Long before the age of Paris Hilton, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post was the most celebrated socialite of the 20th century, famous for her fabulous wealth and beauty, as well as her passion for collecting art and creating some of the world's most lavish homes. Of these, the 25-acre Hillwood Estate, which Merriweather Post bought in 1955, is the only one now open to the public. The 36-room Georgian mansion, where she regularly hosted presidents, diplomats, and royalty, is sumptuously appointed, with a formal Louis XVI drawing room, private movie theater and ballroom, and magnificent libraries filled with portraits of the glamorous hostess, her family and acquaintances, as well as works from her rich art collection. She was especially fascinated with Russian art, and her collection of Russian icons, tapestries, gold and silver work, and Fabergé eggs is considered to be the largest and most significant outside of Russia. She devoted equal attention to her gardens: you can wander
through 13 acres of them. You should allow two to three hours to take in the estate, gardens, and museum shop. Reservations are recommended on spring weekends for tours and lunch or tea in the café. The estate is best reached by taxi or car (free parking is available on the grounds). It's a 20- to 30-minute walk from the Metro.