At Large  December 23, 2017  Chandra Noyes

Holidays Give Historic Home Museums a Chance to Shine

The holiday season gives Historic Home Museums across the country the opportunity to bring in new visitors with the lure of festive decorations, a glimpse into history, and new takes on educational experiences. Compared to the fast-paced rotating exhibition schedule of many art museums, most historic home museums change their displays of art and decorative objects fairly infrequently. The holidays give these institutions the chance to be more festive and celebratory than their white-walled gallery counterparts can be. This often draws in new visitors looking for ways to experience Christmas traditions and for holiday activities with family members. Check out these historic home museums changing it up this holiday season:

Photo: The Biltmore Company.

Biltmore Estate entrance Hall during the Christmas season.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Built by George Vanderbilt in the 1890's, the nation's largest privately owned estate is a tourist attraction year-round. With stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains outside, and 250 beautiful rooms inside, not to mention a winery and hotel on site, the Biltmore has plenty to offer visitors. During the holidays, the Biltmore brings in more that 50 trees and 30,000 lights, and their candlelight tours often sell out. For a schedule of events during their "Most Magical Time of Year," check here.

Courtesy Winterthur.

Winterthur "Dream House" Dollhouse, dressed for Christmas.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, Deleware

Henry Francis du Pont's historic home and museum is a major destination for scholars and art-lovers to view and study their outstanding decorative arts collection and library. During the holiday season,  highlights include a unique dried-flower tree, Christmas trees that explore changing decorative trends over the decades from the 1880s to 1960s, and a special display of re-created Windsor Castle decorations to complement their exhibit Royal Splendor: The Coronation Gown from The Crown. Special events include jazz performances and wine tastings, a full calendar of events is available online.

Courtesy Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle Christmas decorations.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

Opened as a state park in 1958, William Randolph Hearst's Spanish Revival-inspired home and surrounding complex is a National Historic landmark and major tourist destination in central California. With beautiful grounds, pools, an impressive arts and antiquities collection, and unique history as holiday elite hotspot in the 1920s and 30s, Hearst Castle is like no other historic home in the US. During the holidays, a Twilight Tour of the grounds, pools and homes, decorated to the nines, shines at Christmas.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.