Who wouldn’t love having enough wealth to build “summer cottage” in Newport, RI? The Marble House was created for Alva Vanderbilt as a luxurious summer escape, in celebration of her 39th birthday from William Kissam Vanderbilt. (Wow what a gift!) Not to be confused with The Breakers, which is also another Vanderbilt mansion. Ever since our first annual summer beach trip to Newport, I’ve wanted to go on one of the iconic mansion tours! We had previously only enjoyed the views of the mansions from behind as mere commoners over the summer by walking around the Cliff Walk. The Breakers is of course the largest and most famous in the area. I plan to complete the tours of the other mansions after a terrific first experience at Marble House!
First time visiting the Newport, RI legendary mansions all decorated for the holidays! #MarbleHouse 😲 teaser of review to follow next week! 😍 Plus our first Christmas tree, kidding it was the one in the mansion lobby. 😆 Perfect day trip concluded by a delicious meal of tuna tartare and flounder @mooringrestaurant 🍽🐟🐟. More on the blog!
Let’s immerse ourselves in the opulent home to the one of the wealthiest socialites all decorated for Christmas time! The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains these lavish buildings now as museums for the public to view. Even though the winter is not Newport’s “peak” season, tourists still flock to the area to visit the gorgeous mansions. My guide will provide you tips to make the most out of your trip, including local dining suggestions! Don’t forget to count the number of Christmas trees.
Mansion Visit Logistics
- Price: $17.50/adult ticket for 1 mansion, $29 for 2 mansions, $30 for Winter Passport is the Best Value for 4 mansions (Any daytime between 3rd Sat. November – March, keep in mind the mansions are only decorated until January 1st).
- Children/Youth (6-17) are $8 for 1 mansion, $9 for 2 mansions, $10 for Winter Pass. Santa is also in town for 2 more Sundays between 12-3PM before Christmas Eve.
- Mansions: Marble House, The Elms, The Breakers and Rosecliff (Open first weekend in December). There’s limited parking in the lot for cars and tour buses.
- Time: Depending on how long you want to peruse and how many mansions you should expect to spend around 1 hour for each mansion. (1.5+ hours for Breakers as it’s by far the largest.) It can be quite tiring if you try to go to all of them consecutively and probably some of the features from the Gilded Age might blend together.
Why’s this mansion called Marble House? Once you walk in you can tell immediately that every part of the mansion is covered in marble! Well almost… a certain portion on the second floor is actually painted to look like it since they couldn’t get enough shipment of the quality marble to finish the building. In the lobby there are museum staff members with tablets (think of iPad mini size) and slippery headphones for you to start your audio tour. You should check the battery to make sure it’s not running low as it would be unfortunate to miss out on all of the exciting stories! I looked so dorky with this dangling around my neck in all of the photos below, but I can’t be bothered to take this on and off with a line of people waiting behind to take photos too. I’m not sure if it’s my oddly shaped head, but the headphones kept slipping uncomfortably off my ears.
I don’t want to spoil the tour for you as the audio guide is quite entertaining! The tablet even has a photo of each of the locations so you don’t get lost and instructions of how to move to the next room. However, I’ll leave you with some photos I took throughout. Some of them were quite dark unfortunately. I consistently lagged behind as my husband and his parents forged forward!
Click thumbnails to enlarge and read captions.
Mezzanine & Second Floor
I thought it was quite funny that all of the male rooms were rather small in comparison to the ladies. The sons room had small beds and was so dimly lit! Even though it’s a “Vanderbilt” Mansion Alva really ran the house. She only spent 3 summers together with Mr. Vanderbilt in Marble House before they divorced.
Basement, Kitchen, Exterior and Tea House
Alva remarried to Oliver Belmont. After her second husband passed, she began using the home for parties and women’s suffrage purposes. The servants lived on the third floor but we don’t have access as part of the tour group. In the kitchen there was the most adorable gingerbread house model of the Marble House. I’ve heard local pastry chefs have made one for each one! The tea house behind the mansion along a path was the latest installation. Unfortunately we could not go inside since it was closed down for a private event.
Where to Eat
Many shops are located in the downtown area of Newport but that is a bit further away. On a nice and warmer day the 2 miles are quite feasible by bike with great views along the beach. However, if you have a car your biggest issue may be finding parking. During the off-season the prices are rather reasonable but in the summer you’ll be fighting with plenty of beach goers. One of our favorite places is The Mooring Restaurant, however it’s on the pricier side well-known for the freshness of their seafood. I’ve dined there 2 times and most recently after the mansions since we worked up an appetite. I’d recommend calling to make a reservation beforehand. We actually could only get the time of 4 PM since the regular dinner hours were all booked up!
The Smith ($11) – Captain Morgan rum, maple syrup, apple cider, lime, cinnamon
My hubby wisely ordered The Smith cocktail, and we loved the taste so much we remade it the next day to continue enjoying it at the first holiday party of the season. I had ordered a seasonal drink (can’t find it listed on their website) called “What’s not to like?” at $13. I should have considered each of the ingredients more carefully since it seemed like they added everything but the kitchen sink (whiskey, red wine etc…) and I am still warming up to Whiskey. My bad! I still drank all of it with my sumptuous dinner. Might I add the drink is quite strong! They also have a long list of other beverages to choose from aside from cocktails.
Bag of Doughnuts ($12) – lobster, crab & shrimp fritters with chipotle-maple aioli
The ol’ bag o’ donuts was super tasty and it’s also great for sharing! Not the healthiest choice, but we’re here to enjoy. I’d recommend ordering this for anyone’s first time visiting the restaurant if you love the combination of those seafoods listed above. I craved more of it soon after and sure enough we ordered another bag! Most recently we tried the Tuna Tartare appetizer, which was also yummy! However, so many restaurants offer that option so it’s not a must try ASAP dish.
Flounder ($27) free-formed ravioli of lobster, apple & braised greens, butternut squash puree, orange-chili gastrique
That Flounder… I can still remember the taste of it when I think back! The lobster underneath the flounder filet were a lovely compliment. I personally love it when there’s the savory/salty element combined exquisitely with sweet notes from the butternut squash and orange! I have yet to try anything bad from the menu so far.
Sadly we were too full by the end of the meal for me to provide dessert recommendations. However, there are plenty of specialty chocolate, cupcake, ice cream and sweets shops that you can also pop in to satiate that sweet tooth!
Also on our list for the future is the White Horse Tavern, which is the OLDEST tavern building in all of the United States! It was first opened in 1673! I’ll update below or create a future post. Let me know if you’re interested in reading about the other mansions.
Have you visited the exorbitant guided Newport Mansions during the winter or other seasons? What did you think?! Also what was your Christmas Tree count total?
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★