The best skiing on the East Coast of the USA tends to be overshadowed by the premier ski facilities you find in the resorts of the West Coast. There is plenty of variety and great skiing to be had at East Coast ski resorts. The best ski resorts in Vermont, ski resorts in Maine or ski areas in New Hampshire are snow sure and offer great skiing. Moreover, many of the best places to ski on the East Coast are within a few hours drive of major metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. After all the best ski resorts in Eastern US are the ones that you can actually access quickly and easily even for a weekend on the slopes.
Best Resorts in Maine
So close to the Canadian border, you would expect ski resorts in Maine to have excellent facilities and to be snow-sure. And, your expectations will be met. So, what are the best resorts in Maine?
The resort of Sunday River in Southern Maine is known for its reliable skiing. With nearly 750 skiable acres, this ski resort in Maine has 8 peaks, 131 trails and 18 lifts geared for all abilities of skier and snowboarder. Sugarloaf ski resort in Maine is further north and has even more skiable terrain – a whopping 1150+ acres.
You get some of the best American ski resorts in the Northeast.
For beginner skiers and snowboarders, Saddleback is one of the best places to ski on the East Coast with extensive terrain away from more advanced skiers. In addition, the ski and snowboard school is well-known for its low teacher-student ratio.
For weekend skiers, New Hermon Mountain is located outside of Bangor Maine. New Hermon has plenty of easy and intermediate runs set over 60 acres. More advanced skiers may not be challenged though. Also near Bangor is Shawnee Peak, the oldest ski resort in Maine, which is likewise one of the small but fun East Coast ski resorts.
Here to give you her personal experience of Sugarloaf, one of the best resorts in Maine, is fellow travel blogger, Patti Neves at Tripping Unicorn.
Sugarloaf is a ski resort located on Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. Providing some of the best skiing on the East Coast, It is the second biggest resort of Maine.
We stayed in a very friendly AirBnB, Mountain Village Farm B&B, where the owner raised ducks and prepared her own granola at home. We had also organic coffee and eggs from the farm’s own hens, blueberries pancakes and maybe the best oatmeal we ever had. There are plenty of nice cottages where you can stay in Kingfield – this area is just 18 Miles away from the Sugar Loaf resort. I highly recommend that place for a romantic get away and families.
The resort itself is really cool, there were amazing amounts of snow, and the quality of the snow was good. The resort has 34 green trails, 44 blue, 39 black diamond and 21 double diamond.
Is it good enough for beginners but also perfect to high level skiers. I would certainly bring kids there. The Sugarloaf season runs from mid-November through early May.
The night life was nearly no-existent in mid-March, so I do not recommend the place for party animals. It is, however, one of the best ski resorts on the East Coast for families with kids.
– Patti Neves at Tripping Unicorn
Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the ski resorts in Maine (image credit: Patti Neves)
Best Ski Resorts in New York
Some of the best places to ski on the East Coast are in New York thanks to the state having both the Adirondack as well as the Catskill Mountains.
Fun fact! New York state has 43 ski areas of which 10 are ski resorts.
The location for the downhill skiing events for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, Whiteface Mountain is one of the best ski resorts on the East Coast. Whiteface has 86 trails and 280+ acres of terrain and as snow sure as East Coast ski resorts get. Gore Mountain is also located in the Adirondacks and one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast.
Greek Peak is also in central New York and is well known for being one of the best family ski resorts on the East Coast. With 38 trails over 220 skiable acres, 6 lifts and 3 terrain parks, Greek Peak has a good spread of choices for skiers of every level.
The best ski resorts near NYC are located in the Catskills. Spread across three mountains, Hunter Mountain is a resort a couple of hours north of New York City. Families will love the snowtubing park at Hunter Mountain which is the largest on the East Coast. Windham Mountain is another one of the best ski resorts near NYC with 54 trails set over 285 acres.
An hour from Buffalo and Niagara Falls and about three hours from Cleveland, Ellicotville has two of the best ski resorts in NY: Holiday Valley and North America’s largest private ski area HoliMont. During the week, non-members can ski at Holimont.
Here to give you her personal experience of Ellicottville, one of the best resorts in New York with some of the best snowboarding on the East Coast, is fellow travel blogger, Corinne McDermott at Have Baby Will Travel.
Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY
We are very busy most winters with a minor hockey schedule, but when your husband’s from out west you find a way to sneak in a little ski or snowboard time. Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York, really surprised us. Seeing as three out of four of us are absolute beginners, Holiday Valley was the perfect place to learn how to snowboard as a family
and they even have a practice chair lift to try out before going on the real deal.
Holiday Valley offers group lessons for kids as young as four, but even three-year-olds can learn how to snowboard via private lessons in the Burton Riglet Park. The resort is very manageable size-wise for adult beginners who still need to parent, and there are a number of ski in/ski out chalets available for rent.
We stayed in town at the Wingate, about a five-minute drive from Holiday Valley. It was a great place to warm up and crash at the end of the day, with lots of family-friendly dining options within easy walking distance, even after snowboarding all day!
-Corinne McDermott at Have Baby Will Travel
Snowboarding at Holiday Village, one of the best ski resorts in NY
(Image credit: Have Baby Will Travel)
Ski Resorts in New Hampshire
With 34 extensive ski areas, ski resorts in New Hampshire are geared towards both downhill skiing and/or cross country skiing. The White Mountains of New Hampshire provide some of the best ski resorts in New England. There are 20+ ski areas in New Hampshire. If you have a mixed ability group as well as those wholike both types of ski areas, New Hampshire is a good option for you.
Ski resorts in New Hampshire cater for cross country skiers as well as downhill skiers.
With one of the largest ski areas in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods has 97 trails over 360+ acre area, 10 lifts and 3 terrain parks. With 100km of trails, Bretton Woods is one of the best ski resorts on East Coast for cross country skiing.
Located just two hours away, with two mountains over 370 acres, 61 trails and and six terrain parks, Loon Mountain is one of the best ski resorts near Boston. Loon Mountain also has miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
Mount Sunapee, another one of the best ski resorts near Boston, is located just 100 miles from the city and is the most southern of the ski resorts in New Hampshire. It is considered one of the best ski resorts in New England for both adults and children learning to ski.
Here are two fellow travel bloggers give you their thoughts of what to expect when you ski New Hampshire – at two of the best ski resorts in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods and Loon Mountain.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods Ski Resort is located in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire and is New Hampshire’s largest ski area with over 464 acres of skiing for all experience levels. Bretton Woods is our favorite ski area in New Hampshire, with its award-winning grooming and beautiful trails. The epic view of Mount Washington while skiing is amazing.
This very family friendly resort has something for the whole family with excellent day programs for the kids as well as activities for the non-skiers in the family. Bretton Woods offers gorgeous Nordic skiing, indoor rock climbing, and many more activities. If you just want to relax and enjoy the scenery, Bretton Woods has an great bar and restaurant. Skiers also get to enjoy food on trail, with an excellent mountain top restaurant on candy store on trail for those with a sweet tooth.
For the perfect ski getaway experience, stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This historic resort is breath taking to see and is icon of New Hampshire. The food, services and extras at the Omni are the best in New Hampshire.
– Cathy Merrifield at Roar Loud
The Mount Washington Hotel is a historic landmark in Bretton Woods, one of the best ski resorts New Hampshire (image credit: Roar Loud)
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
I grew up skiing in California and Utah. I can’t say that the snow in New England is as good– smaller in quantity, colder and more likely to have ice– but there are still some fabulous places to slide down a mountain.
For our family, the state of choice is New Hampshire
and the mountain of choice is Loon Mountain. It is set in the perfect family ski town of Lincoln. Nearby are trails for snow shoeing, cross country skiing, indoor water parks, even Santa’s Village.
Loon itself has trails for all skill levels, even a snowboarding park and a snow tubing mountain. There is also a wonderful program for handicap skiers. Child care and ski lessons are available for even the youngest.
See you there on the slopes this winter!
– Jamie Italiane Decubellis at The Daily Adventures of Me
Lincoln Woods Supsension Bridge at Loon Mountain ski New Hampshire (image credit: Jame Italiane Decubellis)
Best Ski Resorts in Pennsylvania
The Pocono mountains provide the backdrop for the best ski resorts in Pennsylvania. Among the ski resorts in the Pocono mountains is Tanglewood ski area, Big Boulder ski area and Camelback Resort.
Blue Mountain ski resort is one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast located a mere 90 miles from Philadelphia to approximately 110 miles from New York City. It’s got good facilities for beginners and intermediates but more advanced skiers may not find Blue Mountain challenging enough.
A more advanced ski resort for families is Whitetail Resort. We have skiied ourselves from Whitetail Resort when we were visiting the Washington D.C. area. My children absolutely loved the ski school. Set over 120 acres, Whitetail has 23 runs ranging from beginners to advanced and great for a weekend of skiing.
Camelback Mountain is often regarded as one of the best ski resorts in Pennsylvania, not only for itself but also because it is one of the best ski resorts near NYC. In addition to skiing, Camelback has some of the best snowboarding on the east coast as well as the largest snowtube park in the USA.
I am partial to Camelback Mountain as one of the best ski resorts in PA because my brother has a weekend house nearby. Here to give a unbiased view of Camelback Mountain is fellow travel blogger, Marianne Rogerson.
Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania
Camelback Mountain Resort in the Pocono Mountains is just a 2-hour drive from New York City. Although small, Camelback has a good choice of ski slopes with 37 trails ranging from green to double diamong and 10 chair lifts. There is a fun ski school for the kids, with magic carpet lifts on the nursery slopes. Thanks to more than 1200 snowmaking guns, you are guaranteed snow at Camelback.
For more fun in the snow, Camelback also boasts the biggest snow tubing park in the United States! It has 42 snowtubing lanes and is a lot of fun!
As it is so close to the city, Camelback can be visited as a day trip from New York City. We chose to spend three nights at the Camelback Resort, which is super family friendly, with large suites available as 1, 2 and 3-bedroom options.
