When visiting Rhode Island, it is imperative that you add seeing the amazing Newport mansions to your agenda. I’ve traveled the world and seen some of the most opulent places (St. Petersburg and Istanbul to name a couple) but we have our own treasure trove right here in the Rhode Island. I learned about the Newport Mansions from cruise brochures (Newport is a popular New England cruise port), but I had no idea how very special the area was.
Though I only had time to visit two of the mansions, it could easily take days to see all of them. The Newport Mansions consist of The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, Chepstow, The Elms, Green Animals Topiary Garden, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, Marble House, and Rosecliff.
Newport: The Ritziest Place in America
Newport is home to billions of dollars worth of the most dazzling, over-the-top iconic properties. If you love historic properties, or ones we can only dream of living in, this is the place for you. The wealthy Gilded Age mansions (almost a dozen of them) can be toured independently or you can buy a pass at each of the homes that get you into more than one. This option allows you to save some money. Come immerse yourself in a history bursting with famous names in elite America such as the Vanderbilt, Astor, and Berwind in the Newport, Rhode Island, the place they chose for their summer homes.
The Mother of all Newport Mansions
During my travels to Rhode Island, my friend Jamie of The Daily Adventures of Me picked me up to show me firsthand these amazing properties. Our first stop was to The Breakers, the Mother of the Mansions. The Breakers is the most visited and grandest of the Newport summer cottages. For this tour, a guide is required to take you through the enormous Italian renaissance home. It takes about one hour to complete.
Talk about impressive, I found this to be the greatest house I’ve ever visited in the United States! Cornelius Vanderbilt certainly had style and class which is apparent in every detail of The Breakers. From the marble surfaces to ornate gold mirrors, hand-painted frescoes, eye-catching chandeliers, and priceless antiques, The Breakers was blissfully stunning. It is comprised of 70 rooms spread over five stories. The Breakers became a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Rosecliff, Unique and Amazing
The second mansion we toured was Rosecliff, a 21-acre estate built in 1902. Rosecliff has a stunning setting and pristine look about it. Rosecliff has also been known as both the J. Edgar Monroe House and the Hermann Oelrichs House. Tours at Rosecliff are see-on-your-own, aided with the help of a headset and audio guide.
Rosecliff is modeled after the Grand Trianon (garden retreat of French kings) of Versailles, but it is smaller. The sophisticated property’s every item looks as if it were made specifically for this house. Placards describe the relevance and history of every item. The beautiful Rosecliff Mansion has been used as the backdrop for several movies including the original The Great Gatsby, perfectly fitting since Rosecliff was a party spot during the Gilded Age. It is also used as a wedding venue, as it has the largest private ballroom in Newport and a heart-shaped staircase.
During our visit, Rosecliff had a special Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation exhibit. Forty-two of Cardin’s amazing fashions from the 1960’s through today were on display, celebrating the designer’s unique contributions to the industry. I found the creative style of his patterned Cosmocorps collection dresses (they look like outer space wear) to be most interesting. Pierre Cardin has dressed many influential women in the past, including Brigitte Bardot, Lauren Bacall, and Jackie Kennedy.
Hungry After Touring the Mansions?
After our two wonderful mansions tours, Jamie and I grabbed a late lunch from 22 Bowens Wine Bar & Grille, located on the waterfront in downtown Newport. When in Rhode Island, Clam Chowder is a must and 22 Bowen’s is out-of-this-world! I ate every bite of it. The lobster rolls are noteworthy as well, made with poached lobster and drawn butter on a grilled bun (no mayo mix lobster salad here). Jamie did an excellent job picking the venue.
Strolling Through History
The Cliffwalk is the 3.5-mile long walkway lining the Newport shoreline, behind the iconic Newport mansions. From this spot, you can see the backyards of the mansions and Massachusetts across the water. The Cliffwalk provides gorgeous photo ops such as the panoramic ocean views, birds, and flowers. To learn more about the Cliffwalk, see Jamie’s article here.
Newport Mansions Bucket List
If you are working on a travel bucket list, you may want to consider the Newport mansions in Rhode Island as one of your must-see destinations. I had a blast and think that every history lover in our country should witness time standing still as it does in this charming part of the country.
To read more about my awesome Rhode Island trip, check out my Providence post.
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See how to spend a weekend in Providence, RI here.