Historic Homes for the Holidays
Before you ring in the new year, indulge in a little magical nostalgia by visiting a few of America's most historic homes when they're draped in holiday glam. A stop at one of these 20 mansions, ranches, and farmhouses can really put you in the spirit of the season.
Spend Your Holidays by the Fireplace at Cedar Grove
When you visit this 18th-century farmhouse in Philadelphia, you'll see much more than just stockings hung by the chimney with care. You'll also be impressed by the technologically advanced (for the time) indoor bake oven and hot-water boiler. Moved stone by stone from its original site to historic Fairmount Park in the 1920s, this country home is replete with the furnishings, decorative items, and everyday effects of five generations of family members who left their mark on the house. Be sure to check out the calendar of seasonal events, including family crafts, holiday concerts, and cooking demonstrations.
Wikimedia Commons via Frederikto
Have Yourself a Very Nola Christmas
If you're looking for holiday splendor AND warmer temperatures, a visit to the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans will check all the boxes. The season begins with a stunning lobby lighting ceremony that dates back to the 1930s, and then the celebrations continue with a lavish Christmas Day brunch and a New Year's Eve bash in the Fountain Lounge. While this century-old hotel is a must-see for the holidays, it's a luxury destination all year long, ideal for an indulgent weekend getaway, sipping gin fizzes in the historic Sazerac Bar or simply admiring the elegant decor. Get all the details on the hotel's calendar of holiday events.
flickr.com via Infrogmation of New Orleans
Experience Christmas in the Gilded Age
Just imagine how you would decorate for the holidays if money were no object—because for the Vanderbilt family, it wasn't. At the Breakers, their opulent Newport, Rhode Island, estate, you can see how one of America's wealthiest families rang in the season. Completed in 1895, this 70-room Beaux-Arts "cottage" features rare woods, mosaics, and marble quarried throughout the world—all a stone's throw from the Atlantic shore. During the Christmas season, the Breakers joins Newport's other cliffside mansions in offering seasonal events that include displays of gingerbread mansions and special visits from Mr. Claus himself. Click here for details.
flickr.com via andrewmtu
Ring in the Holidays with the King
"Blue Christmas" may be a holiday classic, but touring Elvis's Graceland estate is the real hit. Swathed in red drapery, and with white trees and poinsettias as far as the eye can see, this Memphis mansion is as decorated as the King himself. In the month of December, Graceland also offers a weekend of live music, evening tours, and a holiday brunch. For details and ticket info, visit the Graceland website.
flickr.com via Tulio Bertorini
Have a Lavish Christmas in Motor City
Built by the widow of automotive aristocrat John Dodge, Tudor-style Meadow Brook Hall, which sits on a 2,500-acre estate, hosts a series of events during the holiday season. The bounty of Christmas-themed activities includes a bonfire, a visit with Santa and two of his reindeer, and candlelit tours of the mansion dressed up in its holiday finery—all less than an hour from Detroit. Check out the website for a full list of events.
Wikimedia Commons via Oakland County
Soak Up Grand Holiday Traditions at the Biltmore
At the Biltmore Estate, Christmas tree decorations aren't measured in the hundreds, but in the thousands. You can admire some of them adorning a towering Norway spruce as you bask in the flicker of candlelight in this Asheville, North Carolina, mansion. The second Vanderbilt family property on our list, the 178,000-square-foot house is the largest privately owned estate in the United States. During the holidays, the Biltmore offers both daytime self-guided tours and Candlelight Christmas Evening tours, where visitors can enjoy the remarkable display of ornaments as well as a tasting at the winery. Visit the Biltmore website to plan a holiday evening in opulence.
Experience Holiday Magic in Maine
If your holiday travels bring you "down east" to the Maine coast, be sure to visit the stately Victoria Mansion in Portland. Built as a summer retreat in 1860, this Italian Villa-style home features the very latest in 19th-century innovations as well as an impressive 25-foot-long stained-glass skylight! But it's the annual Christmas transformation that earns this historic house a spot on our list. With its rooms decorated for the holidays by local artists, florists, and designers, the Victoria hosts a roster of seasonal events, including "Night of the Nutcracker" with Portland Ballet and preschool story hours for younger revelers. Victoria Mansion offers tours throughout the holidays.
Wikimedia Commons via Staib at English Wikipedia
Dream of a Green Christmas in Connecticut
Each holiday season, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum displays authentic decorations from centuries past, surrounded by verdant wreaths and roping.These three homes, located in historic Wethersfield, Connecticut, offer a window into the Christmas preparations and celebrations of a middle-class family of the 18th century. Check out their website to learn about holiday events, including their "Three Centuries of Christmas" tours.
Wikimedia Commons via Daderot
Take a Holiday Excursion to the Conrad-Caldwell House
The Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and intricate interior woodwork are reason enough to marvel at Old Louisville's Conrad-Caldwell House, but the mansion truly comes alive each December when it sparkles with Christmas cheer. Take a guided tour of one of Kentucky's most impressive Victorian mansions by day, or opt for a candlelight tour by night, complete with refreshments and kids' crafts. Visit their website for tour schedules and ticketing info.
