Dateline: November 20, 2013
Much like Newport, New York's Hudson Valley is home to some of the region'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 Christmas decorations. Here's your guide to seeing some of my home state's finest splendor this holiday season.
Hint: Most of the Hudson Valley mansions have wonderful gift shops, and your purchases support preservation!
Wilderstein, an imposing Queen Anne Victorian mansion in Rhinebeck, New York, 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 self-guided tours of the mansion's Victorian and modern decorations on weekends from November 29-December 29. With Suckley's relationship with FDR central to the movie Hyde Park on Hudson, which was released on DVD in April 2013 and stars Bill Murray as the president, Wilderstein is bound to be a popular destination this holiday season. Make reservations for a special Yuletide Tea on Saturday, December 14, by calling 845-876-4818.
Visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill in Hyde Park, New York, throughout December for a glimpse of how the president and his family celebrated the holidays. A Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 14, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is an ideal time to see FDR's mansion and Val-Kill cottage decorated for the holidays. Admission to the event is free. If you're visiting Hyde Park with children, plan to also enjoy special holiday events including the opportunity to listen to authors participating in the Children's Reading Festival in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. There will be free photos with Santa from 1 to 3 p.m., and children can make holiday cards for sailors aboard the USS Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt beginning at noon. Shuttles will take guests to Val-Kill for a holiday open house from 4 to 7 p.m. For information, call 845-229-5320 or toll free, 800-FDR-VISIT.
Clermont State Historic Site invites you to celebrate Christmas with the Livingston family on Saturday, December 14, during a free public open house. A Child's Christmas will be the theme of holiday tours offered December 7-8. Special candlelight tours of Clermont will also be offered this year beginning at 3 p.m. on December 15. After your tour, enjoy wassail and traditional holiday goodies in the mansion's historic kitchen. Call 518-537-6622 for additional details about these seasonal events.
Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie, New York, 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 Saturdays November 30-December 21, Locust Grove celebrates the magic of Christmas past with special holiday season tours of the mansion's 25 decorated rooms. Sundays December 1, 8, 15 and 22 feature Holiday House Hunts for kids, with clues from "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Also this year on Thursdays, December 5 and 12, Locust Grove hosts Holiday Sunset Sensations with twilight tours and wines paired with holiday nibbles prepared by Chef John Lekic of Le Express Bistro. Tickets are $30 in advance: Call 845-454-4500. Tickets are $35 at the event.
Celebrate a "Gilded Age Christmas" at Staatsburgh State Historic Site in my home hamlet of Staatsburg, New York, Thursday through Sunday from November 21 through December 29 (closed on Thanksgiving). You'll marvel at the splendid dining room decorations at this Gilded Age landmark, formerly known as the Mills Mansion. If there's snow--take the kids! They'll love sledding with a Hudson River view.
Located in Tarrytown, New York, Lyndhurst is a fortress-like Gothic Revival Mansion on the Hudson River. This National Trust for Historic Preservation property hosts 90-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 13 through 29. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children up to age 16 and can be purchased online. Call 914-631-4481 for more information.
Welcome the season at Vanderbilt Mansion's free Holiday Open House on Sunday, December 8, from 11 a.m. to 4 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 845-229-7770 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 SPARKLE: Fridays December 6, 13 and 20 and Saturdays December 7, 14 and 21 from 5 to 9 p.m. Visitors will find candlelit paths and thousands of lights illuminating the gardens and grounds, and optional twilight tours of the mansion will be available, as well. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended for those who wish to venture inside. Daytime tours of Boscobel are also offered daily except Tuesdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas Day through December 31. 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. House Tour reservations are not required.