Exploring the Newport Mansions with Kids
Six helpful tips for parents heading to the Breakers mansion for a family tour.
The Newport Mansions are wonderful any time of year, but especially during the holidays, when they are decked out with evergreen Christmas trees in almost every room, thousands of poinsettias, garland, wreaths and epic gingerbread houses. Over the weekend, I visited the Breakers mansion with my two children, ages three and six. The Breakers has a specific family-focused audio tour that details what life was like for the little ones who lived in the monstrous mansion.
Each person (ages five and older) is given a smartphone handheld device with headphones on which you can control your own tour by choosing what parts you want to listen to at your own pace. My children were enthralled by the decorations and the stories behind the house in the Breakers’ family-focused tour. As I went through the tour, I learned the ins and out of the mansion, including house rules, and I thought it would be helpful to put together a blog so parents and caregivers can know what to expect in advance when visiting the Newport Mansions.
1. Breakers’ admission prices for children are cheaper than adults.
An adult (Breakers only) ticket is $26, but kids ages six to seventeen are only $8.
2. The Breakers is the most kid-friendly of the mansions.
My six-year-old was enthralled by the Breakers’ Family audio tour as he learned about the Vanderbilt children sliding down the grand staircase on silver serving trays and he had fun looking for hidden animals in the design of some of the rooms (look for the dolphin hiding under the grand staircase, the lions in the music room and the dragons in the dining room). The tour definitely held his attention the entire time, but it was a bit more challenging to navigate with my three-year-old, who naturally wanted to touch things she shouldn’t have or try to test boundaries with the ropes that barricaded off-limits areas.
3. Strollers are not allowed.
Strollers are not allowed inside the Newport mansions, because they cause too much damage to the historic property. You also cannot store your stroller anywhere around the mansion, so you will need to keep it in your car. Definitely keep this in mind before you travel there and make sure you are okay with carrying your small child (and all the luggage that goes along with them) throughout the mansion. I recommend wearing a baby carrier or sling.
4. The mansions’ head set Smartphone devices should only be used by children ages five and older.
Children ages five and older are welcome to use the mansions’ individual headset and smartphone handheld devices as they travel through the tour, but younger children are recommended to use a splitter device, which includes one handheld device (only meant to be operated by an adult, not the young child) attached to two sets of headphones. I had trouble with this as my three-year-old wanted to control the handheld device, and I learned the hard way that this is not allowed. It was difficult to separate her from the device during the tour, so I would have preferred to know in advance so I could have prevented a meltdown when it was taken away. My advice is to avoid the handheld device altogether if you are navigating with a small child, or download the Newport Mansions mobile app on your personal phone (and if you are okay with that), bring your own set of headphones that fit your small child and let them follow the tour this way. Just go to your app store, and search for “Newport Mansions” identified with the green pineapple icon. I found it difficult to control my small roaming child while being connected to her with two sets of headphones that were attached by cords to one device. The mobile app would have been perfect!
5. Bring a canvas bag that you can throw your jackets and winter gear in as you wander the mansions.
There is no coat check and no lockers, so you have to either leave your belongings in the car or carry them with you. We had so many jackets, gloves and hats that it was difficult to carry everything, watch the children, take pictures and enjoy the tour. I recommend bringing a canvas bag that you can throw all your winter gear in it and sling it over your shoulder. Then you can enjoy exploring the mansion hands free.
6. You can take photos but with no flash.
Flash photography is not allowed, but you can take pictures, just not on stairs.
The Breakers mansion and other Newport Mansions are definitely family-friendly, but I think parents and children will have a much more enjoyable time if you are able to know a few things in advance. A prepared parent makes for a positive visit! I hope this helps, and enjoy your tours!