7 Things to Know About Visiting Newport Mansions

The Breakers

The Breakers

Last week, husband Jim and I went on a genealogy trip to Cranston, RI, and while we were there, we thought it would be a nice idea to pop over to Newport, where we spent part of our honeymoon “quite some time” ago. We relived those days as we toured the mansions and strolled the Cliff Walk.

Newport, RI, is where the very-rich folk, such as the Vanderbilts and the Astors, used to play in the gilded age (late 19th century). Many of their mansions fell into disrepair in the 1960s, and many were torn down. Thankfully some were gifted to, or acquired by, the Preservation Society of Newport County, which protects, preserves, and presents the buildings and their history.

The Breakers Staircase

The Breakers Staircase

If you go, here are seven things to know about touring the mansions.

  1. There are some homes you can tour individually, such as Rough Point (the Doris Duke mansion), but you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you stick to the Preservation Society properties. Still, if you have enough time, try to get to Rough Point.
  2. You can tour just one mansion ($15.99 adult), but why do that when you can buy a five-home pass for $32.99?
  3. If you live near enough that you could visit more than once per year, it makes sense to buy a membership to the Preservation Society, which for a family, costs $90.
  4. There are nine mansions for touring, plus a stable and carriage house and topiary garden.
  5. The mansions are open from mid-March through January 1, with varying hours during each season. The main season runs from mid-May through early October.
  6. Some houses offer only guided tours that run on the half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. Other houses have self-guided, audio-headset tours that run throughout the day, usually from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  7. If you buy the five-house tour, here’s a suggestion on which houses to see: The Breakers, The Elms, Rosecliff, Chepstow, and the Isaac Bell House. This gives you a nice range of house size, architectural style, and history. These also happen to be the houses we toured on our most-recent visit.
Isaac Bell House

Isaac Bell House

There you have it—seven things to know about touring Newport mansions. It’s hard to believe that they were built as summer homes.

If you’re a history buff, you like beautiful architecture, or you just want to see how the other half lived, you must put Newport, RI, on your bucket list.

After having visited the mansions twice, I asked Jim if he’d ever go back again, and he said, “most definitely.” I heartily agree.

Ann Silverthorn writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres. She recently completed a biography of William E. Dimorier (1871-1951), a poet and educator, who dedicated his life to service and leadership. Several new projects are underway.

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