Dateline: November 28, 2012
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 23-December 29. With Suckley's relationship with FDR central to the new movie, Hyde Park on Hudson, which opens December 7 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 8 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 15, 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 845-486-7745.
Clermont State Historic Site invites you to celebrate Christmas with the Livingston family on Saturday, December 15, during a free public open house. A Child's Christmas will be the theme of holiday tours offered December 1-2. Special candlelight tours of Clermont will also be offered this year beginning at 3 p.m. on December 16. After your tour, enjoy wassail and traditional holiday goodies in the mansion's historic kitchen.
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 in December and the week after Christmas, December 26-31, Locust Grove celebrates the magic of Christmas past with special holiday season tours. The mansion's rooms will be decorated with inspiration from the holiday classic. Sundays December 2, 9, 16 and 23 feature hunts for kids, with clues from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Make reservations for Locust Grove's fifth annual Twilight Holiday Tour and Historic Dinner at the mansion on Saturday, December 8, by calling 845-454-4500. Also this year on Thursday, December 13, Locust Grove hosts twilight tours with holiday nibbles and wines and cooking demonstrations by Chef Ed Kowalski of Crave Restaurant. Tickets are $30 in advance: Call 845-454-4500.
Celebrate a "Gilded Age Christmas" at Staatsburgh State Historic Site in my home hamlet of Staatsburg, New York, Thursday through Sunday from November 23 through December 30, plus Wednesday, December 26 and Monday, December 31. You'll marvel at the splendid dining room decorations at this Gilded Age landmark, also known as the Mills Mansion. If there's snow--take the kids! They'll love sledding with a Hudson River view. Children can also participate in a Holiday Whodunit and solve a mystery during regular holiday hours December 2 through 30.
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, and the show concludes in the "Cratchits' kitchen" with a bit of holiday cheer. Performances run November 23 through December 30. Tickets are $40 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 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and see sparkling trees and other elaborate Christmas decorations during tours November 23 through December 31 at this gracious mansion in Hyde Park, New York.
Boscobel, a Federal-style mansion in Garrison, New York, overlooking the Hudson River and West Point, will offer two special Sweets and Treats events with Santa and Mrs. Claus on December 9 and 16 at 2:30 p.m. Advance ticket purchase is required. Daytime Holiday House Tours of Boscobel are also offered November 23 through December 31 daily except Tuesdays 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. House Tour reservations are not required. Tickets must be purchased ahead, however, for special performances of A Christmas Carol at Boscobel, presented by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.