Are you ready to get into the spirit of Christmas? A trip to Dutchess County to visit the Christmas decorated mansions will leave you feeling merry and bright, even more than playing your favorite Christmas songs on repeat. There are many beautiful historic houses in the Hudson Valley, and they’re all decked out for the holidays.
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I’m going to give you the full tour of these glorious New York mansions. Some of them are traditionally decorated as they were back in the day, and some of them have Christmas lights, trees, and ornaments in every room of the house. These Hudson Valley mansions are interesting to visit all year long, but they’re even more spectacular in December when they’re festive for the season.
Going on guided tours of the historic homes is one of the best Hudson Valley Christmas events. While you’re exploring Dutchess County, New York, why not make a little extra time for even more local attractions and activities? Here’s a listing of fun things to do in Dutchess County from tea tastings to visiting a horse sanctuary.
Staatsburgh State Historic Site
Mills Mansion in Hyde Park, also known as the Staatsburgh State Historic Site, was the home of Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills. Their home sits atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains without any obstructions. This is one of several Hudson Valley mansions belonging to the Gilded Age elite.
About Mills Mansion
Ruth Livingston Mills’ family were prominent landowners in the Hudson Valley, and she inherited her childhood home and property in 1890. In the 1890s, Ogden and Ruth hired a New York architectural firm to enlarge and remodel the Greek-revival home into a massive Beaux-Arts mansion. As the couple spent many of their summers at their home in Paris, it only made sense that the Mills Mansion featured 17th and 18th-century French styles.
As the Mills family owned five properties, they mostly lived in their Hudson Valley mansion during the fall. The couple threw lavish parties, hosting up to 80 guests at a time. However, their attendee lists grew more exclusive as Ruth Livingston Mills hosted more private and elite events, inviting only the richest and most worthy guests. Today, Mills Mansion is fully restored to its turn of the century glory, and it’s one of the most opulent New York mansions and Hudson Valley historic sites.
Christmas Decorations at Staatsburgh
At Mills Mansion in Hyde Park, there are Christmas decorations in every single room. You’ll find Christmas lights and ornaments adorning several trees. There are festive touches of garland and nutcrackers, even in the old servants’ quarters.
Christmas decorations line the staircases. Piles of Christmas presents are stacked up in several rooms and you’ll even spot a gingerbread house or two. You certainly can’t miss the giant Christmas tree that’s two stories tall, extending up towards the ceiling in the front foyer. Staatsburgh State Historic Site is one of the best Christmas decorated mansions in Dutchess County.
When To Visit
After Thanksgiving and throughout December, Staatsburgh State Historic Site is open from Thursday to Sunday at 11:00am to 3:00pm. It’s closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then, Staatsburgh State Historic Site is open from December 26th to 31st from 11:00am to 3:00pm.
There are also special events for A Gilded Age Christmas at Staatsburgh. There are Christmas cracker craft workshops, events for the kids (holiday crafts, story hour, and a holiday whodunit), one night with extended evening hours, and a holiday gala event. Follow the Staatsburgh State Historic Site Facebook page for all the details.
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Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
The Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site is one of the oldest Hudson River estates, and it’s one of the finest New York mansions. A trip to the Vanderbilt Mansion is one of the best things to do in Hyde Park, New York. This was the spring and autumn home of the Vanderbilt family, which provides a glimpse into the lives of American millionaires in the Gilded Age.
About Vanderbilt Mansion
Much like the Mills Mansion, the Vanderbilt Mansion (known back then as Hyde Park) was designed in a neoclassical style by the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. They added the latest innovations of electricity, central heating, and indoor plumbing. Furthermore, the Vanderbilts added a power station, a coach house, gate houses, boat docks, two new bridges, a railroad station, and landscaping across the vast property of 200 acres.
The National Parks service has restored and preserved the original furnishings in the home, as well as the gardens and woodlands of the original property. While I’d love to see the manicured landscapes during the summer months, the gardens were buried beneath snow and ice when I visited in December. However, it’s an amazing time of year to visit as the Vanderbilt Mansion is one of the Christmas decorated mansions in Dutchess County.
Christmas Decorations at Vanderbilt Mansion
The Vanderbilt historic home is one of the Christmas decorated mansions of the Hudson Valley. You’ll discover twinkling Christmas trees in the central foyer of the estate. There are other tasteful Christmas decorations throughout the rooms, like poinsettias and garlands in some of the rooms.
