Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to two of the Newport Mansions. I also worked at the mansions for several years in college. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included. When a purchase is made and/or a link is clicked, I may receive a small commission.
When I was a college student on summer break at home in Rhode Island, I went to work everyday in that beautiful mansion pictured below. Working in the gift shop of a major tourist attraction certainly had its benefits, and I really enjoyed that job. I was always astounded by the hundreds of guests who traveled, sometimes very long distances, to see the mansions. There was never a slow moment in the middle of the summer.
When I traveled to Newport, Rhode Island last month to check out the Hotel Viking, I was eager to take my kids to see the Newport mansions. I figured that they would see the Breakers, the largest and most impressive of the mansions) and then want to do something else, but they both begged to see another mansion. I’d definitely recommend taking your kids to the Newport Mansions when visiting the area. If you are looking for the best mansion in Newport with kids – the Breakers would definitely be the one I would choose. It’s definitely the most popular.
The Newport Mansions With Kids
The Newport Mansions are managed, maintained, and opened to the public by the Preservation Society of Newport County – a non-profit organization. The majority of the mansions are located on Bellevue Avenue, while the rest are all nearby. Many are on the Newport Cliff Walk.
It’s easy to drive from location to location, and the mansions all offer free parking. There is one Preservation Society property that is a bit different and not located in Newport RI – Green Animals. This property features fun animal-themed topiaries and is located a few towns away in Portsmouth, RI. It’s worth the trip, but it is a bit of a drive.
Families should note that strollers and carriages are not permitted in the houses due to the historical nature. I probably wouldn’t take very young kids, since they can’t really appreciate the homes, and will have to walk or be carried.
I remember that the mansions do get crowded as the day goes on (especially in the summer), so we went first thing in the morning. During my days working there, the crowds would line up around the corner, especially on weekends. Go midweek, in the morning, for the best experience.
The Breakers is the largest and most popular of the Newport Mansions. This beautiful “summer cottage” is the former summer home of the Vanderbilt family. It was built during the gilded age and is absolutely spectacular. If you are wondering what the best Newport Mansion is to visit, I’d definitely recommend the Breakers.
The Breakers now offers audio tours, and there is a special one just for children. My husband and I had the choice of listening to the adult tour or the children’s tour, but chose the children’s. I was so impressed with how captivating it is for kids. The tour is given from the perspective of the house, and offers narration about the various motifs seen throughout the house, as well as information about the children of the home and what their daily life was like. It’s very engaging.
My kids really enjoyed controlling their own headsets, as well as the overall tour. It takes about 40 minutes, and when we were done, we walked around the grounds, checking out the children’s cottage as well (it was closed for the season, but we could still see the exterior). Note that if you are visiting during peak season, you should definitely plan to wait in line.
The Breakers now offers a new “Beneath the Breakers Tour” that focuses on the underground tunnel, basement, and boiler room. These guided tours have to be booked in person on the day that you want to visit, and are based on availability.
After we finished touring the Breakers, my kids asked to visit another mansion. I decided to take them down the road to Marble House, also owned by the Vanderbilt family.
Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for the William K. Vanderbilt family. It offers a new audio tour, but doesn’t have a children’s tour. Despite that, my kids really enjoyed Marble House as well. It’s a 40 minute tour, but you could easily spend more time if you’d like. It’s a gorgeous, opulent mansion. Because it doesn’t have a children’s tour, it’s probably best for older kids who can appreciate and understand the adult tour.
After visiting the interior of the home, we checked out the grounds, including the tea house that’s right on the property. The kids really enjoyed seeing that. Like the Breakers, the Marble House is on the Cliff Walk.
Other Newport Mansions
The Elms was originally the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind. It was built in 1901 and includes a beautiful, recently restored garden as well as the home.
You may be familiar with Rosecliff already, if you’ve seen the movies the Great Gatsby, Amistad, 27 Dresses and/or True Lies. Scenes from those movies were filmed at the house. When I was working at the Breakers, I often had guests asking specifically which house was the site for those scenes. Like the other homes, it was originally a summer home.
While these are the most popular homes, there are other Newport Mansions maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Unless you have specific interests, I think the Breakers and Marble House are probably the best two options.
The other mansions in the portfolio of the Preservation Society of Newport County include:
- Château-Sur-Mer – also located on Bellevue Avenue, this home was built before the Breakers and Marble House
- Hunter House – built between 1748 and 1754 and located on Washington Street
- Kingscote – this is a smaller home, but is one of my favorites. It’s located on Bellevue Avenue.
- Isaac Bell House – this home on Perry Street is built in a shingle style
- Chepstow – an Italian-style home that is located on Narragansett Avenue
If you have extra time in the Newport RI area, I’d recommend driving down to Portsmouth, RI to Green Animals. It’s always been one of my favorite places in the area, and it’s so unique.
If you choose the visit the Newport Mansions, I’d recommend the following tips:
- Start with the Breakers, and see if your kids like the children’s audio tour first before seeing other mansions. You don’t want to start with the regular audio tours, because they may not enjoy them.
- Go early – lines do form as the day goes on. If your kids are like mine, they’ll probably be awake early anyway.
- Eat in advance or after touring. There are no restaurants on any of the mansion properties, and you’ll have to drive to any nearby restaurants.
- Download the mobile app in advance. The app includes the audio tours of the Breakers (including the family tour), Marble House, The Elms, and Rosecliff.
Newport Mansions Tickets
Various ticket packages are available, including single mansion tickets, 2-house tickets, and 5-house tickets. Tickets can be purchased online, which is a good way to save time in line. If you are visiting with kids, I’d probably stick with a single mansion or a 2-house ticket. Kids probably wouldn’t want to see more than two.
Holiday Events at the Newport Mansions
Wondering which Newport Mansions are decorated for Christmas? You can visit three of these beautiful national historic landmarks – The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House – from mid-November through January 1st. The other mansions owned by the Preservation Society are only open seasonally, so it’s worth looking at the schedules before purchasing tickets or making plans.
Looking to find restaurants in the Newport area? I’d recommend the following:
- Diego’s (Mexican food on Bowen’s Wharf)
- Brick Alley Pub (pub food in Brick Market Place)
- Wharf Pub (pub featuring a menu full of tater tots)
These menus are all located in the downtown Newport area, so combine your lunch or dinner with some shopping or sightseeing. Keep in mind that these restaurants get very busy in peak season, so you’ll want to make reservations where possible or arrive early/late.
If you are looking for places to stay in Newport, see reviews here.
To learn more, visit the Newport Mansions website.