Visiting historic houses in late fall can feel like wandering onto a movie set. If we had a bevy of decorators on staff, maybe our homes could match the elegant décor and gracious ambiance of the lakeshore’s house museums and mansions turned event venues — but for now, carving out time to tour those homes when they are decorated for the holidays is a whole lot more achievable.
For guided tours of Laketown’s Felt Mansion, book ahead online. At the others, buy tickets on arrival.
Starting December 11 . . . and on 13 other dates through January 1
Holiday Tours of the Felt Mansion
It’s remarkable how this 12,000-square-foot, 25-room mansion nestled in the Laketown dunes between Holland and Saugatuck brings out one’s inner Fred or Ginger. By the time you reach the third-floor ballroom, you may feel elegant enough to attempt a twirl.
Built as a “summer place” in the 1920s, the Felt Estate is now a popular wedding venue. It’s open for self-guided tours at various times of year, but December may be best: visitors get to enjoy it dressed up for the holidays. More than two dozen Christmas trees represent various historical periods of the mansion’s history.
Are you intrigued by architecture and restoration? — consider buying a ticket online for one of the five guided tours (see dates below) led by the Felt Estate director, a restoration specialist. Prefer to explore on your own? — drop in during self-guided tour hours, and budget about an hour (plus more if you’d like to view a 27-minute video about the Felt family.)
The day before these tours begin, the Felt Estate will host its annual Winterfest, a free family fun day with Santa, sleigh rides and other kid-friendly features.
The Felt Estate 6597 138th Ave., Holland
Winterfest: December 10, 2-4 p.m.
Guided tours: December 11, 17, 18, and 24, and January 1
Self-guided tours: 1–4 p.m. on December 12–14, 19–21, and 26–28
Isaac Cappon, a Dutch immigrant who became Holland’s first mayor, was one of the wealthiest people in town when he built his Italianate home near Lake Macatawa in the mid-1870s. On December 10, visitors can tour the opulent home decorated for the holidays and learn about Yuletide celebrations of the late 1800s — and holiday traditions of later eras.
The Cappon house was a full one in its early years: Isaac and Catarina Cappon had 11 children. After Catarina’s death, Cappon and his second wife, Jacoba, had five more. The house was gifted to the City of Holland in the 1970s. The Holland Museum has partially restored the interior to its appearance circa 1900.
The Holland Chorale’s Dickens Singers will perform carols. In the Visitor Center located in the carriage barn, hot chocolate will be served and visitors can enjoy a Victorian-themed craft activity.
Starting November 26 . . . and on 6 other dates through December 28
Holiday Tours of the Hackley and Hume Houses
When business partners built mansions side by side in Muskegon in the 1800s, could they have imagined that some 130 years later, folks from up and down the lakeshore would traipse through them to take in each home’s 6,000-square-foot grandeur? Probably not. But the lumber barons would undoubtedly be pleased that these many years later, visitors are still captivated by the Queen Anne style homes’ stained glass windows, ornamented woodwork, restored stenciling and other distinctive features.
In November and December there’s an added zing: rather than decking the (many!) halls in a particular period style, the Lakeshore Museum Center (of which the historic site is a part) invites Muskegon’s community groups to select a room and decorate it for the holidays as they choose. Through every doorway there’s a new surprise.
Visitors can proceed at their own pace through the Hackley House (the one with the onion dome) and the adjacent Hume House (the one with the turret) for as quick or leisurely a visit as they would like. Museum staff and volunteers will be on hand for Q & A.
Hackley & Hume Historic Site 484 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon