The summer home of attorney Joseph Choate, his wife Caroline, and their five children in the late 1800s, Naumkeag is the perfect representation of a country estate of the Gilded Age. The estate is named after the Algonquin word (meaning “good fishing spot”) used for Salem, Massachusetts where the Choate family originally lived.
The original gardens included two terraces, a topiary garden, and an arborvitae alley. A farm, greenhouse, orchards, and vegetable gardens provided much of the food for the family. The family also enjoyed hiking, swimming, and horseback riding on many of the 48 acres of the estate, which is located in Stockbridge in western Massachusetts. The Choate’s daughter, Mabel, inherited the property and spent significant time creating many additional gardens. She deeded it to the Trustees of the Conservation upon her death in 1958 and the 44 room estate was turned into a museum opened to the public in 1960.
Naumkeag is open daily from late May through early October. Due to current conditions for summer 2020, tickets are timed and must be reserved ahead of time- check here for more information.
The property hosts a wide variety of special events such as meditation, yoga, and pick-your-own-bouquets; check here for the calendar.
Wear sneakers- many of the paths are stone or gravel and some staircases are steep.
Visitors check in at the Welcome Center, lower level of the mansion. The Gift Shop and Oak Cafe are also located on the basement level of the mansion. The Gift Shop features a wide variety of jewelry, housewares, gifts, and books about architecture and gardening. Note for 2020: The Cafe and Gift Shop may not be open and check in is at the front entrance of the mansion.
The Oak Cafe features grab and go sandwiches, salads, snacks, and drinks.
Restrooms are located near the Welcome Center.
Plan on spending 30-60 minutes inside the mansion and another 60-90 minutes exploring the gardens.
There are plenty of family friendly spots in the Berkshires- check here for a great list and travel advice.
Five Spots Kids Will Like at Naumkeag:
1. The mansion: Two floors of the mansion are open to the public, either by guided or self guided tours. The first floor includes the library, parlor, dining room, butler’s pantry, school room and study. The second floor of the mansion includes several bedrooms, guestrooms, and bathrooms. Children will enjoy seeing some of the family’s personal effects, such as toys, bedding, and furniture. They’ll also have fun guessing some of the appliances, like the Call Box. Note: For summer 2020, only parts of the first floor are open to visitors.
2. The Blue Steps: Built in 1938, the 60 steps are shaded by 75 birch trees. There is a 29 foot vertical drop from the top down all four levels. Start at the top with the Water Runnel that connects the Afternoon Garden fountain and the Blue Steps water feature. Follow the steps to the bottom and check out the gardens. Note: the steps are steep and there is no railing on one side of the steps, so be very careful with little children in this area.
3. The Linden Walk: A short walk down the south side of the property lined with 74 trees. The path wraps around and snakes through the woods filled with maple, pine, and spruce trees. There is a beautiful statue of Diana at the end of the walk.
4. Chinese Garden: A walled garden that contains a Chinese style temple and many oriental plants and trees. Walk through the Moongate for good luck and check out the many water runnels.
5. The Evergreen Garden: Kids will want to dip their hands in the large pool in the center of the garden. Visitors in the summer will see the unique snakeroot and Spanish bayonets in the garden.
Disclosure: My family was given a media pass to visit Naumkeag. All opinions expressed are my own.