America’s “Grandest Mansion”’ is Right Down the Block

Budget Travel Online recently named Kykuit, the six-story stone house and rolling hilltop estate that served as home to four generations of Rockefellers, as #1 on its list of “America’s 10 Grandest Mansions.” Happily, Kykuit is now a museum open to the public, and conveniently, it’s right down the road. Tours of its spectacular gardens, world-class art, and classical architecture take place daily (except Tuesdays) and begin at the Kykuit Visitor Center at Philipsburg Manor on Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow.

Kykuit’s modern and classical art collection, architecture, and expansive gardens are consistently rated the top attraction in the lower Hudson Valley and draw tens of thousands of visitors annually. Westchester Magazine includes a Kykuit visit on its “must-do” list, calling it “spectacular indoors and out.”

Kykuit, which means “lookout” in Dutch, includes a six-story stone house, multiple terraced gardens, art galleries, outdoor classical and modern sculpture, and commanding Hudson River views. Its hilltop location overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades is 500 feet above sea level.

Visitors to Kykuit learn the story of the Rockefellers, beginning with John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, whose business acumen made him the richest man in America in his day. He later became the country’s first great philanthropist. By his death in 1937, he had given away more than half his fortune through various philanthropic programs.

The site is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which uses the site as the center for its philanthropic programs. Historic Hudson Valley handles public access through its tour program, and Thom Thacker is director of the Kykuit visitation program for Historic Hudson Valley.

“We use the remarkable backdrop of the house, sculptures, gardens, and landscape to tell the story of the Rockefeller family’s commitment to philanthropy, public service, the environment, and the arts, as well as its family traditions,” he said, adding, “We go to great lengths to survey visitors after their experience, and we’re very proud of the high marks and many positive comments we receive.”

Ready to take the plunge? You’ve got four tour options to choose from: Classic, Grand, Timesaver, and Selected Highlights.

The Classic, ideal for first-time visitors, is a shorter experience than the comprehensive three-hour Grand. Besides the mansion, both of these tours include time in Kykuit’s art galleries, gardens, and Coach Barn, with its collection of horse-drawn carriages, vintage automobiles, and equestrian equipment. The 90-minute Timesaver is ideal for those on tighter schedules, while Selected Highlights maximizes time in the gardens.

Visitors can buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org in advance, choosing the exact tour, time, and date they want to visit. Ticket prices range from $23-$40 ($15-$30 for Historic Hudson Valley or National Trust members). Weekend tours in particular fill up quickly, so it’s always better to buy in advance.

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About the Author: Rob Schweitzer