Wikimedia Commons via Kenneth C. Zirkel
At the Stetson Mansion, You Can Keep Your Hat On
The Stetson Mansion in Deland, Florida, is proof that you don't need snow to have a very merry Christmas. Built in the 19th century by America's most famous hatter, John B. Stetson, this Victorian mansion was Florida's first luxury home, with an electrical system installed by Thomas Edison himself. And thank goodness, because the Stetson Mansion lights up beautifully for the holiday season, when it offers daily Christmas Spectacular tours.
Karrah Flores, courtesy of Stetson Mansion
Walk Through a Winter Wonderland in the Berkshires
If it's winter magic you want, head for the white hills of the Berkshires this holiday season. That's where you'll find Naumkeag, a 44-room Shingle-Style "cottage" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, that's surrounded by eight acres of terraced gardens and mind-blowing views. As if that alone weren't enough for a fairy-tale holiday, throughout the month of December, the estate also hosts Winterlights, a tour of Naumkeag's gardens illuminated for the season. Don't be left in the dark! Reserve your tickets now.
flickr.com via Rebecca Gale
Mark the Season at a Historical Ranch
Built to serve as a cattle ranch in 1844, Rancho Los Cerritos is a living testament to the Golden State's rugged 19th-century prosperity. But during the Christmas season, this two-story adobe in Long Beach, California, gets into the Christmas spirit with seasonal decorations; a Home for the Holidays event that features music, food, and old-fashioned crafts; and a candlelight tour with costumed characters from the rancho's past. Learn more about this piece of Southern California history, and make your holidays a little merrier too!
flickr.com via hapinachu
Get Ready for a Christmas Adventure in Colorado
This eclectic Denver Victorian, which briefly served as the Governor's Mansion, is best known as the home of the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, one of the most famous survivors of the "Titanic." During the holiday season, the estate is festooned with period-appropriate decorations that evoke Molly Brown's storied energy and outsize personality. Visit the website for tour details and ticketing info.
Attend a Christmas Concert at the Lincolns' House
What better place than snowy Vermont to get into the seasonal spirit? The Hildene Mansion in Manchester was once the summer home of Robert Lincoln, the only surviving son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Today, the property encompasses a sprawling estate of 14 historic buildings, a garden, an observatory, and a Welcome Center. During the Christmas season, local musicians entertain with holiday tunes played on the Lincolns' 1908 Aeolian organ and their Steinway piano. For more, see the mansion's list of live performances and visitor information.
flickr.com via Jim Bowen
Have Holiday Fun at a Chicago Castle
Glessner House is quite a departure from the many other Victorian homes on our list. Colossal and built like a fortress, this home in the historic Prairie Avenue District of Chicago marries modern with medieval in its unusual design by famed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The stone castle has been named one of the top 10 historic homes to visit during the holidays by USA Today. Schedule a guided Christmas Candlelight tour on the Glessner House website.
Celebrate with Texas's First Family
Texas hospitality extends all the way into the Governor's Mansion, where, during the Christmas season, you're invited to see how the First Lady likes her garland strung and tree trimmed. Take a festive tour of this Greek Revival home, which has continuously served as the governor's residence since 1856. The best part? Admission is free! But act fast: Tours must be scheduled at least a week in advance.
Wikimedia Commons via Carol M. Highsmith
Visit with Santa in San Fran
The McConaghy House is not only a classic example of Gold Rush-era construction, but it's also a winter wonderland—at least during December. This year, the Victorian house is decorated in the spirit of "The Nutcracker," so you'll find nutcracker dolls and a few ballet slippers hidden among the garlands and ornaments. If your holiday travels bring you to the Bay Area, be sure to head down to Hayward to catch this Christmas must-see. Visit the website to learn more about tours—and Santa's schedule.
flickr.com via mliu92
Relive Scrooge's Christmas Miracle in the Hudson Valley
Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, sits high up on any list of historic houses during the holidays. But on top of stunning decorations displayed in an imposing setting, Lyndhurst brings Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" to life with a theatrical retelling of this annual favorite. This is a family-friendly event; children 8 and up are encouraged to attend. Reserve your event tickets or review the mansion's full tour and event schedule.
Have a Very Presidential Holiday at Mount Vernon
George Washington's Virginia estate, an 18th-century mansion that is also the final resting place of the first president and his wife, Martha, is impressive at any time of year. But during the Christmas season, Mount Vernon is especially enchanting as it revisits old American holiday traditions. Decoration workshops, candlelit tours, and fireworks over the Potomac are just a few of the activities on the Mount Vernon calendar. Check out a full listing of their holiday events.
Enjoy a Holiday Favorite in this Massachusetts Mill Town
Located in the former New England mill town of Holyoke, the Wistariahurst mansion was built for William Skinner, a 19th-century silk manufacturer. It is now a house museum with docent-led tours, but during the Christmas season it also serves up holiday theater with "Nutcracker & Sweets," a unique interpretation of Tchaikovsky's classic, performed by the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet. Visit the Wistariahurst site for tour and performance information.
Wikimedia Commons via Simtropolitan
Deck the Halls
These charming old houses look even more delightful with their holiday decorations.
Get the help you need for the home you want—sign up for the Bob Vila newslettertoday!