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Christmas in Newport

Enjoy a holiday getaway for the Annual Christmas in Newport festival

Produced by Lucy Fitzgerald
  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The historic harbor town of Newport, Rhode Island, is an uncommonly beautiful and romantic destination for a holiday getaway, with candles aglow in shop windows and mansions decked for the season. The Annual Christmas in Newport festival is a month-long celebration toasting traditions of the holiday season. Events include tree lighting, Polar Express train rides, historical tours, boardwalk strolls, concerts and dances, Victorian-era Christmas festivities, culinary fêtes, arts and cultural celebrations, and more. Where else but Newport can you gaze up at a 16-foot working gingerbread lighthouse?

    Read on for more Newport holiday events, mansions, recreation, and tourist information, including great restaurants, hotels, and shops.

    All photography courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County (unless otherwise specified).

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    Marble House

    Marble House, one of several National Historic Landmarks under the care of the Preservation Society of Newport County, was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, of the steamship and railroad fortune. Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the house was modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife for her 35th birthday. As its name suggests, the home is built with roughly 500,000 cubic feet of marble and is truly a masterpiece to behold.

    More from this historic home on the following slides.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    Marble House Foyer

    A stunning marble foyer greets guests and visitors in the front hall. Poinsettias line the grand staircase; a hanging globe of white blooms hangs overhead to accentuate the foyer’s incredible height and depth.

    After her divorce from William Vanderbilt, Alva Vanderbilt used Marble House to cement her place in society, arrange her daughter’s marriage into British aristocracy, and rally for women’s suffrage beginning in 1914.  The house was purchased by the Preservation Society in 1963. You can hear Alva’s story in her own words with the self-guided audio tour, provided by the Preservation Society.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    Marble House Gothic Room

    Vibrant red walls and colorful stained-glass windows make the Gothic Room particularly appealing when decked out for the holidays.

    Marble House is open for tours daily through mid-November, after which time the Preservation Society will hold seasonal tours through the end of December. Please visit their website or call (401) 847-1000 for details and ticket information. Award-winning audio tours are also available.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    Holiday Festivities

    The annual Christmas in Newport celebration is a month-long calendar of daily activities for families of all types and sizes. Notable events include the Governor’s Ball, the Holiday Lantern Tours of Historic Newport, and seasonal tours of the Golden Age mansions. Visitors can wander through the Breakers, Marble House, and other estates while enjoying holiday music, opulent Christmas décor, and light refreshments.

    For details and a full list of activities, check out the Christmas in Newport homepage.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The Breakers Great Hall

    Among the grandest of Newport’s Gilded Age icons, the Breakers is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial ascendancy during the turn of the 20th century. Cornelius Vanderbilt purchased a wood-framed house on the property in the 1880s, which was later destroyed by a fire. To rebuild a larger villa in its place, Cornelius commissioned Richard Morris Hunt, the same architect his younger brother hired to build Marble House just down the street. What resulted is the 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo inspired by the 16th-century palaces of Genoa and Turin.

    More from this historic home on the following slides.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The Breakers Great Hall

    A team of craftsmen and artisans from around the world assisted in the opulent design of the home. Allard and Sons of Paris, one of the most notable interior decorating firms of the time, contributed to the furnishings and fixtures. Austro-American sculptor Karl Bitter crafted relief sculpture throughout the home, incorporating the late-Baroque style of the European elite into the home’s design.

    During the holidays, the Great Hall is adorned with a multitude of trees festooned with lights and decorations. Poinsettias color every corner, and evergreen is a constant reminder of the decades that have passed within the mansion’s private hallways and chambers.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The Breakers Music Room

    The Breakers is open for tours daily through mid-November, after which time the Preservation Society will hold seasonal tours through the end of December. Please visit their website or call (401) 847-1000 for details and ticket information.

