand hall takes the room from cold and imposing to warm and inviting. Poinsettias soften the hard edges while Christmas trees and vignettes set the stage for a trip through an enchanting Christmas wonderland.
As you climb the spectacular marble staircase to the second floor, you are immersed in the wonder of the season. Allow the decorations to envelop you in the wonder of the shiny baubles reflecting off the polished marble and highlighted by the glittering lights.
On December 18, Marble House will be open for a holiday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The mansion is transformed into a seasonal wonderland where visitors feel like guests at a swanky Newport holiday party.
3. The Elms
Rich marble columns and gleaming polished floors anchored by framed artwork lining the walls are the stand-out entryway features at The Elms. The marble framed grand staircase and massive marble columns set a tone for the Gilded Age mansion the minute you enter. Built as a summer retreat for Edward Julius Berwind in 1901, The Elms hosted many elaborate parties under the direction of Berwind’s wife, Herminie.
If it is possible to imagine, the opulent and somewhat austere decor takes on a warm and cozy feel when draped in Christmas hues. The elaborately decorated Christmas trees stand out and compliment the glittery decor. The solarium decorated with rich greens, ornate statues, and housing its magnificent fountain offers the perfect backdrop for a Christmas extravaganza.
On December 18, The Elms will be open for a holiday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The mansion takes on a different look and feel during an evening visit. The lights glint brightly against the evening shadows, affording guests a warm and intimate experience.
The Elms Servant Life Tour is a peek into the hectic and on-demand life of the “downstairs” residents at the Newport mansions. The immense staff required to keep these massive homes running smoothly is astonishing. Many mansions required several dozen to keep the home, kitchen, and gardens running smoothly.
4. Blithewold Mansion
In neighboring Bristol, the Blithewold is a lovely experience at the country estate of Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle. The spectacular 33-acre grounds are home to a large collection of unusual plants, specimen trees, ponds, a greenhouse, and other beautiful garden features.
This year the Christmas festivities will enchant guests with the Night Lights – An Illuminating Experience showcases the beautiful gardens at the Blithewold. Running from Friday, November 26, 2021, to Friday, January 7, 2022, visitors can enjoy the beautifully lit pathways and gardens from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
General operating hours, when Blithewold Mansion and Gardens are open to guests, begin June 1 through October 17. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 p.m. to 3 p.m. with the garden additionally open until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Holidays are special times throughout the world: