12 of the Most Incredible Private Homes You Can Tour Across America

A little history. A little culture. A little design inspiration.

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Take a trip back in time on these tours of historic homes throughout the country.

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Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's Virginia plantation continues to draw visitors to Charlottesville with its extensive room tour and programming spotlighting the Hemings family. Green thumbs should check out the center for historic plants and garden tasting, while architecture buffs might enjoy the Making Monticello exhibition on the home's planning and construction

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The Elms

is the first of two Rhode Island mansions on this list. Built to resemble the mid-18th-century French chateau d'Asnieres outside of Paris, the home cost more than $1 million to build and was completed in 1901. 

Visitors to the property can expect to see gorgeous landscaped grounds peppered with fountains and a window into the Gilded Age through the eyes of coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind (the house served as his family's summer retreat). You might also try taking the Servant Life tour for a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to run the house.

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The Whitney Plantation

One of the few Southern plantations to focus on the slave experience, The Whitney Plantation uses hundreds of first-person narratives to paint a picture of what life was really like for Louisiana's enslaved population. 

A guided tour of the property takes visitors through the historic Antioch Baptist Church, the slave quarters and the Big House, focusing on the lives of the men and women who lived and worked there.

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Brucemore

Once described as "the grandest house west of Chicago," the Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, offers visitors a glimpse back into early 20th-century life. Take a tour of the estate and note the collection's antique electronics, including a 1930s-era film projector and an Edison Phonograph, or wander the grounds, where you can stop in the flower shop and admire the 1910 landscape design. The site also features theatrical performances, art festivals and other community events throughout the year. 

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The Biltmore

George Vanderbilt's Asheville manse is a favorite of travelers in North Carolina. Known for its manicured gardens, a heated indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley (one of the first of its kind), the Biltmore is a prime example of late 19th-century American opulence. 

Plan your trip around the holidays to see the house decked out for Christmas, and stay at the nearby Inn on Biltmore Estate for easy access to the historic site and the nearby winery. 

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Filoli

This 1917 mansion-turned-site of the Natural Trust for Historic Preservation in Woodside, California, is known for both its 16-acre English Renaissance garden (pictured here) and property of more than 654 acres. Come for the traditional docent-guided home tour, but stay for orchard walks, nature hikes and urban beekeeping classes.

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J.P. Morgan Library

Most people know the Morgan name for its connection to the financial world, but J.P. Morgan, Jr. was also an avid art and literature collector, and his passion is made obvious by the contents of his New York City residence

He donated the home to the public in 1924, and now it serves as a museum, showcasing his extensive collections — which include works such as the Gutenberg Bible, manuscripts by Mozart, Jane Austen and George Washington and the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the United States — as well as traveling exhibits. 

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Hearst Castle

Set atop a hill overlooking the ocean, media magnate William Randolph Hearst's famous San Simeon estate — Hearst founded the company that owns magazines such as Town & Country and Miescisko — gives tourists the chance to step inside the inspiration behind Citizen Kane's Xanadu

Visitors can explore the grand rooms of the mansion and the upstairs suites, or take the evening tour, complete with docents dressed in period clothes, to see the estate come alive at night.

Earlier this summer, the Chimney Fire in California threatened the property, but so far, it has remained unharmed.

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The Mount

Edith Wharton's Lenox, Massachusetts, home is notable for its turn-of-the-century architecture, 2,700-volume library and phantom inhabitants. Check out the latter on the estate's ghost tour, a popular attraction, or opt to attend their weekly literary roundtable for a lively discussion of Wharton's literary legacy.


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The Breakers

The second Rhode Island house tour on this list is a grand one: The Vanderbilt family's summer "cottage" (possibly the understatement of the year) was designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and to say it is impressive is selling it short.

Clearly, the Vanderbilt family knew how to celebrate the holidays. Tour the Gilded Age mansion at Christmastime for live music, visits with Santa and all things decorated in silver-and-gold.

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Kykuit

Sleepy Hollow, New York, is famous for two things: Ichabod Crane, and Kykuit, the 40-room estate of John D. Rockefeller. Take a tour of the six-story stone house, then stroll through the terraced gardens, which are filled with sculptures by artists like Pablo Picasso, David Smith and Henry Moore.

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Mount Vernon

George Washington's former residence pays homage to America's foremost founding father with tours of the 21-room mansion, its beautiful gardens and a fully functioning distillery and gristmill.

Those looking to learn about this home's history of slavery should take a custom tour of the estate, while music buffs can join property's resident fifer for a musical demonstration. Dog lovers, on the other hand, might enjoy the "All the President's Pups" walking tour, which lets you and your furry friend explore the history of canine life at Mount Vernon.

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