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  • Courtesy of Discover Newport

    Lighting Up Newport

    Twinkling lights illuminate the Victorian-age avenues along the harbor. Christmas in Newport founder Ruth Meyers wished to rekindle the Christmas spirit of bygone eras, so she introduced the clear-bulbs-only policy to simulate traditional candlelight and reduce the air of commercialism in her town. The flickering lights also represent the days when families would wait near the harbor for their loved ones to return from their adventures at sea. Today, candles glow from homes and shop windows throughout the season, adding to the Old World holiday charm.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The Elms Sitting Room

    The Elms estate was the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. Desiring a home modeled after the mid-18th century French Chateau d’Asnieres near Paris, the Berwinds commissioned architect Horace Trumbauer to execute the design. The Elms housed the family’s collection of Renaissance ceramics, 18th-century French and Venetian paintings, and Oriental jade pieces. Rococo design details enhance the lavish Christmas decorations throughout the home.

    More from this historic home on the following slide.

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  • Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County

    The Elms Ballroom

    Built as a showcase for art and entertaining, the Elms boasts enormous spaces for dining and dancing. In the ballroom, a 15-foot “tree” is crafted from approximately 150 individual poinsettia plants. Although the home was modeled after an 18th-centruy French chateau, it was equipped with all modern conveniences that were available at the turn of the 20th century.

    The Elms is open for tours daily through mid-November, after which time the Preservation Society will hold seasonal tours through the end of December. Please visit their website or call (401) 847-1000 for details and ticket information. Audio tours are also available.

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  • Courtesy of Discover Newport

    Rich in History

    Newport was founded in 1639 by a group of settlers who left their colonies in Portsmouth and Massachusetts due to religious persecution. The first public school was established just one year later. As a major 18th-century port city, Newport now contains the highest number of surviving colonial buildings. The city’s success as a commercial hub is credited to the influx of Portuguese Jewish families fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the mid-1700s. Within 14 years, Newport had roughly 150 sailing vessels engaged in trade, rapidly transforming Newport into a formidable rival to the commercial ports in New York. The prosperity of the city’s most influential residents is still evident today with Newport’s iconic Golden Age mansions along Bellevue Avenue. Numerous US Presidents and prominent legislators have resided in the community over the years, and the city was at one time known for its “Summer White Houses.”

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    Bellevue Avenue Stroll

    Another eagerly awaited festivity is the Bellevue Avenue Stroll, when most shops on Newport’s toniest street open their doors to holiday shoppers looking for unique finds and irresistible bargains. Shoppers can also enjoy wine, small hors d’oeuvres, and loads of holiday cheer along the way.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    The Chanler at Cliff Walk

    With the best ocean views in Newport, the Chanler stands as one of Rhode Island’s premier hotels. The hotel sits on historic Cliff Walk, and is just steps away from Eaton’s Beach. The structure was built by Civil War-era New York Congressman John Winthrop Chanler, and was intended to serve as a summer home for him and his wife, Margaret Astor Ward. After several transfers of ownership and one fire during the twentieth century, the estate was eventually purchased by John and Jeanie Shufelt in 2000, who transformed the building into the masterpiece it is today. Today is has twenty exquisitely appointed guest rooms, an award-winning restaurant, and beautifully manicured gardens.

    See more of this gorgeous hotel on the following slides.

    For reservation information, please visit their website or call (401) 847-1300.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    Accommodations

    At the Chanler, the popular Renaissance Signature Room features classic Roman furniture and decidedly French design details, such as ornate wall panels and a carved ceiling treatment. Tall windows overlook the room’s rooftop deck and the ocean beyond. Illuminated by three crystal chandeliers, the bedroom, sitting area, and bath are all luxuriously appointed with hand-laid walnut floors, antique Oriental rugs, and a regal color palette of turquoise and gold.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    Accommodations

    Shown above is the luxurious Empire suite. The American Empire design period was influenced by Napoleonic France, and is characterized by the use of imperial Roman ornamentation and décor. Large windows provide exquisite views of the Atlantic.

