Last November for our anniversary, we stopped by The Vanderbilt Mansion and Planetarium for the first time. We’ve visited quite a few Vanderbilt-associated mansions and museums, but we hadn’t ventured into Long Island before to visit one of the family’s many opulent homes. It’s always so interesting to see how some of the richest families during The Gilded Age spent their time (and money), to learn the history behind their lives and to learn what happened to them.
The Vanderbilts are particularly an interesting family to look into because at one point, they were the richest family in the country (and possibly even in the world), but eventually lost all of their wealth. The excess spending of one generation in particular, allegedly wiped out the family’s income, so some of the remaining family members who do have notable wealth (Anderson Cooper being one of them) essentially built that on their own.
Enough rambling about the history of the family, however, let’s get into our experience.
The mansion is probably one of the most unique mansions I’ve visited of families who were very wealthy during The Gilded Age. The home has a courtyard, which is absolutely stunning, and overlooks a beautiful waterfront that if you stare off into the abyss and squint, you’ll see Connecticut across the water. The inside has a beautiful array of unique antiques and areas where, like other wealthy families, you could see their hobby rooms full of collected animals and items from their travels and experiences. It’s a beautiful space and I could see why the family enjoyed spending their time there.
Inside the mansion, there are a number of rooms and suites where it looks out onto the water or out to the front of the home, where there’s sprawling greenery and beautiful cobble-stoned walkways. It is surrounded by shrubbery and trees, which I’m sure was a wonderful sight to wake up to. Specifically, his bedroom had so much natural light that I can only imagine what it would be like to wake up, drinking your morning coffee in there.
The rest of the house has some rooms with some darker tones to it, which is intentional, and it’s definitely a bit moodier than other Vanderbilt homes for that reason. In fact, with the exception of the main bedroom and a couple of the other bedrooms, the house is mostly pretty dimly lit with an emphasis on darker woods and hues to bring out a warmer feeling inside of the home.
The Planetarium was pretty cool! It’s what you would expect from one, where there’s this large dome ceiling, and the seats you’re in enable you to view those things comfortably without having to strain your neck in an awkward position. You get to learn about the constellations, why they’re called what they are, and some of the most common ones you see in North America. They touched on light pollution and other topics within the space. I believe the planetarium shows change every now and then, however, so it’s possible if you go you’ll end up seeing something different. It’s definitely something we’d still recommend checking out, even if for nothing more than an opportunity to sit and see some interesting shows with information you potentially did not know already.
It’s definitely a space, clearly designed more so for children, but we still enjoyed it (like the big kids we are). At night you can view real stars in the observatory but we had to get back home because we weren’t staying the night in Long Island and definitely needed to head home to try to beat the NYC traffic that awaited us (which we did not beat).
What We Learned During Our Experience:
In addition to gaining some more insight into how the Vanderbilts lived during that time, we learned a lot about what wealthy people generally did during that time and also how the stories of the different mansions intersect. We found out that some of the rumored stories we heard about the Vanderbilts that lived in this home connected to the same story we heard about the Vanderbilts that owned a home in Newport. My memory is a little fuzzy at the moment, but I vaguely remember our tour guide saying that this house belonged to the son of the person who built The Marble House in Newport. I know you’re probably like, “duh” but the reality is that not all of these homes are from the same generations or the same immediate family. We found that out while visiting some of the DuPont mansions. That being said, it was cool to be able to hear one of the rumored stories about how The Marble House came back to me and say, “ohh, that’s his father?”
If you have not visited The Vanderbilt Mansion and Planetarium, we highly encourage you to do so. It’s a home unlike one you’ve seen before – even if like us, you’ve visited a few of The Vanderbilt mansions over the years. You may be surprised at some of the additional insight you receive into the family while there.