There’s loads of fun to be had here away from the ski slopes, with an onsite indoor water park with a wave pool and selection of water slides, a games arcade and an indoor ropes course. It has a choice of restaurants, including the ski-in, ski out Trails End, which is perfect for a hot chocolate (or something stronger) at the end of a hard day skiing.
– Marianne Rogerson at Mum on the Move
Tubing at Camelback Mountain, one of the best ski resorts in PA (image credit: Marianne Rogerson)
Best Ski Resorts Vermont
The best ski resorts in Vermont are among the best ski resorts East Coast thanks to its 20 alpine and 30 cross country ski resorts set on the state’s Green Mountains.
Among Vermont’s best ski resorts are such well-known names as Mount Snow, Stratton, Killington, Smuggler’s Notch, Stowe and Sugarbush.
Mount Snow is one of the best ski resorts near Boston. With approximately 590 acres, 20 lifts and 86 runs suitable for all abilities. Stratton is one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast. Set on almost 670 acres with 99 runs, 11 lifts and 4 terrain parks, unlike many other family resorts, there is a good spread for all abilities.
Here are five fellow travel bloggers to give you their their opinion of the best Vermont ski resorts.
As someone who was born and raised in New Jersey by a family who loved to ski, I’ve been lucky to experience my fair share of the east coast mountains in its best and worst conditions. There is one that will always be my favorite for various reasons and that is Killington, Vermont. A ski town that is perfect for the advancing skier/snowboarder. The summit lies at 4,241’ with a 3050’ vertical drop and on a heavy winter season can provide up to 212 trails. You can easily spend the entire day on the mountain and not explore all its trails, opposed to some of the smaller resorts surrounding it.
There is a culture in Killington that is easy to fall in love with. The trek is well worth it, expect to see familiar faces each weekend from the surrounding states. Apres is not to be missed in the main lodge and is often carried out into town.
Surprisingly, music is well respected with live bands filling up the resort and local bars almost every night. When you drive down the main strip you have an abundance of mom an pop restaurants, lodging, and bars to take advantage of. They managed to make a popular resort town feel local and homie.
Our favorite place to stay is the Highline Lodge for homie cabin vibes and outstanding food.
– Cydny Voicechovski at Goal Traveler
Killington, one of the best ski resorts in Vermont (image credit: Cydny Voicechovski)
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Stratton ski resort in Vermont is known as the birthplace of snowboarding and is a well-designed, family friendly ski resort about 3.5 hours’ drive north of New York City.
There are some high-end lodgings available on the mountain, although rooms book up well in advance during the holiday season. An alternative is to stay in a nearby town such as Bennington which is under an hour’s drive to the resort with more friendly prices for accommodation and meal options.
The quality of snow at Stratton is excellent. Great consistent coverage and while there is no deep powder to speak of there are rarely any icy patches. The runs can all be accessed from the summit of Mount Stratton. Run range from double black diamond to green so it has terrain suitable to all levels including long wide runs allowing you to test your speed.
Families are well catered for with a fully licensed child care facility for toddlers and well-credentialed and long-established ski and snowboard school for older kids and adults.
For non-skiers, there is yoga, an indoor fitness centre with heated pool, or get a tour of the mountain aboard a snow mobile.
– Warren Dobe at Sling Adventures
One of Vermont best ski resorts Stratton Mountain (Image credit: Warren Dobe)
Stratton Mount Resort is located in Stratton, Vermont. It is the largest mountain in Southern Vermont at 3875 feet. Stratton Resort has a very European ski village look and feel with cute shops, cafes, and restaurants.
We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge which is walking distance from the slopes with a free shuttle that arrives every few minutes. We are very budget conscious and found it to be an excellent value for the money.
Our trip to Stratton came very late in the season and the weather was warm and rainy, yet the snow conditions were still good. With an average snow fall of over 160 inches of snow, good conditions extend into to late Spring.
Stratton has a good balance of skiing over their 670 acres of skiable terrain, with trails for every level of experience and type of skier. There are cruising trails as long as 3 miles, and over 160 acres of glades. The mix of trails is 41% novice, 31% intermediate, 17% advanced, and 11% expert.
For the non-skiers in the group, there is tons to enjoy. Stratton is very family friendly and offers lots of shopping and non-ski activities. We recommend trying fat tire biking!
– Frank Parrot at Roar Loud
Stratton Ski Resort, one of the best ski resorts in the east (Image credit: Frank Parrott)
Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, Vermont is the most impressive ski area we have ever visited. I couldn’t help but say wow when we entered the resort. The village has the largest amount of activities for the whole family, with shopping, dining, an outdoor ice skating center, indoor rock climbing, and an amazing day-care program for kids. For the more adventurous, try zip lining or the tree top adventure tours.
We stayed at near-by at the picturesque Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa that has a free shuttle bus to the resort. The whole area is cute and fun. You can’t go wrong with any place in Stowe.
Stowe sits on Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield (4395 feet). With amazing enclosed gondolas, it is the best ride up a mountain in New England. Getting down is even more fun. Stowe gets over 300 inches of snow every year that contribute to deep snow depths, along with their extensive snow making. Stowe has consistent reliable conditions on 40 miles of skiing for all levels of experience (Beginner 16%, Intermediate 55%, Expert 29%).
– Frank Parrott of Nothing But New England
One of the best Vermont ski resorts, Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont (image credit: Frank Parrott)
Jay Peak Vermont
With the largest natural snowfall in northeastern United States, Jay Peak in northern Vermont offers excellent conditions for beginners to expert skiers and snow boarders. With 79 trails, 9 lifts and the only Tram in Vermont, the skill hill uses advanced snowmaking techniques to supplement their already incredible amount of natural snow to offer amazing runs, including some amazing glades.
Over the past decade the ski hill has invested millions to turn the remote ski haven paradise into a world class resort. Open year-round, the resort offers something for everyone, including non-skiers, including cross country (Nordic) skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking and skating at their NHL-sized ice rink ‘Ice Haus’.
At Clips & Reels you can catch a movie the kids will enjoy while having an après ski drink or check out the virtual reality games in the arcade. There is also a climbing wall for those looking for adventure in a safe environment. Note: It’s best to book climbing in advance because it books up fast.
The 85-degree Pump House water park includes a 50,000 square-foot glass-enclosed water park with water slides and a retractable roof. This tropical paradise is also great for après ski with the kids. If your feeling adventurous try ‘La Chute’. Standing upright you wait for a countdown before the floor falls from beneath your feet and you fall 45 miles an hour through a chute… hence the name. Or if you are a little less adventurous enjoy a float along the lazy river or enjoy a drink at the bar overlooking the water playground.
There is a wide variety of options for accommodations including ski-in ski-out condos and a full-service hotel with 173-rooms, conference center and three restaurants. Having stayed at both a slope side condo and the hotel which is close to the lifts, we found the resort shuttle a great way to get around. If you do stay at the hotel, take advantage of the free valet parking. With numerous restaurants, bars, grocery store and more, you will find everything you need onsite. An added bonus for Canadiens is that they accept Canadian currency
– Peige McEachran at A Piece of Pie
Jay Peak and the stunning White Mountains of Vermont, one of the best resorts in the Northeast
Best Ski Resorts in West Virginia
You wouldn’t think that one of the best ski resorts in the east would be as far south as West Ve=t Virginia. Among the best ski resorts in West Virginia are Canaan Valley Resort, Snowshoe Mountain, Timberline Four and Winterplace Ski Resort.
Canaan Valley Resort is located on the highest peak east of the Rocky mountains. Set over 75 acres, Canaan Valley is compact but has 47 trails accommodating all abilities and 1 terrain park. Snowshoe Mountain is a larger resort yet equally suited for all abilities. Snowshoe is set over 250+ acres with 60 runs, 14 lifts (including 4 high speed ones) and 5 terrain parks.
Here to give her opinion of Snowshoe Mountain Ski resort is fellow travel blogger, Tanya Prater.
Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort
Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort provides outdoor recreation year-round, but this property located on Cheat Mountain in the Alleghenies of West Virginia is best known for their winter offerings. Less than five hours from Washington D.C., this ski resort provides fun for the entire family, on and off the slopes.
Outdoors, you’ll find 250 acres that encompass 15 lifts and 60 trails with four terrain parks and a Coca Cola tubing park, guided snowmobile tours and Polaris RZR Tours for an off-road adventure.
When you need to warm up, you’ll find restaurants, shopping, a spa, teen center, 15,000 square foot playground for children that offers bounce houses, slides and an arcade, a heated Snowcat tours offered at Snowshoe Village which is located at the summit of the mountain rather than the base.
-Tanya Prater at Travel Inspired Living
Snowshoe mountain, one of the best ski resorts in West Virginia (image credit: Travel Loving Family)
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A guide to the best ski resorts on the East Coast of the USA
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To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the super rich are different from you and me — they keep camels in the conservatory and have playhouses for their children that are bigger than the average American home.
There really were live camels kept at the Doris Duke house, Rough Point in Newport Rhode Island. Born as the only child of a tobacco tycoon in 1912, Doris Duke was designated as ‘the richest little girl in the world’ by the press. .Likewise, the Vanderbilt family were the richest family in the USA in the late 19th century. Visiting their Newport mansion on a guided Breakers tour really just highlights what a rarefied world the Vanderbilt lived in.
Being a millionaire in an era when the world was not full of billionaires meant Doris Duke and the Vanderbilts had the freedom to do exactly as they pleased. And, they certainly did.
The main summer cottage of the Vanderbilts, The Breakers
The Mansions of Newport
Taking Gilded Age Newport mansion tours is an obligatory experience when visiting this Rhode Island town. The American elite at the turn of the 20th Century flocked to Newport for their summer holidays. The mansions are just so surreal in their obvious display of wealth, magnificence and occasional lapse of good taste.
There are several Newport mansion tours each with their own take on this historic slice of American social history. With children in tow though, we had to limit our choices down to two Newport mansion. So we visited one Vanderbilt house (the Breakers tour) and Doris Duke’s mansion in Newport.
