Memories of the Gilded Age are never more gilded than at the Newport Mansions, possibly America’s greatest collection of historic house museums. The Preservation Society maintains 9 properties (not to mention the Green Animals Topiary Garden) each of which has its own opulent past and which range from the incredibly impressive to the stupefyingly palatial. “Cottages” like the Breakers (the grandest of the Newport Mansions, built by the Vanderbilts,) or the Elms (modeled after a 1750’s French chateau) simply have to be seen.
There are plenty of visiting options, including audio tours (you can wander through The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House, and Rosecliff), docent-led tours at Chateau-sur-Mer, Chepstow, Hunter House, Issac Bell House, and Kingscote) or you can just wantder the Green Animals Topiary Garden on your own with a printed map or guide. There are special events all year – like the Newport Flower Show or the Wine & Food Festival – but arguably the most popular is Christmas at the Newport Mansions, where The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House – National Historic Landmarks all – dress up in their holiday finery, with windows lit with candles and a series of Christmas trees in a number of rooms, each decorated to match their magnificent surroundings.