Located in the picturesque Hudson Valley of New York, Wilderstein is a grand historic house that truly sparkles during the Christmas season. Built in 1852 for the Suckley family, this Queen Anne style mansion sits high on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. During December, Wilderstein House is elaborately decorated for Christmas in a traditional Victorian style. From the lavishly trimmed Christmas tree to the wreaths, garlands, candles, and music, the entire property transports visitors back to Christmases past.

The History of Wilderstein House

Wilderstein was built for Thomas Holy Suckley and his wife Catherine Murray Suckley in 1852. Designed in the Queen Anne architectural style by John Warren Ritch, the mansion originally consisted of 18 rooms. The Suckleys were a prominent family in New York’s Hudson Valley and used the estate mainly as a summer home. In 1888, the house was expanded significantly by Thomas and Catherine’s son Robert Bowne Suckley and his wife Elizabeth Philips Montgomery. The enlargement added another three stories and towers to the home, giving it a fairytale castle-like appearance.

The Suckley family owned and occupied Wilderstein for over 100 years until 1951 when the last resident, Daisy Suckley, gave the house and all its contents to Historic Hudson Valley, a heritage organization. Daisy was a distant cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt and helped establish his Presidential Library in Hyde Park. The organization has been caring for the estate ever since, with guided tours available May through December. Wilderstein was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

Christmas Traditions at Wilderstein

Every Christmas season, Wilderstein’s rooms are lavishly trimmed to represent an old-fashioned Victorian holiday. The Victorian era Christmas traditions we still enjoy today, like decorated trees, wreaths, caroling, and holiday feasting, all came into popularity during the mid-late 19th century when Wilderstein was built and expanded. The Christmas decorations seen today aim to replicate how the Suckleys would have celebrated the holidays during the Victorian period.

Christmas Trees

The tradition of bringing a live evergreen tree indoors and decorating it originated in 16th century Germany. It was introduced to British and American homes starting in the 1830s and became widely popular by the 1870s. At Wilderstein, an enormous Christmas tree is erected in the Drawing Room, adorned with glass ornaments, tinsel garland, candles, and a tree topper. Additional small tabletop trees decorated with ribbons and bead garland are placed throughout the first floor.

Wreaths and Greenery

Wreaths made of fresh pine, cedar, holly, and other evergreens are hung in nearly every window and above doorways at Wilderstein. Garlands are draped along fireplace mantles, stair railings, and room entryways. Kissing balls made of mistletoe are also hung in door frames to allow for a Victorian Christmas tradition of stealing kisses underneath!


Live music performances would have entertained guests during 19th century Christmas celebrations. At Wilderstein, Christmas carols are played on the house’s original 1871 Estey pump organ located in the Drawing Room. Caroling choirs also periodically perform traditional songs like “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night” to enhance the old-fashioned holiday atmosphere.


In addition to the greenery and tree, Wilderstein glitters with Victorian Christmas decor. The fireplace mantles and tabletops feature poinsettia plants, glass candle holders, porcelain figurines, feathered fans, silver bowls, and more. Stockings are hung with care, ribbons and rosettes adorn bannisters and chandeliers, table linens showcase lace and embroidery, and candles glow invitingly throughout the home.

Christmas Feast

Christmas feasting reached new heights during the Victorian era as advanced transportation allowed exotic foods from around the world to reach American and British holiday tables. Though no actual meals are served at the historic house today, Wilderstein’s Dining Room is set as if expecting a grand Christmas dinner. The table is lavishly decorated with candles in glass holders, ceramic dishes, silver cutlery, and elaborate folded napkins.

Wilderstein’s Victorian Christmas Tours

Wilderstein is open for guided tours Fridays-Sundays in December before Christmas. Knowledgeable docents take visitors through the home recounting stories of Christmas past and pointing out the symbols and meanings behind the period-appropriate decorations.

Main House Tours

The hour-long guided tour explores the ground floor rooms of Wilderstein festooned for an old-fashioned holiday. Guests walk through the grand Entry Hall, Library, Drawing Room, Parlor, and Dining Room to see the Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, vintage ornaments and decor. Docents share details about the traditions and origins behind the lavish Victorian trimmings.

Holiday Lantern Tours

On Saturday evenings in December prior to Christmas, Wilderstein offers a special Holiday Lantern Tour. Guests are given old-fashioned lanterns to carry through the candle-lit rooms of the mansion and grounds. Musicians perform classic carols to enhance the Victorian Christmas mood. Hot cider and holiday cookies are served following the lantern tour.

Yuletide Traditions of the Hudson Valley Exhibit

Located in the Carriage House adjacent to the mansion, this special exhibit showcases antique Christmas ornaments, decorations, and memorabilia owned by the Suckley family. The collection contains handmade cards, toys, tree lights, and vintage photographs depicting Christmas celebrations of the past. An 1880s sleigh and period reproduction toys and games are also on display.

