Museums, Mansions and Masterpieces

Ron Ramsey and Sebastian Smee

Gain a new insight into American art, history and architecture with a focus on the collections and mansions of New York State’s Hudson Valley, and the rich art collections of Boston and Massachusetts.

In New York State, discover dynamic art galleries and collections, including the spectacular landscape paintings of the 19th century ‘Hudson River School’.

In the Hudson Valley, visit Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion and estate which has been home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Wander through the Storm King outdoor sculpture park and explore the Dia:Beacon contemporary art museum. Visit the FD Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park as well as Olana, the residence of the eminent Hudson River School painter, Frederic Edwin Church.

In Massachusetts, explore the local contemporary art scene at MASS MoCA and the Clark Art Institute.

Finally in Boston, renowned art critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Sebastian Smee will share his insights on the city’s outstanding art collections, and lead our group through a cluster of the city’s modern art districts.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas or Air New Zealand flights to New York. Arrive in New York in the late afternoon and make your way to the hotel for check-in.

Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

This morning, join Ron and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and talk. Then, visit the New York Historical Society, followed by a special welcome lunch at a local restaurant.

After, explore the impressive Metropolitan Museum of Art, in particular the collection of paintings from the ‘Hudson River School’. These include famous works by Thomas Cole, considered the founding figure of the school, Asher Brown Durand, and the second generation of painters including George Inness and Frederic Edwin Church.


Depart New York and drive to Kykuit, the historic Rockefeller Estate located on the hilltop in Mount Pleasant. Visit the 100-year-old mansion, home to four generations of the Rockefeller family and a famous Hudson Valley landmark. Visit the Union Church with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall and a rose window by Henri Matisse – his last work.

Then, discover Magazzino Italian Art, a new warehouse art space opened in June 2017 devoted to contemporary Italian art. Continue to Dia:Beacon contemporary art museum. Located in a former industrial building on the banks of the river, the museum displays a vast collection of modern artworks by some of the most significant artists of the last half-century.

In the late afternoon, check in to the hotel near Beacon, our base for the next two nights.


After a talk by Ron in the morning, visit Storm King Art Centre, showcasing modern art in a 200-hectare outdoor museum.

Then, travel along the Hudson River and visit Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage, before discovering the Vanderbilt Mansion, historically known as Hyde Park. Built on a large estate of over 80 hectares, the mansion is one of the oldest Hudson River estates, and had been the home of socially prominent New Yorkers for nearly two centuries.


This morning, visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Museum, which displays the records and personal effects of the 32nd President of the United States, one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century and Springwood, the Roosevelt family home.

Then, journey though the countryside to ‘Olana’, the home of Frederic Edwin Church. This painter of the Hudson River School decided to build his house on a site where he and his mentor Thomas Cole had often sketched. Visit the 19th century house built in a synthesis of Victorian and Middle Eastern architectural styles, and discover the landscapes that inspired some of his paintings.

Continue to the Thomas Cole Mansion, located between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. Discover the studio of this painter considered to be the founder of the Hudson River School, and see a selection of his works.


Following a morning talk, visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), one of the largest centres of contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States. Discover a part of its vast indoor and outdoor collection, including sculpture, painting, music, photography and all forms of art.

Then, explore the Clark Art Institute, a leading international centre for research and a major art museum with European and American paintings, photographs and decorative arts from the 14th to the early 20th century.


Enjoy a morning visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum, exhibiting a significant collection of drawings and paintings by the famous illustrator, and learn about his efforts to accurately reflect the society of his day.

Then, depart the Berkshires and transfer to Boston. Check in to the hotel, our base for the next four nights.


Following a morning talk by Sebastian Smee the renowned art critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner, start your exploration of Boston in the company of Sebastian. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art museums in the world with a comprehensive collection of 500,000 art works from ancient Egypt to the present day.

After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Housed in a striking building designed by I. M. Pei with panoramic views of Boston’s skyline and Harbour Islands, learn about the life and legacy of the 35th President of the United States.


Today, visit the Harvard Art Museums, a large art complex with three museums – the Fogg, Busch-Reiseinger and Arthur M. Sackler Museums – respectively dedicated to Western, Germanic and Asian arts.

Continue to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Built in the style of a 15th century Venetian palazzo and opened in 1903 by the art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum houses an eclectic collection of European paintings, sculptures, tapestries and decorative arts.

Then, enjoy some time at leisure in the trendy Newbury Street district.


This morning, discover the Institute of Contemporary Art, located in an iconic building on Boston’s waterfront. The ICA promotes emerging artists and provides access to contemporary visual art in all its forms.

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to continue your exploration of Boston at your own pace.

Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Ron, Sebastian and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

If you are returning home today, make your way to Boston Airport for suggested Qantas or Air New Zealand flights to Australia or New Zealand via New York. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 11,950

Single supplement*

AUD 2,650

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

16 August 2019

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airline

Qantas / Air New Zealand
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


All Australian and New Zealand passport holders need to apply for ESTA Pre-Authorisation to visit the USA (completed online in advance of travel).

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in 4-star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with meals
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leaders, Ron Ramsey and Sebastian Smee
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
New York – The Ink48 ****
Hudson Valley – The Roundhouse ***+
North Adams – The Porches Inn ***+
Boston – The Lenox ****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.