Best Historic Homes for Holiday Tours

Step back into time with these enchanting tours of historic homes and properties across the United States. With elaborately decorated Christmas trees, expertly-themed rooms, illuminated courtyards, and stunning candle-lit architecture, you might even get inspired to revamp your own home decor this time of year!

All of the homes below topped the list for this year’s Best Historic Homes for Holiday Tours. Nominees for all categories were chosen by a panel of relevant experts which include a combination of editors from USA TODAY; editors from 10Best.com; relevant expert contributors; and sources for both these media and other Gannett properties.

Christmas at the Biltmore in North Carolina by Stephanie Klepacki – Unsplash

On Christmas Eve of 1895, George Vanderbilt officially opened his 250-room French Renaissance chateau in Asheville, North Carolina, to family and friends. Today, it is the largest privately owned home in the country. Step back into America’s Gilded Age at Christmastime for a daytime or evening tour. By day, the elegant rooms of Biltmore House shimmer, beautifully bedecked with Christmas trees, ribbons, garlands, and thousands of twinkling lights. In the evening, flickering candlelight, glowing fireplaces, and live music invite you to imagine yourself a guest at the first Vanderbilt family Christmas in 1895. Christmas tours are available through the day on January 7th.

Experience the magic of the season, both day and night, at Filoli through January 7th. Special “Santa Days,” holiday teas, and firepit experiences are also held during the holiday season. Curators are available to guide tours inside the 1917 historic home, which was built for prominent San Franciscan William Bowers Bourn. The name “Filoli” was created by combining the first two letters from the keywords of Bourn’s credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” During Holidays at Filoli, visitors can stroll the illuminated grounds by night or see the decorated home by day in a Gilded Guide tour with the curator.

The John Kendrick Mansion, better known as Trail End, is an early 1900s Flemish Revival-style home showing off the life of Western cattle barons. During the winter, visitors can enjoy figgy pudding and decorations at the Holiday Open House or take an intimate tour by electric candlelight — complete with live actors — during Christmas with the Kendricks. On January 1st, there is also a special “First Day Hike” program that begins at Trail End at 10am. While not inside the home itself, this annual tour takes participants through the northwest corner of town that includes the Trail End grounds, the buffalo and elk pasture, the fairgrounds, and new and historic neighborhoods. Several short talks are presented along the way, full of well-researched history.

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island by Gwendolyn Kwong – Unsplash

Why tour one home, when you could see three? Holidays at the Newport Mansions includes the opportunity to see three, impeccably-decorated historic estates: The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms. Nearly 30 Christmas trees are exquisitely decorated to complement the décor and theme of each room, like Mr. Vanderbilt’s tree in The Breakers, ornamented with trains and top hats! Hundreds of poinsettias, garlands, wreaths and fresh floral arrangements add color, warmth and life. As always, the 15-foot-tall poinsettia tree in the Great Hall of The Breakers – made up of 150 poinsettia plants – provides a perfect holiday photo opportunity.

Learn about the Douglas Family and their home from 1906 to 1937, the Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa while taking in festive seasonal decor and beautiful mantle arrangements. Holiday tours allow visitors to explore the first, second, and third floors of the mansion at their own pace. Afterwards, guests can head outside and tour the the 26-acres of grounds and gardens at no additional cost. During the winter season, there are also “Holiday Nights” evening tours available in addition to the Christmas tours during the day.

Duluth, Minnesota in the winter by ginger – Unsplash

Glensheen is a 20,000-square-foot, Jacobean-style mansion set on the shores of Lake Superior. Experience the magic of Christmas and be taken back to the early 1900s when Glensheen was built with a candlelight tour at Christmas: 27 trees, hundreds of feet of garland, and thousands of Christmas lights adorn the rooms and halls throughout the house. For those looking for extra fun or a family-friendly activity, there are also 25 elves hidden throughout the mansion to find as you take your tour.

Meadow Brook at the holidays – courtesy of Visit Detroit

A National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook was built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge. Constructed in Rochester, Michigan between 1926 and 1929, the 110-room Tudor mansion is especially renowned for its superb craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale. The Holidays at Meadow Brook offer two dazzling ways to experience the estate. By day, the beloved annual Holiday Walk transports visitors through the historic mansion decked in shimmering splendor, with over 50 magnificent trees, trimmings and lights galore. In the evening, Winter Wonder Lights transforms the estate into a breathtaking light show featuring music, seasonal treats, bonfires, and holiday magic. Each event is its own self-guided experience. Tickets must be booked for a specific date and time and are available online only at meadowbrookholidays.com.

Stan Hywet Hall is Akron, Ohio’s first and largest National Historic Landmark and the nation’s sixth-largest historic home open to the public. The Tudor mansion was built by Goodyear Tire & Rubber co-founder F.A. Seiberling between 1912 and 1915. During their Deck the Hall event, the estate is illuminated with 1.2 million holiday lights. In the Manor House, look for a sleigh ride date night for Santa and Mrs. Claus on the West Porch, the Reindeer Flight Academy in the Round Room and an underwater mermaid party in Irene’s Room. Visits with Santa are available at Rudolph’s Corral on select dates. Don’t forget to enjoy cocoa and a *hot* gingerbread cookie or beer, wine and a pretzel from the new Molly’s Courtyard Cafe.

With a name like “The Christmas Mansion,” it’s no surprise this estate is near the top of the list! This grand, High Victorian property was built in 1886 for American hatmaker John B. Stetson as his winter retreat. Formerly known as Stetson Mansion, the home has festive holiday tours from early November until late January that take guests through its 10 rooms, each adorned with completely different decorations sourced from around the world. Both guided and self-guided tours are available.

Topping the rankings is Elvis Presley’s former estate in Memphis. Beginning in mid-November with a holiday lighting ceremony, visitors touring the home will encounter seasonal decor, traditional lights, a life-size nativity scene, Presley family Christmas artifacts on display, and Elvis’ Santa. The mansion also puts on a Christmas holiday concert one weekend and guests can even take advantage of a special holiday package that includes hotel accommodations, a Christmas tour, and other fun holiday items.

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