We had the opportunity to go on a tour of Drumthwacket with a group of kids and their parents. I can’t really say that we had a great time, but we most certainly had an experience that I can share here. For those that have never heard of it, Drumthwacket is the governor’s mansion in NJ. It is supposed to be the official residence of the NJ governor, though the current governor chose to stay in his house after the election. Actually, very few of the more recent governors chose to live at the mansion, you can read more about it here.
Our tour was a group tour, a large group of about 50 people was scheduled for 11:30. We were told by the organizing parent to make sure we don’t come early for we won’t be allowed to drive in and certainly don’t come late. We showed up at 11:25. Everyone’s cars were ushered by the guard and directed to park in the tiny parking area. We sat in the car as the guard walked around the cars, checked your id’s and saw if you were on the list of guests for the tour. After he finished we were allowed to come out and come up to the front steps of the mansion. The mansion is beautiful, and looks lovely:
We were allowed to take a group photo of all the kids on the front steps, then split into two groups of 25 based on the kids ages and ushered inside.
The tour guide was knowledgeable and did his best to keep a group of 15 or so kids ages 8 to 12 entertained. As we went through the house, the kids progressively got more and more restless and tired. They did have some questions and the tour guide engaged them by asking them questions, and their opinions. The tour lasts about an hour and goes through 6 rooms. The Drumthwacket mansion is filled with history. The most fascinating part for me was the wall paper in the dining room. Painted by hand, it is beautiful. There are no photos allowed inside, so if you would like to see what it looks like, check out the official Drumthwacket website.
I wish they would show more of the house, told some ghost stories, and some amazing stories from this great, old mansion’s history. I am sure this place holds more interesting and amazing stories then just the basic historical facts. Something to keep a group of young kids enthralled and excited through the hour.
The word that kept coming into my mind through out this tour is ‘decadence’. It was most definitely elaborate, ornate, shiny, and beautiful. I think there are some fascinating facts about our history, and NJ, that the kids have picked up from this experience.
There are a few things I would keep in mind if I were to go on this tour again.
First, there are beautiful gardens behind the mansion. I would call ahead and make sure that the master gardener would be there at the time of the tour, so that the group can explore the gardens. We were told that the master gardener is not coming that day, and that the gardens are off limits without him. It was disappointing for the kids and the adults. It was a particularly beautiful day, and the kids were really excited to get outdoors for a bit and explore.
Here is a photo of the garden space from the parking area:
Second, instead of going on the guided tour, I would shop up for an open house. I think it would be more fun to explore the house in that manner.
I would not make the drive to Drumthwacket just for the tour. I would go visit the Princeton Art Museum, walk around Princeton, go out for an ice cream, and then visit Drumthwacket in the same trip.
If you do go with kids, do more then just Drumthwacket. You can go visit Terhune Orchards, or Princeton Art Museum, or something else that day in addition to Drumthwacket. Plus, maybe if you go over some of the information about NJ, some of the exciting battles in the revolutionary war or ghost stories ahead of time, it might make it more exciting for them.
We have gone to the Liberty Hall Museum in the past, on two separate occasions, using our library pass, and I have to say it was quite a bit more kid friendly (especially if you go on a Thursday in the fall when you can pick apples and peruse the farmers market) and also filled with NJ History and amazing stories of the past.
Some more information: the tours are free. You can make reservations if you have a large group, or you can come on most Wednesdays at 1 pm for a public guided tour. You can find more information about Drumthwacket on their website.