Since visiting Newport during move-in week my freshman year, I've wanted to come back to this historic seaside town to see the mansions on Bellevue Avenue decorated for Christmas. Luckily, I finally convinced some of my friends to take a quick trip down to Rhode Island before before finals week madness began. Honestly, I think it was the best decision we could have made this entire semester! It truly felt like we were transported back in the Gilded Age and far away from the impending finals week doom ahead…
(more travel information at the end)
National Museum of American Illustration
Who: Anyone who loves history, Christmas, art, large mansions, or all of the above.
We visited the notorious Breakers (a real-life American Downton Abbey built by the Vanderbilt family), the largest and grandest of the ten Gilded Age estates, and the other Vanderbilt-owned Marble House. The houses were overflowing in ornaments, tinsel, and poinsettias with each room decorated by local garden clubs in a different festive theme. The Breakers also had local pastry chefs compete to build whimsical replicas of the mansions a la gingerbread house style.
Ever the art enthusiast, I also convinced my friends to pop into the National Museum of American Illustration right on Bellevue Avenue. The museum is tiny, but has a splendid collection of illustrations by some of America's most iconic artists including Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Harrison Fisher, and Charles Dana Gibson. If you're also a history nerd, you will fall head over heels in love with the history of the museum house itself, Vernon Court. The mansion was built by the same architects that designed the NY Public Library and the Frick (my favorite NY art museum). The interior designer, Jules Allard et ses fils of Paris, decorated many of the neighboring mansions and modeled some of the rooms after Marie Antoinette's private suites in Versailles. The formal gardens were also inspired by the Pond Garden at Hampton Court, the palace built for Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. Oh, and the giant Hammersmith clock by the stairwell can be seen Jackie Kennedy's wedding photo to JFK.
Where: Newport, RI
When: Christmas time (November 21-January 2rd)
Why: Christmas at the Newport Mansions is the mecca of holiday decorations.
I can' imagine a better place to get into the holiday spirit.
Tyro Tip: The National Museum of Illustration iso only open Fridays during this season unless you call ahead for a tour with six or more people. // The mansions would be a great spot for Christmas card photos.