Holiday Historic Home Tours
Sure, you know about wonderfully decorated historic home tours in big cities like Boston, New Orleans and Chicago. But they're not the only Christmas homes worth seeing. Check out these historic gems that open seasonally to the public.
In its glory days, Natchez was one of the most important trading ports on the mighty Mississippi, and its well-preserved estates harken back to the days when cotton and tobacco made the city's planters and merchants into barons. Three years ago, the Christmas in Natchez festival began, and it includes holiday tours of some of these stunning antebellum homes. One of the highlights of the tour is The Towers Jeweled Christmas. Thousands of pieces of vintage jewelry (1860-1950) drip and shimmer from trees, wreaths and other decor in this stunning Italianate antebellum home.
St. Augustine, Fla.
The northeastern cities founded by Pilgrims are certainly old, but they're not the oldest European settlements in the U.S. That honor belongs to St. Augustine, which was settled in 1565 by Spanish explorers and has been a continuously occupied town ever since. And with age, of course, comes wonderful historic homes. The Christmas Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Garden Club of St. Augustine, doesn't feature 14th-century dwellings, but it does open up six seasonally decorated private homes built in the 1800s to the public.
As the summer social capital of America from the post-Civil War era until WWI, Newport has some of the best examples of Gilded Age architecture in the country. And every year during the Christmas in Newport festival, the Preservation Society of Newport County opens up a few of these incredible structures to the public, all of them opulently decked out in full holiday finery.
Located about 90 minutes south of Portland, historic Albany is serious about historic holiday tours. The second Sunday in December, visitors can enjoy a Victorian-era holiday experience with the city's Christmas Parlour Tours. Tour-goers get to stroll through beautifully-decorated historic homes while costumed carolers set the Victorian atmosphere with song and historic dress.
This west-central Illinois city of more than 40,000 people has some of the best-preserved historic homes in America, and they're dressed in their Christmas best the second Sunday in December for Quincy Preserves' annual Christmas Candlelight Tour. Since the town is so steeped in notable historic architecture, the candlelight tour rotates among the different historic neighborhoods each year. Otherwise, it would just be too much for one afternoon.
Colonial Williamsburg, Va.
In Colonial Williamsburg, a historic Christmas isn't about one afternoon of tours -- it's an all-encompassing experience full of old-time wonder. Don your best 18th-century dress (or modern black-tie attire, if you prefer) to attend Lady Dunmore's Ball in the historic Governor's Palace, or enjoy a walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg's historic buildings and streets dressed in their period-appropriate holiday finery. Learn about how early Americans decorated their homes for the holidays, made delicious desserts and enjoyed candlelit puppet shows, all while immersing yourself in a full historic holiday experience.