This tour is approximately 7 hours and is available year-round.
Think of the Great Gatsby, with his yellow Rolls Royce, starring Robert Redford dancing with Mia Farrow in a fountain outside of an opulent mansion named Rosecliff – the scene was filmed here in Newport. Imagine too, three mansions referred to as “cottages” owned by three Vanderbilt brothers, one of them with 80 rooms, another is a Chinese Tea House getaway, and the last, a “hut” for Alma Vanderbilt at Marble House.
Picture stables, many with more than 60,000 square feet to house carriages, horses and stable boys for each of these three summer residences. There are more than 250 elegant Gilded-era mansions here. The setting is Newport, located on the island of Aquidneck, and money was no object for these summer residents. Each of these old homes has a tale or three, and more than 40 of them are open to the public for tours.
Even the grounds of these homes are breathtaking – the landscaping designer hired by the well-to-do, was America’s first Landscape Architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City, the Niagara Reservation, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Stanford University Campus, and was the Landscape Architect of choice in Newport.
Newport had an 8-week summer season then, and the Jones family of New York city was among the wealthiest – they had a ballroom that could accommodate 400 people, and the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” refers to this family. You did not belong to “proper” society unless you were invited to their summer estate for the balls they held here. The Astor family had summer homes here, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy was raised in Newport at Hammersmith Farm, and she married Jack Kennedy at Saint Mary’s Church in Newport.
We will show you the Yacht Basin, the Yacht Restoration Project and Eisenhower House, which was President Eisenhower’s summer “White House”. Eisenhower House is close to the site where the annual Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival occur every year. You can tour the International Tennis Hall of Fame, see 200-year-old Fort Adams, or the Touro Synagogue – the oldest Synagogue in the United States, perhaps have lunch at the elegant oldest tavern in the United States – built in 1673, see giant live lobsters at a fish warehouse, or shop or dine on Bowens and Bannisters Wharf.
Newport is home of the United States Navy War College and of the Navy UDE School. The United States Naval Academy moved here from Annapolis during the Civil War, and you can tour their grounds as well. We will ride along Ocean Drive for wonderful views of mansions as well as the open sea, and you may also want to consider the National Museum of Illustration Art, located in a 120-year-old mansion. The museum has the largest collection of Norman Rockwell’s art outside of the Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts.
If you wish to stroll along the heady shore of the ocean, we can take you to “Cliff Walk”, a free, public, paved walkway between the oceanfront mansions and the sea. You will be about 10 feet above the ocean on this walk, and it is certainly exhilarating.