Kykuit may be one of the closest approximations of a royal palace on the U.S. East Coast. This 40-bedroom, six-story manor estate was the main family home for four generations of American royalty, the Rockefellers, before it was handed over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and opened for public tours in the late 1970s.
Visitors can explore the lookout’s (kykuit is Dutch for lookout) nattily furnished rooms featuring modern and classical sculptures, paintings and ceramics perched atop Hudson Valley walls and overlooking the Hudson River. On clear days, it’s possible to see the skyscrapers of New York City, where the Rockefeller’s fortunes were built, some 30 miles away.
Tours focus heavily on the family and how, when and why certain pieces and facets of the home were acquired or installed. Everywhere you look – in inside Kykuit and in the multiple terraced gardens designed by William Welles Bosworth – the estate oozes with expensive touches. Torch sculptures indicate the main arched entryway under the watchful eye of a perched stone eagle and Greco-Roman fountains and engravings cover the estate with an opulent air. A ‘barn’ houses numerous classic cars and carriages. And, perhaps one of the most popular tour stops the underground tunnels that lead to a private art gallery with works by Picasso, Alexander Calder and Marc Chagall.
All visits are by organized tour departing from the Visitor Center at Philipsburg Manor on Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow, NY. It’s possible to take the Metro-North Hudson Line trail to Tarrytown and hail a cab for the short drive to the tour start. Four regular tour options – differing in parts of the estate visited, departure times and admission prices (starting at $25 adults, $23 children ages 3-17), and ranging from one and a half to three hours in length – are available. The home’s open season is from May through November and tours run regularly – the popular ‘Classic Tours’ are held as frequently as nine times daily in the summer. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, don’t come in October, when the surrounding town of Sleepy Hollow floods with visitors seeking to find the fictional Headless Horsemen.