    Click here for a full tour of rooms at the Chanler.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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  • Courtesy of Discover Newport

    Boardroom

    The Chanler also accommodates group meetings and gatherings, large and small. The Winthrop Boardroom is the ideal location for a classic board meeting. Rich carved mahogany walls wrap the room; comfortable leather chairs provide seating for up to ten.

    Click here for more details about the Chanler’s event spaces.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    Vanderbilt Grace Hotel

    Recently restored to its former glory, the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel is a quintessential Newport experience. The home was built in 1909 by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, whose father’s sudden death left him as a principal owner of the New York Central Railroad and other eastern transportation companies. Today, the estate is comprised of 33 luxurious rooms and suites, a spa and fitness center, and two restaurants including the Muse,  created by well-known New England chef Jonathan Cartwright.

    See more from this historic hotel on the following slides.

    For reservation information, please visit their website or call (401) 846-6200.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

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    Conservatory

    The Conservatory serves as the hotel’s casual dining area. Enclosed in glass, it has models of sailing yachts along the walls, representing Newport’s long association with the America’s Cup. Expansive picture windows afford views of Newport’s historic Trinity Church, built in 1725.

    Click here for more information about the Conservatory.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Fine Dining at the Vanderbilt

    In the summer of 2011, the Vanderbilt Grace opened its new fine dining restaurant under the direction of Jonathan Cartwright. See more of this restaurant on the following slide.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Fine Dining at the Vanderbilt

    International influences mix with local traditions on Chef Cartwright’s seasonal menus, which often include New England specialties like clam chowder, pan-roasted pheasant breast (shown above), and smoked lobster.

    Click here for more information about dining at the Vanderbilt Grace.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Events at the Vanderbilt

    The Vanderbilt Grace also offers spaces for private functions, including in-house catering by Muse. The rooftop terrace affords panoramic views of historic Newport and the waterfront.

    Click here for more details about event spaces at the Vanderbilt Grace.

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    Christy Room

    The Beaux-Arts style of the original Vanderbilt mansion is immaculately preserved in the Christy Room.  A regal carved mantel stands tall against one wall, creating the ideal environment for a spot of afternoon tea. Works from 20th-century artists Maxfield Parrish and Howard Chandler Christy grace walls throughout the hotel.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Garden Terrace

    Just minutes from Newport’s town center, the Vanderbilt Grace’s Garden Terrace is the ideal place to relax and unwind. During the summer months, blue hydrangeas—an iconic Newport flower—surround the terrace.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Naval Affiliation

    Because of its nautical history, Newport has a long-standing relationship with the US Navy. Beginning in the mid-20th century, the coastal town has harbored some of the military’s most prestigious warships, including the Cruiser-Destroyer Force of the US Atlantic Fleet. It served as the campus for the US Naval Academy during the American Civil War, and is still home to the US Naval War College and the Naval Education and Training Command.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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    Summer Sailing

    As one of the most notable harbor cities in North America, Newport has dozens of charter companies offering tours aboard all types of sailboats, including some of the winners of the America’s Cup. Enjoy the salty air and invigorating breezes while cruising along the coast aboard a 70-foot yacht. No sailing experience is necessary, so grab a glass of wine and enjoy a sunset sail around the harbor. Tours are more common during the warmer seasons, so call ahead if you are planning a visit during the holidays.

    For more information about charter tours and other recreational activities, visit GoNewport.com.

    Photo courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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  • Tim Siekiera

    Ice Skating

    Families can enjoy classic winter recreation at the Newport Skating Center, an outdoor waterfront rink. Twice the size of Rockefeller Center’s skating plaza, the rink easily accommodates 150 skaters. Located in Newport’s downtown shopping district, the Skating Center is easily accessible and family-friendly.

    For more information about the Newport Skating Center, please visit their website

    Photo by Tim Siekiera, courtesy of Discover Newport

     

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  • This colonial town features plenty of summertime cultural activities as well. Click here to read about one of our favorites, the renowned Newport Flower Show.

     

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