Revisit the Gilded Age Along the Hudson River

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September 5, 2009

General Info: Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York, was designated a National Historic Site in 1940. The site was chosen to preserve an estate representative of America’s Gilded Age, when upper class families built elaborate country houses to display the affluence brought by industrialization after the Civil War. This particular estate was built by Frederick William Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, during the last few years of the 19th century. The mansion and grounds sit on the east bank of the Hudson River a few miles north of Poughkeepsie.

vanderbilt-mansion-front-lawn-viewHours and Fees: Vanderbilt Mansion is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. by guided tour only. The mansion is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. You can explore the grounds for free, but guided tours cost $8 per person (visitors 15 and under are free). For general visitor information call (845) 229-9115, or call (845) 229-7770 on weekends.

Activities: The guided walking tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion lasts about 45 minutes and includes the first floor, second floor, and a portion of the basement. Tours generally run on the hour, but schedules are subject to change. In order to better preserve the mansion’s historic furnishings, you cannot bring the following items on the guided tour: baby carriages, strollers, infant carriers, and backpacks. Please refrain from taking photos as well. **Note: the mansion is not air-conditioned and can get quite warm in the summer months.

vanderbilt-nhs-mapSpend a couple of hours wandering the 211-acre grounds to take in gorgeous views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. Don’t miss the Italian-style Formal Gardens, which have been lovingly restored to their original glory by a dedicated core of volunteers.

While you’re in the area, visit the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, both just two miles away. There you can tour FDR’s boyhood home and explore his Presidential Library. The Eleanor Roosevelt site is the only NHS dedicated to a first lady, and was originally the Roosevelt family retreat. In fact, the Hyde Park Trail is a scenic walking trail that connects all three historic sites so you only have to park once. For driving directions between the three sites, download the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt driving map PDF.

formal-gardens-at-vanderbilt-mansionAccessibility: There are approximately 100 stairs during the mansion tour. The mansion is accessible but the historic elevator often needs maintenance; call ahead to check for availability at 845-229-7770. Public restrooms in the Vanderbilt Visitor Center are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Weather: The gardens are typically in full bloom through May. Summers are generally sunny, warm, and can be humid. Autumn brings fall foliage and crisp cool weather. Winters are typically bright and clear with some snow.

Camping Info: You can park the RV across the Hudson in Plattekill at the Newburgh/New York City North KOA. Just 45 minutes from Hyde Park, this family-friendly RV resort features spacious pull-thrus and full hookups (with 50 amp service available).

If you’re from the Empire State or have visited Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip.

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