Van Cortlandt Manor, Sunnyside All Aglow on December Saturdays

Visitors have a rare opportunity to experience two National Historic Landmarks bathed in romantic candlelight on Saturday evenings in December, part of Historic Hudson Valley’s seasonal celebrations.

Evening candlelight tours take place Saturday, December 12th, 19th, and 26th, at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson and Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown. Historic Hudson Valley members attend for half price. Tours are limited and admission is by timed reservations.

Away from the hustle and sensory overload of the shopping malls, these non-commercial events showcase historic traditions and decorations: the 1850s at Sunnyside and the 1800s at Van Cortlandt Manor.

At Sunnyside, candlelight tours bring an 1850s Christmas to life. Visitors are escorted down a lantern-lit path and the house is decorated with holly, evergreens, and candles. Excerpts from Irving’s Christmas tales and family letters are the evening’s theme. Visitors can also participate in caroling. Hot cider is served beside a roaring fire. Choirs, including Chrysalis and Sing We Enchanted, will perform traditional holiday songs.

At Van Cortlandt Manor, the evening begins with a tour of the decorated Manor House, which features a harpist in the formal parlor. A guide carrying a candlelit lantern then brings visitors to the site’s Ferry House, where a first-person account of “Twelfth Night,” — a raucous, post-holiday celebration with colonial roots — takes place, featuring the Lord of Misrule who leads the festivities. In the Ferry House, visitors are encouraged to dance to fiddle music. Afterwards, it’s time to toast the season with cider and cookies near the warmth of a bonfire.

Tours are offered from 4 to 8 p.m. each evening and reservations are a must. Tickets — $14 for adults, $6 for children 5-17, free for those under 5 — may be purchased online at or by calling 914-631-8200.

Historic Hudson Valley Museum Shops, including the flagship at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, are packed with gift possibilities and special Hudson Valley holiday merchandise that can’t be found at traditional retailers.

All daytime Sunnyside and Van Cortlandt Manor tours throughout December are holiday themed and the sites are fully dressed in traditional attire. Philipsburg Manor, in keeping with its heritage as a farm and commercial outpost, retains its rustic look throughout the season. All are open on weekends through December and are part of the non-profit Historic Hudson Valley network.

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About the Author: Rob Schweitzer