Much like Newport, Rhode Island, New York's Hudson Valley is home to some of the country's finest architectural masterpieces, which served as mansion homes to industrialists and the landed gentry. These elegant mansions are even more breathtaking when adorned with ribbons, pine, floral arrangements and period Christmas decorations during the holiday season.
Here is your guide to special holiday tours and events at the Hudson Valley mansions this Christmas season. Most have alluring gift shops, where you can buy gifts for the holidays or treat yourself; even better, your purchases support preservation.
Locust Grove Historic Estate in Poughkeepsie, just 85 miles north of New York City, is best known as home of telegraph inventor Samuel F.B. Morse, but the mansion's original owner, Henry Livingston, Jr., also has a claim to fame. Some scholars believe he's the true author of the classic Christmas tale, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
On weekends from late November through mid-December and daily December 26-30, 2017, Locust Grove celebrates the magic of Christmas past with special holiday tours of the mansion's 25 rooms, decorated with trees and elegant embellishments. On December 7 and 14, Locust Grove hosts Sunset Sensations Wine & Food Events featuring twilight self-guided tours, cooking demonstrations and wines paired with holiday nibbles prepared by local chefs. A popular tradition is the Holiday House Hunt on December 3, 10 and 17, when kids and families embark on holiday-themed scavenger hunts through the mansion.
Wilderstein, an imposing Queen Anne Victorian mansion in historic Rhinebeck, will be decked out in floral splendor for the holiday season. For more than 30 years, talented florists and designers have transformed the first floor of Margaret ("Daisy") Suckley's home into a Christmas wonderland, and visitors can enjoy Holiday House Tours of the mansion's Victorian and modern decorations on November 24, 25 and 26 and December 2 and 3, 9 and 10, 16 and 17, 23 and 26 and 27. Make reservations well ahead of time for a special Yuletide Tea on December 9. You may recognize Suckley's name for her relationship with FDR, which is central to the movie Hyde Park on Hudson starring Bill Murray as the late president. For more information, call 845-876-4818.
Visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill cottage in Hyde Park throughout December for a glimpse of how the president and his family celebrated the holidays. A Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is an ideal time to see FDR's mansion decorated for the holidays. Shuttles will take guests to Val-Kill cottage for a holiday open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Admission to the event is free. For information, call 845-229-9115 or toll free, 800-FDR-VISIT.
If you're visiting Hyde Park with children, plan to also enjoy special holiday events at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum. Although 2017 programming has not yet been announced, activities typically include the Children's Reading Festival in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, a visit from Santa and holiday card making for sailors aboard the USS Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Clermont State Historic Site invites visitors to celebrate Christmas with the Livingston family during a free public open house on December 16, 2017. A Child's Christmas will be the theme of holiday tours offered December 2 and 3. Special candlelight tours of Clermont will also be offered beginning at 3 p.m. on December 17. After your tour, enjoy wassail and traditional holiday goodies in the mansion's historic kitchen. Call 518-537-4240 for additional details about these seasonal events.
Celebrate a Gilded Age Christmas at Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Staatsburg from late November through late December (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas). You'll marvel at the splendid dining room decorations at this Gilded Age landmark, formerly known as the Mills Mansion. If there's snow, bring the kids. They'll love sledding with a Hudson River view. Call 845-889-8851 for holiday season updates.
Located in Tarrytown, New York, Lyndhurst is a fortress-like Gothic Revival Mansion on the Hudson River. A Very Duchess Holiday tours are offered Thursday through Monday, November 24-December 30 in 2017. Lavish Christmas decorations, rarely exhibited children's toys and jewels and clothing that belonged to Anna Gould, the Duchess of Talleyrand—Lyndhurst's last private owner—make for a visual feast.
This National Trust for Historic Preservation property also hosts 60-minute, all-ages theatrical performances this holiday season of Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol. Guests will follow actor Michael Muldoon through the mansion as he weaves tales from Dickens' actual scripts. Performances run December 10 through 30. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors and children up through age 16. They can be purchased online. Call 914-631-4481 for details.
Welcome the season at Vanderbilt Mansion's free Holiday Open House on Sunday, December 3, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors are invited to wear their finest holiday attire and to snap photos in front of the mansion's Elliptical Hall Christmas tree. See the mansion's sparkling, elaborate Christmas decorations during regular tours throughout the season at this gracious mansion in Hyde Park, New York. Call 845-229-9115 to verify holiday season tour hours and dates.
Boscobel, a Federal-style mansion in Garrison, New York, overlooking the Hudson River and West Point, will offer six evenings of Twilight Tours this Christmas season on Friday, November 24; Saturdays, November 25, December 2 and December 9; and Sundays, December 3 and December 10. Visitors will find candlelit mansion rooms and 19th-century decorations and enjoy the sounds of live string ensembles. Tours begin from 4 until 7 p.m. each evening. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended. Daytime tours of Boscobel are also offered daily through December 31 except Tuesdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Visitors will have a chance to see the mansion decked out for the holidays and to learn about holiday traditions and entertaining during the Federal period. Daytime house tour reservations are not required.
Sculptor Frederic Church's picturesque and eclectic home, Olana, in Hudson, New York, will host a series of seven hands-on holiday craft workshops in 2017:
- The Art of Wrapping Paper on November 24,
- Explore & Create: Paper Windows on November 25,
- The Art of Seasonal Greens: 19th Century Wreath Making on November 29,
- Explore & Create: Persian Inspired Tiles on December 2,
- The Art of Holiday Greens: Boxwood Tree Making on December 6,
- 19th Century Holiday Cards on December 9, and
- The Art of Wax: Beeswax Candle Making on December 9.
Purchase tickets to participate online in advance, and make special Christmas gifts and decorations in an inspiring setting. For more information, call 518-828-0135.