Rough Point Newport Rhode Island
Rought Point in Newport Rhode Island was built by a member of the Vanderbilt family (Frederick). If you think a lot of Newport mansions were Vanderbilt cast-offs, it is probably because they were a large family. For example, Frederick was one of 8 siblings and his older brother built The Breakers. When Frederick tired of Rough Point, he sold it to a tin mine mogul who sold it eventually to the Dukes.
Doris Duke was an eccentric heiress who left her treasures to be exhibited at Rough Point, her Newport mansion
The Breakers Tour
Among the most popular of the Newport Mansion tours, we also visited The Breakers. The grandest of these summer cottages, the Breakers Vanderbilt house seems to be one of the obligatory mansions that everyone visits. One of America’s great industrialist families, the Vanderbilt were not only huge in numbers but also rulers of American high society.
Fun Fact! 450,000 people visit the Breakers every year!
This Cornelius Vanderbilt house was constructed in 1893 at a cost of more than $300 million in today’s money. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the house is a cold marble mausoleum which is the furthest thing I can think of from today’s idea of a summer home.
The Breakers even comes with its own (relatively) apint-sized replica which served as a playhouse for the Vanderbilt kids.
Fun Fact! The playhouse is actually about 2400 s.f. which is about the size of the average American home! Needless to say, my kids were super-impressed.
The Vanderbilt children’s playhouse was itself 2000 s.f. in size! That’s the size of many family homes!
Poor Little Rich Girl
On the Breakers Tour, my daughter was fascinated with the room in which Consuelo Vanderbilt was locked until she agreed to marry the future Duke of Marlborough in 1895. Consuelo’s mother, Alva Vanderbilt, took no prisoners in securing the family’s social position.
The imposing Breakers = gilded cage for the Gilded Age?
Consuela Vanderbilt was locked in her bedroom by her mother until she agreed to marry the future 9th Duke of Marlborough. It’s a safe bet that Mama Vanderbilt was as cold as the marble that encased the Breakers Vanderbilt home. Consuelo wrote her sad story down in her 1950’s autobiography, The Glitter and The Gold.
Consuela’s sister-in-law was another American heiress, Jennie Jerome, who became the mother of Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain during World War II. Until Consuelo produced an heir and a spare, Jennie’s sons would have been heir to the dukedom and you can bet Alva was not best pleased.
Fun Fact! Descendants of the original Vanderbilts still summer at the house on the 3rd floor which remains private.
The Vanderbilt children’s playhouse was itself 2000 s.f. in size! That’s the size of many family homes!
Doris Duke Newport RI
Conventional wisdom say money doesn’t make you happy and the politically correct response is to agree with this sentiment. On the other hand, money gives you plenty of leeway to be as eccentric as you want.
Another Poor Little Rich Girl
Doris was 12 when she inherited Rough Point (and $80 million) upon the death of her father in 1925. The family money had come from tobacco plantations which her grandfather had scooped up during the chaos that ended the American Civil War. The Dukes lived large but were also generous with charitable donations. The family gave a sizeable donation to a little college in North Carolina which renamed itself Duke University, still one of the foremost universities in the United States today.
The public though were fascinated with the scandals that Doris created. She was married three times but also had a child out of wedlock who unfortunately died. She travelled the world, met with mystics and witch doctors, and fell under the thrall of her butler.
Doris notoriously ran her car over her interior designer of Rough Point and killed him. Perhaps he disagreed with her flamboyant choice of mother-of-pearl, purple and yellow for the master bedroom suite? Although the police deemed it an accident, she reached a financial settlement with his family in court. The rumour millsreported that she had been drunk.
The Suspicious Butler
Doris died in 1993 from complications from a facelift she had. She was choking on breakfast and the butler refused to call an ambulance. Doris left the butler control over her entire fortune (approximately $1.2 billion) which lead to a court case. The butler lost the rights to her fortune but the court couldn’t find evidence Doris was murdered.
You Can’t Take It With You
Rough Point was opened to the public in 2000 as a museum upon Doris’ death.
Much of the rest of Doris Duke’s money went to her relative, a heroin addict, who had twin children he treated like slaves and locked in a basement. Thank goodness there is plenty of money still left for good therapy for those children.
Rough Point Mansion
Rough Point was built in the style of an English country house in the late 19th century and named after a promontory on the cliffs it overlooked. When the Dukes purchased the house, they enlarged the outside and modified the interior. Rough Point has 115 rooms so there are plenty of spare bedrooms.
Rough Point, built to resemble an English Manor house, has 115 rooms.
Doris Duke Mansion Tour
The Doris Duke mansion tour itself was a great experience because they are lead by tour guides. Our guide was great with our children (keeping them engaged with look and find questions). There’s plenty of details for the kids to search for. She was also a knowledgeable source of information for the adults.
Doris was a shrewd businesswoman and managed to increase massively the inheritance her father left her. She used some of that money acquiring fabulous art and antiques for the home, much of which is still available to view now at the Doris Duke house in Newport Among the many treasures are paintings by Renoir, van Dyck and Gainsborough, Belgian tapestries and Chinese porcelain.
It seems that Americans have long been fascinated with importing crumbling European architecture to the USA.
