My cousin and I had only one afternoon in Newport, and seeing the mansions is something I've wanted to do as long as I can remember. First - what a great value - a ticket price of around $31 per person grants entrance into 5 of the properties, including the use of portable audio devices at each mansion with informative and entertaining narratives about the property, the people, the times, and special events.
We only had time to see three of the homes during our quick trip, and we saw enough that I know I'll make a return trip. We visited The Breakers, Marble House, and Rose Cliff, each one spectacular in its own right. The Breakers was our first stop, and the first step into the entry hall literally left me gaping in awe. It is truly mind boggling to think people not only lived like this, but this was not even a primary residence. At this stop, we listened to all the extras, as there is a standard audio tour with the basics, and an extended version if you have more time. We would have done the extended version at each home, but given our limited time, we chose to do the standard version at the other two in order to see more homes.
You can also just breeze through without listening, but the narratives add to the experience and help bring the times and the people to life. One favorite story for me was learning Cole Porter was a frequent guest at Rosé Cliff and is rumored to have written "Night and Day" there and to have finished one of his Broadway Shows there as well. You can explore the grounds as well, at each if the homes we visited, and just standing on the sweeping lawns looking out at the Atlantic Ocean is a another wonderful part of the experience.
Parking was plentiful and crowds were not bad, although we visited in early May before schools were out and before big time family vacation season. You could also spend a wonderful afternoon just walking through the streets near the mansions, or walking along Cliff Walk. Newport is a spot I will certainly return, both to see more of the homes and to explore the town and history further.
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