Mansion Hopping at Christmas

The outlandish Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island were elaborate summer cottages and were, for the most part, unoccupied in winter. Though demure in comparison to these marble palaces and chateaux, the same was true for the Agassiz Mansion at Castle Hill Inn, when it was the summer home of renowned marine biologist and oceanographer, Alexander Agassiz. This doesn’t stop us, however, from enjoying the Inn in winter and dressing it up for the Holidays! Famous for centuries as a summer resort, Newport sparkles in winter too — especially at Holiday time!

The Lobby and central fireplace of the Agassiz Mansion at Castle Hill Inn

The Preservation Society of Newport County carries on its tradition of embellishing the rooms of The Elms, Marble House and The Breakers with Holiday cheer. Look for themes inspired by the rooms themselves. The three properties will have 28 decorated Christmas trees among them. The always impressive poinsettia tree (made from 150 live plants) will be back in the Great Hall of the Breakers; poinsettias will abound throughout the mansions, along with fresh floral arrangements. Many of the flowers and plants are grown by the Preservation Society’s Gardens and Landscapes Department –including more than 500 poinsettias and 1,200 lilies!

Instituted last year and expanded this year will be the “Sparkling Lights at the Breakers: An Outdoor Magical Wonderland”. A special ticket is required to roam the grounds (and the house) from 5-7pm amongst thousands of lights, holiday music and new displays like the Peppermint Woods, Gnome Knoll, Snow People Corner, and Glowing Grove. Sounds like your inner elf will thank you for this!

The Chinese Breakfast Room at the Elms
The Morning Room at The Breakers
The Gothic Room at Marble House

The Newport Restoration Foundation presents Rough Point, the former home of Doris Duke, in a different light for the Holidays. In a more realistic approach, some of the rooms are made up in a Christmas theme while others are shown as they would be in the off-season when Doris was typically away . At her Shangri-La estate in Hawaii perhaps? For us, we’ll take the Holidays in New England every time!

Christmas for the staff at Rough Point
Christmas for the staff at Rough Point
The Music Room at Rough Point
The Music Room at Rough Point

Too many mansions? Not enough? Okay… one more. This one is a little further north — in the lovely town of Bristol, Rhode Island. After a quick jaunt up island, pop over the Mount Hope Bridge and you are there! Visit Blithewold during the day to see how they have decorated this bayside mansion on a 33-acre estate or stroll the grounds themselves for “Nightlights – An Illuminating Experience”. Like Newporters, Bristolians have been great stewards of their historical buildings. A stroll through downtown (just a few miles north of Blithewold) on the main thoroughfare, Hope Street, or by the waterfront on Thames Street, is sure to charm and delight – especially at Holiday time!

Blithewold in Bristol, RI
Blithewold in Bristol, RI / Photo credit: Discover Newport

We have some delightful events planned for Castle Hill as well this Holiday season…

Imagine a Christmas Tree Farm on the Chalet Lawn (where wedding cermonies and other outdoor events are held in the warmer months). Actually, there is no need to imagine it, because on Thanksgiving weekend from 10am to 3pm, November 27th and 28th, we will have a Pop-up Christmas Tree Farm! Guests will be able to enjoy the pine-scented atmosphere with complimentary hot coca or cider, Christmas cookies, a photo-op “Letter to Santa” workshop and pick out their Christmas Tree for 2021! For this event we are partnering with the James L. Maher Center in Middletown, RI. The Maher Center fosters independence and opportunity, promotes dignity, and advances integration in housing, employment and social engagement for people with developmental and other disabilities. Now that’s Christmas!

We are also happy to announce that S’mores Firepits will return this December! Once again, the Lawn terrace will be S’mores Firepit Central. Private wood-burning firepits will be reservable for up to six guests with Adirondack chair seating, unlimited s’mores making supplies, complimentary hot chocolate or cider (“spiked” for an additional fee), plus three fleece blankets to take home with you. Now that’s Holiday fabulous!

  • Shea C Nelson