The grand staircase was imported in whole from an English manor house and installed at Rough Point. The stained glass depicts the coats of arms of the signers of the Magna Carta. Likewise, the wood panelled rooms had the panelling imported from an English manor house which was being stripped. One such room is the Great Hall which is effectively used as an art gallery.
The conservatory was supposed to have been Doris’ favourite room. The conservatory has fabulous views over Doris Duke estate to the Atlantic Ocean.
The gardens were laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead, the renowned landscape architect famous for designing Central Park in New York City.
The gardens at Rough Point were laid out by Olmstead the same architect who designed Central Park in New York City.
Doris Duke and her Camels
So, why were there camels at the Doris Duke house in Newport?
Doris purchased planes from Adnan Kashoggi (Saudi Arabian business man and international arms dealer) and insisted 2 camels be thrown in as well. She got the planes but not the camels.
What’s an eccentric heiress to do? She went and bought her own 2 camels and billed Kashoggi for their cost.
The camels travelled in a horse trailer up from her New Jersey mansion to summer in Doris Duke’s Newport mansion.
Doris Duke kept her camels, named Baby and Princess, sheltered in the conservatory of Rough Point during a hurricane in 1991. The rest of the time they had their own sheltered tent just outside the conservatory. A little window in the room (a “camel port”) let people feed them treats.
Fun Fact! The camels were infamous for chasing the security guards around the grounds for the occasional bite.
Camel topiaries in honour of Doris Duke’s beloved pet camels.
The camel topiaries no doubt keep the spirit of Princess and Baby at the house (and the security guards on their toes).
Visiting Rough Point Mansion and The Breakers
Rough Point on the famous Bellevue Avenue is definitely worth seeing. It provides a counterpoint to The Breakers Vanderbilt extravaganza. The Vanderbilts may not have liked it, but there were other rich people in the USA!
Newport Mansion Tours
The Doris Duke Mansion tours are limited to 12 people at a time and are available from May to November. Mercifully, there is no gift shop you have to drag the children out of because Doris though gift shops were tacky (yay!).
The Breakers is open daily from May to March annually except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. For the summer of 2018, a Welcome Center was opened at The Breakers. In addition to the main house tour, you can sign up for a Beneath the Breakers Tour which explores the life of the servants who kept this grand mansion humming.
Newport Mansion Tours Through Viator
Where To Stay in Newport RI
The hotel where we stayed, the Grace Vanderbilt , was also another Vanderbilt mansion the family discarded. After all, no visit to Newport would be complete without some tangential Vanderbilt connection.
Check out the excellent reviews for the Grace Vanderbilt on TripAdvisor!
For the latest rates for the Grace Vanderbilt, here are a selection of travel booking sites:
Tips for A Family Taking Newport Mansion Tours
Newport Rhode Island is known for its Gilded Age summer cottages. There are several ways though to make a Newport mansion tour fun for kids.
Limit Your Newport Mansion Tours
There are so many Newport mansion tours and you should choose just a couple of mansions. The mansions themselves are massive with lots of art and objects d’art and so not the easiest of topics to engage children.
We stuck with just two Newport mansion Tours:
- First, The Breakers because it seemed an obligatory Newport mansion tour and it had the ginormous children’s playhouse.
- We also went to the Doris-Duke house because it was a non-Vanderbilt mansion and we thought the kids would like the camels connection.
Take the Newport Trolley
Take the Newport Trolley to Bellevue Avenue because that is very cute and the kids will like it. It’s easy to walk between the Breakers and the Doris Duke house.
Explore the Cliff Walk and the Landscaped Lawns
We took part of the Cliff Walk in between our mansion visits. Clambering around on rocks was fun and also expended some extra energy. You can get on the Cliff Walk by Bellevue Avenue and it is basically between the mansions and the ocean. For extra fun, there is a little bridge over the water where the Cliff Walk meets the Doris Duke estate.
Bonus: Lots of lawn space in front of the Newport mansions for the kids to have a run.
Tips for making a visit to the Newport Mansions fun for the whole family.
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In recent years, Martha’s Vineyard has become associated with presidential vacations, multi-million dollar homes and a short-lived reality television show featuring beautiful rich blonde kids. Co-existing with all these things, the Vineyard I know and love is a less-flashy and more laid-back place. Even if the people you meet are trustafarians, you wouldn’t know it from their lived-in shorts and dust-covered cars. For a quick blast to the hippie past, the Orange Peel Bakery’s potluck pizza night invokes the hippie spirit of Martha’s Vineyard.
The Orange Peel Bakery still uses the honour system for payment.
Martha’s Vineyard and the Hippie Years
In the 1960’s, the hippies washed ashore onto Martha’s Vineyard much to the early distrust of the local islanders. At least the Vineyarders were more welcoming than the people of Nantucket though who had a strict policy of sending hippies back to the mainland.
In 1969, Martha’s Vineyard came on to the national consciousness briefly when a young (and married) Senator Ted Kennedy had his car accident on Chappaquidick which killed both his female friend and his chances at the US presidency. Luckily, the scandal referred to Chappaquidick by name. Many people do not associate Chappaquidick with Chappy, the local’s name for the occasional-island that is across the harbour from Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard.
