The mansions of Newport  are numerous, and each is an undeniably overwhelming display of wealth, beauty, and design. But even among such over-the-top grandeur, certain structures cast taller shadows than others.
Considered the most lavish of them all is The Breakers (44 Ochre Point Ave., 401/847-1000, www.newportmansions.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Jan.–early Apr.; 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily mid-Apr.–early Oct.; 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily mid-Oct.–Dec., $18 adults, $4.50 children 6–17, free children under 6), built in 1893 as the summer home of steamship and railroad giant Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Designed by an international dream team of architects, the palazzo holds no less than 70 rooms, and is a dead ringer for Italy’s most opulent 16th-century palazzos.
Another modest little Vanderbilt home is Marble House (596 Bellevue Ave., 401/847-1000, www.newportmansions.org , 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily early Apr.–early Oct.; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily mid-Oct.–Dec., $12 adults, $4.50 children 6–17, free children under 6), this time finished in 1892 for Cornelius’s grandson once removed, William K. Vanderbilt. Inspired by parts of Versailles, the home is filled with nearly a half million cubic feet of marble, and includes on its grounds a Chinese teahouse built by William’s wife, Alva.
Versailles’ influence once again rears its head down the street at Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Ave., 401/847-1000, www.newportmansions.org , 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Jan.–early Apr.; 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily mid-Apr.–early Oct.; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily mid-Oct.–mid-Nov., $12 adults, $4.50 children 6–17, free children under 6), built in 1902 and inspired by the Grand Trianon section of the French castle. It was originally commissioned by Theresa and Hermann Oelrichs, and has been featured in a handful of movies, including The Great Gatsby and Amistad.
While none of the bigger and best-known mansions in the area are still owned by their original families, one would almost seem to be: Astors’ Beechwood (580 Bellevue Ave., 401/846-3772, www.astorsbeechwood.com , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sun. late Jan.–mid-May and mid-Nov.–mid-Dec.; Sun.–Fri. mid-May–mid-Nov.; Sat. hours vary, $15 adults, $6 children 6–17, free children under 6). The mansion is home to the Beechwood Theatre Company, which on every tour portrays the Astors, their friends, and staff at the height of the Victorian era.
Boasting over 15 historic properties and 80 acres of gardens and parks, Newport’s  collection of sprawling mansions can seem an overwhelming tour indeed. If you’re intent on seeing as much of them as possible, it’s best to plan with the following tips in mind.
Buy tickets ahead of time. The crowds in high season can be crushing, so take advantage of some of the online packages available through the Preservation Society of Newport County (http://tickets.newportmansions.org ).
Tours are offered quite regularly at the largest mansions (approximately every 15 minutes during high season and every 30 minutes in spring). Times vary at many of the smaller mansions, but generally the wait time is no longer than 30 minutes. And because most tours are finished in under an hour and the mansions are within easy walking distance of one another (and transportation is provided in the form of natural-gas trolleys between the houses), it is quite reasonable to plan three mansion tours in one day.
Some ambitious visitors opt to do four or five, though it should be noted that there are only so many gilded ceilings and marble hallways the human eye can gaze upon before they all start to blend together. To fully appreciate the level of grandeur and detail, it may be wisest to take in three tours per day, leaving time for a change of scenery—à la Newport’s beaches, downtown, or parks.
The mansions are wheelchair accessible; however, baby strollers are not allowed.