Planning a Visit to Wilderstein

Wilderstein is located at 330 Morton Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572 in Dutchess County. The estate sits high above the east bank of the Hudson River just south of Rhinebeck village.

Hours and Fees

  • Regular tours are offered Friday-Sunday from May-December. Special holiday tour schedules and extended hours apply in December.
  • Tickets for the main house ground floor tour are $15 for adults, $14 seniors, $6 children. Special rates for add-on Holiday Lantern Tours.
  • Visit the official website at wilderstein.org for the most up-to-date schedule, pricing, and ticketing. Advance purchase is recommended.

Nearby Lodging and Dining

The small towns of Rhinebeck and Hyde Park located just minutes from Wilderstein offer a nice variety of lodging, dining, and shopping options.

  • Historic Inns – The Beekman Arms Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country, offers luxurious rooms steps from the center of Rhinebeck. Select from traditional, modern, or carriage house suites.
  • B&Bs – The 7-room Garden Street Guest House in the heart of Rhinebeck provides cozy, affordable lodging in a meticulously restored Federal home.
  • Regional Cuisine – Terrapin Restaurant uses locally-sourced ingredients to create savory upscale American fare with global influences. Their Bistro dining space offers a more casual atmosphere.
  • Casual Eats – The Hyde Park Brewing Company produces handcrafted beers and ciders on-site and serves an eclectic menu of appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, and entrees. Live music on weekends.

Combining with Other Attractions

Many historic Hudson Valley mansions are located within 15-30 minutes of Wilderstein, making it easy to tour several in one trip:

  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
  • Mills Mansion – Staatsburg
  • Montgomery Place Estate & Gardens
  • Olana State Historic Site
  • Clermont State Historic Site
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

The scenic towns of Rhinebeck and Hyde Park also have enough shops, galleries, restaurants and inns for enjoyable afternoon or overnight explorations beyond your mansion tours. Route 9 and the MetroNorth Railroad connect the area to NYC and Albany.

So come immerse yourself in Christmas past during December at Wilderstein! The elaborate Victorian holiday decorations beautifully recapture 19th century traditions and provide a magical step back in time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wilderstein House’s Christmas Season

Get more details about visiting Wilderstein for Christmas with these common questions and helpful answers:

When is Wilderstein decorated for Christmas?

The Christmas decorations are put up by volunteer decorators starting after Thanksgiving. They are on display for tours Fridays-Sundays in December until right before Christmas Eve, allowing 3 full weekends of holiday tours.

What dates are the special Holiday Lantern Tours?

The evening Holiday Lantern Tours take place the first 3 Saturdays in December: Dec 2, 9, and 16 for 2023. Time is 5-7pm with last entry at 6:30pm.

Do you need advance tickets for the Christmas tours?

Yes, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets for both the daytime mansion tours and evening lantern tours in advance online. Tours frequently sell out for the holiday season.

Is the Christmas decor at Wilderstein kid friendly?

Definitely! Families with children of all ages are welcome on the tours. Kids will especially enjoy seeing the decorated Christmas trees, finding the mistletoe kissing balls, joining in the holiday carols, and seeing Santa’s desk with lists in the Library.

Where can we eat nearby before or after Christmas tours?

Rhinebeck village just 2 miles south of Wilderstein has dozens of excellent restaurants ranging from cozy pubs to upscale dining rooms. Terrapin Bistro and Cinnamon Indian Cuisine are popular options.

Are any areas of the house not included on the Christmas tour?

The tour only includes the ground floor of the mansion. The upper floors are not included or accessible to visitors. But you will still see 12 elaborately decorated rooms on the Christmas tour!

Is the Carriage House exhibit included too?

Tickets for the mansion tour include the Yuletide Traditions of the Hudson Valley exhibit in the Carriage House. This special display showcases Victorian holiday artifacts from Wilderstein’s history.

Are there any discounts for seniors, students, or children?

Yes, discounted tour tickets are available for seniors over 65, students with valid college ID, and children ages 6-18. Children under 6 are free. Discounts cannot be combined.


A trip back in time to Christmas past awaits by visiting Wilderstein Historic Site in New York’s Hudson Valley during the holiday season. take a guided tour or lantern lit stroll through this Queen Anne riverside mansion elaborately decorated in traditional Victorian Christmas splendor.Beyond the beautifully trimmed trees, wreaths, garlands and period decor, fascinating stories of how holidays were celebrated generations ago come alive. Don’t miss your chance to experience the magic, music, tastes and traditions of an authentic old-fashioned Christmas.