The hippies of Martha’s Vineyard bobbed along in the 1960’s and 70’s stream happy in their own drug-filled haze and music. Some of the young people had grown up summering on the Vineyard, while others were on-island more by luck than judgment. For example, one name you hear often is that of Peter Simon, a photographer who still lives on the island. Peter is the little brother of Carly Simon and son of the man who founded Simon & Schuster publishing house. He grew up spending his summers in the Vineyard. In any event, they all got into feeling groovy on Martha’s Vineyard. Like all youth movements though, the hippies grew up. They eventually got jobs, got married and had kids.
The liberal free-spirit of the hippies is still alive and well in Martha’s Vineyard even in these days when hipsters have replaced hippies. A part of Moshup Beach near Aquinnah is still unofficially clothes-optional. Many people don’t lock their homes and cars. You see lots of farm stands, flower stands, etc by the side of the road which are run on an honour box payment system.
What do I love about the Vineyard? It’s not a ‘scene’ like the Hamptons. There is next-to-no nightlife in the Vineyard. Even the island’s most happening nightlife at Oak Bluffs is pretty lame compared to other places off-island. The real action happens at dinner parties in people’s homes.
Sure, there are the famous and wealthy people sprinkled around the island. They get to blend in because there are so many of them around. Bill Clinton was famous for playing the saxophone at the bar at Lola’s in Oak Bluffs. We stood in line behind the Obama kids at an ice-cream store. When their secret service agents asked if they could jump the queue with their charges, they were politely refused. They were forced to stand in front of me and the 6 over-excited-about-ice-cream-and-oblivious-to-anything-else children I had with me. I can tell you the noise levels were pretty high. Bwahaha.
The handyman who comes to help repair our screened porch regularly (because the kids kick the screen every single time they open the door) is an ex-hippie who still wears tie-dye and cut-off shorts (unironically). He’s happy to regale us with (occasionally cringe-worthy) tales of the island’s free-wheeling past. Nice guy, but I’m pretty sure a chunk of his brain was baked years ago.
Pizza Nights at the Orange Peel Bakery
I was reminded of this spirit of communal living when we went to have dinner at the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah. The owner, Julie Vanderhoop, is a member of the Native American tribe that were established in Martha’s Vineyard long before European settlers came to the island.
My friend’s little boy was desperate to go into the Native American teepee in the back yard but that was off-limits.
Although the main bakery is in Aquinnah by the cliffs, we went to the very popular, bring your own topping pizza nights run by the Orange Peel Bakery on State Road.
A mailbox is the first sign that you have found the place.
When you pull up to the address on State Road, you think you are entering someone’s house party. In front of an ordinary Vineyard house, people in deck chairs are sprawled across the lawn, children are running about and music tinkles over the scene. The actual pizza making process is organised on the side of the house next to the giant stone oven. The oven is lined on the inside with French clay and the outside with local Aquinnah stones.
People are sprawled over the lawn eating, drinking and conversing while the music plays.
Pick yourself up a pizza crust with sauce and cheese and then head on over to the toppings table. Put on your own toppings or help yourself to someone else’s toppings. Then you hand the pizza over to the person operating the very hot stone oven. Soon you will be rewarded with piping hot pizza of your own creation. The person slicing the pizza will give you half the pizza, and the the other half of the pizza will be donated to anyone else who wants it. You can repeat the process as often as you want (or until the dough runs out!).
The rules are simple. You bring whatever pizza toppings you want. Everyone’s pizza toppings are shared. Bring chairs if you want or a picnic blanket. It’s a good idea to bring drinks as well. Hang out, eat pizza and talk to your neighbours. Lots of people come straight from the beach.
Our children loved making their own pizza. They also tried pizza combinations they would not have otherwise tried because the toppings were there. One unexpected delightful combination was a s’mores pizza – pizza base (no cheese or tomato sauce!) with marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and brown sugar.
My daughter was very pleased with her pizza creation.
Pizza nights are run on Wednesday and Friday nights this summer at 22 State Road and cost $15 per adult and $10 for children. The money is put into an honour jar. Check online with the Orange Peel Bakery because the days may change. We are being less Type A, remember?
My daughter tucking into a dessert pizza – S’mores pizza is made of a pizza base with marshmallows and hershey chocolate.
A Photo Gallery of Potluck Pizza Night
A sign indicates pizza night is happening! People park on the side of the road.
The seashell-strewn drive looks like many other homes on the island.
A band plays folk music
The bakery is known for it’s freshly baked goods.
A pizza base ready to be bedazzled with toppings.
Pizza toppings range from the gourmet (arugula, prosciutto etc) to the child-friendly (marshmallows, hershey bars etc)
After pizza, our kids played in the back yard of the house.
Sunsets on Martha’s Vineyard
After pizza, you should try and catch the sunset in either Aquinnah or in Menemsha. Aquinnah cliffs are a bit further up the road, and Lobsterville Beach is the next turning after the Potluck Pizza at 22 State Road. If you go back down-island a bit, you will come to Menemsha beach.