While there aren’t Christmas decorations in every room, the National Parks staff added ornaments similar to how they were placed back at the turn of the century. It isn’t one of the most highly ornamented Christmas decorated mansions; however, it’s a beautiful and elegant place during the holidays.
When to Visit
The Vanderbilt Mansion NHS is open daily, and it’s one of the best New York mansion tours. You can only visit with a guided tour, taking place at 12:00pm and 3:00pm daily. Large groups of 10 or more need to make reservations, and these tours will operate at 10:00am and 2:00pm. If there aren’t any group tours, the 10:00am and 2:00pm time slots will turn into public tours. The Vanderbilt Mansion NHS is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site is an American treasure, a fascinating piece of presidential history, and home to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. You can spend the good part of a day touring his home and examining each artifact and video at the museum. However, you should be able to visit this site in a couple of hours and gain a great insight and awareness about his four terms of presidency and the time period in general.
About Springwood, the Home of FDR
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt is part of a guided tour that starts in the visitor center, venturing through the property and his home. Springwood estate was FDR’s birthplace, lifelong home, and eventual burial place. You will see the grave of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt as you tour the property.
This estate remained at the center of FDR’s life during all stages of his career. In 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt and they lived in the home with his mother, Sara Delano. In 1915, FDR worked with his mother to remodel Springwood, and they doubled the size of the house by adding two extra wings, a third story, and a tower.
Even during his presidency, he visited Springwood on more than 200 occasions. It functioned as a “Summer White House” where he hosted politicians and international figures. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made the first visit of a reigning monarch to America, and FDR hosted them at Springwood.
Christmas Decorations at the Home of FDR
This is one of the most elegantly Christmas decorated mansions in Dutchess County. The decorations and ornaments stay true to history. There are even some historical tidbits in the tour about Christmas at Springwood. For instance, there are piles of presents on each chair. The Roosevelt family placed presents for each person on their respective chair. We also learned that FDR took ages to open his Christmas presents, pouring over every detail of every gift he received.
While not every room had Christmas decorations, there were beautiful little touches around the home. In FDR’s bedroom upstairs, you can see stockings hanging from the fireplace. On one chair, there was a stocking with an object that looked like a dog bone protruding from the top of it (most likely for Fala, their famous Scottish terrier).
The FDR Presidential Library & Museum
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is America’s first presidential library, and the only one actually used by a sitting president. FDR designed his own library near his Springwood mansion and on his estate property in Hyde Park. This library became the model for future presidential libraries around the country. He donated all of his papers to the library, and it’s the world’s main research center during his era of presidency.
The library and museum unites FDR’s presidency with conflicts of the time, such as the Great Depression and World War II. There are also fascinating exhibits about Eleanor and how she transformed the role of First Lady to one of advocacy. If you aren’t able to visit the FDR Presidential Library in person, you can browse many documents and learn more information from the digital archives online.
When to Visit
In December, the home of FDR is open daily (except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). Guided tours are at 9:00, 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00. While you must visit Springwood on a guided tour, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum is a self-guided tour.
Please note that Springwood will be closed from April 1 – October 31, 2020 for numerous renovations and improvements.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
The Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site is the only national historic site dedicated to a first lady. The main historic home at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site is her Val-Kill cottage. Val-Kill is only about two miles away from Springwood, but it was the only home that Eleanor called her own.
About the Val-Kill Cottage
Val-Kill was Eleanor Roosevelt’s home from the mid-1920s to gather with friends and family. Val-Kill is a modest house, unlike many of the other homes that are part of this Christmas decorated mansions tour. She described it as the place “where I used to find myself and grow”. It was also a center of activism and advocacy. She started a social experiment, Val-Kill Industries, to provide local farmers and families with crafting skills to supplement their income.
When Val-Kill Industries closed in 1936, Eleanor expanded and renovated the factory into Val-Kill Cottage. It contains two living rooms, seven bedrooms, a dining room, seven bedrooms, a dormitory, a sleeping porch upstairs, and two large porches on the lower level.
