With spectacular coastal scenery, awe-inspiring architecture and a thriving waterfront, the Rhode Island village of Newport is a perfect little getaway, just an hour from Boston. With 11 stunning historical properties situated within the area, the Newport Mansions remain a star attraction for those seeking to discover over 250 years of remarkable American history.
Nestled in the heart of this age-old fishing village is some serious seaside extravagance. Welcome to the famed Bellevue Avenue, home to 88 acres of lavish gardens, parks and, of course, the magnificent Gilded Age mansions. Whether you take the famed 3.5-mile Cliff Walk for an outdoor sneak peek just feet from the crashing waves, or you indulge in an indoor guided tour, these Newport Mansions are not to be missed.
The most famous mansion of them all is one that’s associated with a grand American household name… Vanderbilt. The Breakers was the family’s summer “cottage” and a symbol of their wealth and influence in turn-of-the-century America. The 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin inspired the massive 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo.
Quite the Hollywood sweetheart (it’s been featured in The Great Gatsby, True Lies, 27 Dresses and Amistad), Rosecliff was designed after the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. You can still hear the echoes from a century of highbrow entertaining, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini.
However, this isn’t the only extravagant property located on these illustrious streets. Chateau-sur-Mer, for instance, is a High Victorian playground of period architecture, furniture, wallpapers, ceramics and stencilling. This party palace is known to have ushered in the Gilded Age of Newport with its famously lavish get-togethers. Alternatively, the restored Classical Revival gardens on the grounds of The Elms property feature marble and bronze sculptures, fine specimen trees, marble pavilions, fountains, a sunken garden, and a carriage house. And then there’s the Marble House, the Vanderbilts’ opulent stone palace that has a reported 500,000 cubic feet of marble within its stately walls.
The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the best times to visit, when these palatial estates get ready for Christmas with extravagant festive adornments; the grand Victorian elegance of Bellevue Avenue becomes an opulently decorated fantasy world come late November.
While the other Newport mansions take their seasonal siestas until spring, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are all decked out in Yuletide finery as part of the annual Newport festivities. Visit during the holidays for live music and tours, set off by thousands of poinsettias, evergreens, wreaths and a variety of towering Christmas trees.
Written by Cheryl Fenton
Elms ballroom Christmas © John Corbett: The Preservation Society of Newport County
Breakers Great Hall © John Corbett: The Preservation Society of Newport County
Elms Dining room © John Corbett: The Preservation Society of Newport County
Marble House at night © John Corbett: The Preservation Society of Newport County