Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months.
Their lifestyle was supported by behind-the-scene efforts of a large domestic staff catering to their every need. Tours showcasing little seen servant areas (“Beneath the Breakers“) and servant stories (“Servant Life“) give fascinating detail. (Tip: These tours are on a limited basis, so I recommend getting tickets in advance.)
Holiday evenings at the mansions are alive with entertainment, complete with Christmas Carolers, Dinner Dances, Nutcracker Performances, and Bands of the era.
I’ve toured the mansions on several occasions (they are a little more than an hour from my hometown), but this was the first time I visited the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed. The mansions are beautifully decked out for the holidays through January 1st. (Photo Gallery follows.)
The Breakers was the Vanderbilt family’s summer “cottage,” located in Newport, Rhode Island. It is considered the most grand of the Newport mansions. The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County.
One Mansion, Thirty Christmas Trees!
Behind the Scenes
Architecturally inspired by The Grand Trianon (the garden retreat at Versailles commissioned by Louis XIV), Newport’s Rosecliff mansion is on a smaller scale yet no less grand.
Largest Private Ballroom in Newport, RI
Hers & His
Relaxing in Style
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. It put me in a festive spirit!
What is your favorite tidbit of information about the Newport Mansions and/or life in The Gilded Age? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me. I’d love to hear from you.
I celebrated a certain “big” birthday in the Caribbean. Cat Island, Bahamas is a dreamy place. It’s one of the six Bahamas Out Islands, which also include The Abacos, Acklins, Andros, The Berry Islands, and Bimini. It truly is my island paradise.
There are no high-rise hotels, five-star restaurants, shopping malls or casinos here. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend you opt for more popular Bahamas destinations, like Nassau or Grand Bahama.
Cat Island was right up our alley: Long stretches of powdery pink sand to ourselves, al fresco dining along the tranquil, aqua sea, unsurpassed Bahamian hospitality, and one incredible sunset after another.
This picturesque and friendly island is an ideal place for disconnecting from technology and leaving the daily hustle behind. Clearly, it was a perfect fit for this laid back couple.
Sea & Sand
We spent eight days at Fernandez Bay Village Resort in November for a much-needed escape from cold New England weather. The hurricane season had cleared out, missing the island as it usually does, and the resort had just opened for business. We enjoyed the company of two other couples, a solo traveler, and a young group from Germany who was island hopping by private plane.
With so few guests, the hosts upgraded us to the Royal Palm Cottage, a large private room with a wraparound porch just steps from the pristine water. The room was air-conditioned and had a private, open-air bathroom. How wonderful to shower with warm breezes and a view of the sky!
A Taste of Island Life
Every morning offered a full buffet breakfast to start the day off right. Our days were tranquil. We relaxed, swam, read, napped. When we felt like it, we kayaked, took a short boat ride, and walked along the shoreline. No pressure at all.
We especially loved Happy Hour with hors d’oeuvres (our favorite: Caribbean Lobster Salad seasoned with lime and cilantro) and the famous “honor system” bar. It was always stocked with Fernandez Bay’s famous Rum Punch, as well as beer and wine. Buffet dinners included Bahamian specialties, like grouper and fried plantains, served under the stars. We were very pleased with the food!
We arranged to rent a car for a couple of days to explore the island. It was relatively inexpensive. (FYI, even though we let our U.S. bank know we were traveling out of the country, the transaction did require a phone call to process.)
One must-see attraction was The Hermitage. We climbed Mount Alvernia to see the small but impressive dwelling built single-handedly by Father Jerome. Stations of the Cross led up to Father Jerome’s remote home, the highest point in the Bahamas. We took in breathtaking water views from a peaceful vantage point on high.
We also visited the Regatta, where we hear there is a booming nightlife. During the day it’s pretty quiet, but lovely just the same. It’s the gathering place for locals on the island. We passed an island party getting ready for a beach wedding. How romantic!
We found some of the most memorable sites off the beaten path. Beautiful ruins and colorful homes dotted the island’s curving coastal roads. We loved the natural beauty and meeting interesting people wherever we went as we toured the island from head to toe.
Greenwood Beach Resort
We happened at Greenwood Beach Resort to take a midday break and decided to celebrate my birthday in an island way with tasty pina coladas. Having just missed Open Mic (an informal music jam) at Greenwood the night before, the innkeeper broke out his guitar and offered another to Jim, so I enjoyed a private concert! Who would have thought?
The Atlantic side of the island was quite a bit windier than Fernandez Bay but just as lovely. For the more adventurous, Greenwood Beach is an excellent place for diving, snorkeling, and kiteboarding. Also, sportfishing–more specifically, bonefishing–is very good here!
If you’re looking for a private island paradise, this may just be it. It is certainly ours. Eight incredible days culminated with one colorful sunset after another. I’d love to say everyone should visit Cat Island, but part of its appeal is it is not overrun with tourism. It’s a romantic, remote, getaway…that’s for sure.