Guided vs Self-Guided Tours
James had done the mansion tours previously when his family vacationed in Newport, and he had done the self-guided in the past and liked it, so that’s what we did. The self-guided tours give you a headset and phone/iPad and you go through the mansions room-by-room at your own pace. You can skip through rooms or stay in one for as long as you’d like as you listen along to the program and learn about the history of the room you’re in.
As always, buy tickets ahead of time to save time and ensure you are let in. There are often two lines for those who have tickets and those who do not.
Choosing Which Mansions to Visit
Best Times to Visit
The Mansions We Visited
The Rosecliff was built in 1902 at a reported cost of $2.5 million. Fun fact: scenes from several films have been shot at Rosecliff, including The Great Gatsby, True Lies, and 27 Dresses.
My favorite parts were the beautiful, intricate ceilings and the extravagant chandeliers. Oh and the backyard and garden weren’t too shabby either – see the views below.
Marble House was built in the late 1890’s for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt as their summer house. It was actually given to Mrs. Vanderbilt as a 39th birthday present. Must be nice, huh? On the same property is the Chinese Tea House, where she hosted rallies for women’s right to vote.
The Elms was constructed in 1901 at reportedly approximately $1.4 million. This mansion to me had the most unique interiors with rich colors, fabrics, and patterns throughout. Check out the old-school toilet below.
The Breakers is the largest of the mansions, and the one I think you should save for last. It’s symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. The Breakers was home to many of the Vanderbilt children, so you get to see their play areas, bedrooms, and more.
The Green Animals Topiary Garden is 7 acres of beautiful flowers, plants, shrubs, and topiaries. I don’t know anythign about topiaries or landscaping (or even gardening, if we’re being honest), so I was really amazed at how they can construct these crazy objects out of shrubs.