Christmas Decorations at Val-Kill
As you take a guided tour of Val-Kill, you’ll see how Eleanor may have decorated the cottage at Christmastime. There are Christmas trees, Christmas cards, and presents piled all around. You’ll see small gifts at the dining room table, even for the kids. She seated children with the adults at the same dining table, which was not common at the time. Adding festive holiday decor to Val-Kill makes it feel even more like home.
When to Visit
Tours are offered from Thursday to Monday at 1:00pm and 3:00pm (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). When you visit Val-Kill in December, you’ll witness the home all dolled up for Christmas.
Christmas Decorated Mansions: Locust Grove Estate
Locust Grove Estate looks like an Italian villa on the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie. It’s a historic mansion, a museum, and a nature preserve with many hiking trails and gardens. When you visit Locust Grove in December, you’re in for a treat. While the gardens are buried beneath the snow and the hiking trails aren’t maintained during the winter months, Locust Grove is one of the most festive places in Dutchess County.
About Locust Grove Estate
Locust Grove Estate was once owned and designed by famous inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse (of the Morse Code). It was Samuel Morse’s summer home until his death in 1872. In the early 1900s, its new owners, William and Martha Young, renovated and expanded the home. They furnished the home with family heirlooms. Their daughter, Annette Young, eventually came to own the home and preserved the house and its contents. Upon her death, she established a non-profit foundation ensuring that the home would be protected as a museum and nature preserve.
In 1979, Locust Grove Estate opened to the public and it’s decorated exactly as the Youngs had it at the turn of the century. Every item in the house, except for one (that belonged to Morse) belonged to the Young family.
Christmas Decorations at Locust Grove
Locust Grove Estate is one of the best Christmas decorated mansions in the Hudson Valley. There is a Christmas tree in every single room of the house. The elaborately ornamented Christmas trees, wreaths, and garland draped all around the house will surely leave you feeling festive.
When to Visit
Locust Grove Estate is open on weekends, as well as December 26th – 31st. Tours are at 10:15am, 11:30am, 12:45pm, 2:00pm, and 3:15pm.
Christmas Decorated Mansions Trip: Travel Itinerary and Guide
You can visit the decorated Great Estates starting the weekend after Thanksgiving and throughout December. There are certain days of the week when you can visit these Christmas decorated mansions, and they differ with each historic home. You can easily see all five New York mansions in a weekend. I recommend visiting on a December weekend to see all five at one time. If you’re feeling more ambitious, here’s a listing of all the decorated historic houses in Dutchess County.
While the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site and the Home of FDR National Historic Site are open daily for tours, the other three Christmas decorated mansions have more limited opening hours. Staatsburgh State Historic Site is open from Thursday to Sunday, and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site is open from Thursday to Monday. Locust Grove Estate is only open on weekends. However, both Staatsburgh and Locust Grove have special opening hours from December 26th – 31st, so that’s another great time to plan your trip (Eleanor Roosevelt NHS is also open December 26th – 30th).
Where to Stay in Poughkeepsie, NY
These Christmas decorated mansions are either located in Poughkeepsie or Hyde Park, New York. If you’re looking for a convenient and comfortable home base for your adventures, I recommend staying at the Hyatt Place Poughkeepsie. It’s a modern and stylish hotel that opened in June 2019. The Hyatt Place Poughkeepsie is in the heart of the Hudson Valley, close to popular attractions like the Walkway Over the Hudson (the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge) and the historic mansions listed in this article.
The rooms at the Hyatt Place Poughkeepsie are very spacious and have all the modern amenities that you need for a memorable stay. There’s a flatscreen TV with tons of channels, complimentary Wi-Fi, a roomy desk to work on your laptop, a fridge, and a bright and large bathroom. There’s also free parking on site, an indoor pool, and a fitness center.
You’ll also enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast to start the day off right. There’s also an espresso machine with Starbucks coffee, and the friendly hotel staff can whip up an Americano or latte any time of day for you. Speaking of the staff, they’re really personable and they really made me feel right at home. Book your stay at the Hyatt Place Poughkeepsie or read more reviews by fellow travelers.
If you’re looking to get right in to the spirit of Christmas or you’re seeking events in the Hudson Valley, look no further. There are so many things to do in Poughkeepsie, including browsing historic homes in the city and in the nearby town of Hyde Park. On these New York mansion tours, you’ll learn a lot about local history and see so many stunning holiday decorations. It’s definitely worth the trip to Dutchess County to see these Christmas decorated mansions.