Today’s sunset is brought to you by the colour pink.
It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day on Martha’s Vineyard. Bonus: If the kids aren’t tired before, a bit of running around on the beach before dark will definitely get them there.
The picturesque Edgartown Lighthouse stands in the harbour to the pretty whaling town of Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard, an island located off the coast of Massachusetts. Across from the lighthouse, you can see the sometimes-island of Chappaquiddick (known locally as Chappy). On occasion when the Atlantic Ocean feels benevolent, a sandbar connects Chappy to Edgartown embracing Katama Bay in a gentle hug of expensive waterfront homes. Like a lot of historic lighthouses, the Edgartown Lighthouse fell into disrepair over the years. Today it stands proudly again and around its base, a children’s memorial pays tribute to children whose lives have been cut tragically short.
The Edgartown Lighthouse in the harbour of Katama Bay. Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Edgartown Lighthouse
The Edgartown Lighthouse peninsula is located on a small sandy beach which is an easy walk from Edgartown itself. Scrub, beach plum bushes and seashells speckle the beach as the sand winds down to the shore.
Although Martha’s Vineyard has prettier beaches, we often walk to Edgartown Lighthouse on non-beach weather days. Between watching the boats come in and out of the harbour and skimming stones in the water, this beach is perfect to while away a few hours with restless children.
The path leading down to The Edgartown Lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach
Photo Credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
Clambering over the rocks is always fun.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Children’s Memorial
Maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the base of the Edgartown Lighthouse serves as a children’s memorial for children of residents (both seasonal and permanent) who have passed away.
Each child’s name is carved into a granite stone placed parallel to the shoreline. A lighthouse serves as a beacon to safe harbour. The hope is that our lost children have found safe harbour wherever they are.
A plaque contains lines of a poem written at a memorial service for the first child whose name is engraved at the Lighthouse – Ricky Harrington who died in a car crash at just 16 years old in 1996. His grief-stricken father spearheaded the effort to create a children’s memorial at the Edgartown Lighthouse.
Of the several hundred memorial stones at the base of the Edgartown Lighthouse, the one stone we seek out every summer contains the name of our youngest son. Having died at the age of 5 weeks, he did not live long enough to experience the glorious freedom of a Vineyard summer.
My daughter placing wildflowers on our son’s memorial stone.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
I know, however, he would have loved his summers in the Vineyard as much as his older brother and sister do.
If I close my eyes, I can see him skipping along Lighthouse beach. It’s pretty easy to do since he looked exactly like my older son – my dark hair and eyes, his father’s stubborn chin and a milky Earl Grey tea skin colour that is a blend of both of us.
I don’t picture it very often – that way lies madness.
My twins when they were 2 years old could spend hours on the beach at Martha’s Vineyard.
My children have been spending the summer in Martha’s Vineyard since they were two years old. The Edgartown Lighthouse has become an indelible part of their childhood memories.
We have lived and travelled in so many places around the world. Martha’s Vineyard, however, anchors our family and the Edgartown Lighthouse is our beacon guiding us home. After all, home is where the heart is.
A game of catch on Lighthouse Beach.
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
The Photo Shoot
When I learned that I had won a Flytographer photo shoot after donating to Passports with a Purpose earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do the family photo shoot in Martha’s Vineyard. We chose the Edgartown Lighthouse in order to honour the memory of our missing family member.
A walk along the path to the Edgartown Lighthouse
Photo credit: Eli in Martha’s Vineyard for Flytographer
Passports with a Purpose is an organisation that runs an annual fundraiser where travel bloggers and organisations unite to donate prizes. The public donates money which earns them a chance to win one of the prizes. The prizes tend to be very cool – they range from stays at assorted hotels to travel gear, for example.
[NB: Passports with a Purpose is no longer running].
With the money donated, PwP funds a different project every year, for example, in 2015, they raised $20,000 to buy e-readers for libraries in Kenya and in 2013, they raised over $80,000 to build 2 schools in Mali. I’ve donated for several years now but this year was the first time I won anything.
Flytographer coordinates getting people a professional photoshoot in locations around the world. With over 180 locations, chances are that they work with a professional photographer somewhere you are going to vacation. I know people who have had photoshoots with them in London and Paris.
Usually I am the person taking photos which means I’m not in them. I confess that I am the photography geek in our family so I wouldn’t be happy with anyone else taking them anyway. It was nice having a professional take the photos and know we were in good hands. And, our Christmas card photos are done for this year in July! Hurrah! I am feeling so super-organised.
The photoshoot at the Lighthouse with Eli Dagostino for Flytographer.
Our photographer on the island was Eli Dagostino who has an office in the nearby town of Vineyard Haven. He was great with the kids and we had a fun, relaxing shoot.
I’ve never done a family photo shoot (mostly because I’m not very organised) but I am now considering having an annual family photo. As we all know, kids grow up too fast and time passes too son.
The Edgartown Lighthouse in Katama Harbour.
The Edgartown Lighthouse is open on the weekends from May through October and daily during the peak tourist months of July and August.