Hillwood Museum is an amazing house and garden and if you are going to be visiting Washington, D.C. it is worthwhile to plan to visit, call ahead and make a reservation. A limited number of visitors are allowed each day. We called several months in advance. Access to the grounds is controlled; you will be asked if you have reservations. A note here: there are no children under six allowed in the house. When you see how it is set up you will understand why. You cannot carry your purse, a water bottle and in my case, I had to take off my leather blazer.
How to get there
You can take the Metro to the Van Ness stop and walk but it is a good hike and the road is not flat. We took a cab but be sure your driver knows how to get to Hillwood. Have the address with you and make sure the driver can find it; even taking all precautions it is not an easy place to find. When you leave there is a courtesy phone to a cab company who will come and pick you up, they know where it is.
Allow at least three or four hours for your visit. A 12-minute video is offered that is worth viewing before you tour the house. The audio tour for the house takes 90 minutes, and there is another tour of the gardens. While you are there you may want to have lunch or tea at the cafe and there is a wonderful gift store.
Why visit Hillwood
In order to understand Hillwood, you need to know who Marjorie Merriweather Post is. She is the heiress to the Postum Cereal fortune. Her father invented Post Grapenuts, and that alone made her a very wealthy woman. Beyond that she was an extraordinary collector, with an excellent eye which was further trained by the curator she hired. She developed a lifelong love of all things Russian while living there in the 1930s with her third husband who was the U.S. Ambassador. You will see a fabulous collection of Russian art, Faberge, and icons. The Faberge alone is worth the price of admission. The Lusupov music box is beyond stunning, it is beyond description and there are two imperial Easter eggs as well.
Limiting the description to just that does the house a disservice, but the collection is so vast and varied that you really need to see it yourself. We were befriended by one of the docents, Rebecca Perl, and she seemed to be in every room that we visited, giving lots of extra details and information. She loves this house and it shows. On the second floor you will visit the private rooms and get a more personal look at Marjorie Merriweather Post.
When you have finished touring the house, be sure to visit the gardens and greenhouses. The 3,000 orchids in the green houses are gorgeous and so exotic. The audio tour is 60 minutes.
We also booked afternoon tea. It was a very enjoyable meal after the wonders that we had seen in the house.
If you are going to be in Washington, D.C. and want to do something beyond just the monuments and museums, Hillwood is a breath of fresh air in the city.
I have been an Internet writer for more than 16 years. While I specialize in travel, I write on a variety of subjects. I love genealogy, food, and fashion. I have 10 grandchildren so family travel is something we often do.