Newport, Rhode Island is one of New England’s grandest coastal towns. Located on a small island in the Atlantic, Newport was the playground for the richest Americans. Today I am sharing what to do in Newport ranging from touring some of the country’s most ornate mansions to drinking beer in the nation’s oldest tavern.
Charles and I had the best reason to go to Newport – my sister, Kelly, was getting engaged. Charles and I had been eagerly anticipating this event, and when my parents called to tell me that the proposal was happening in Newport on April 21st, and that they would be traveling to Newport to celebrate with my sister, I invited myself. How could I miss this?!
The great thing about Newport is that you can do as much or as little as you like. In the summer, you may want to relax on the beach, or take to the seas on a sailboat or tour boat. The Spring is the ideal time to beat the crowds and explore Newport’s many historic sites. Here is my guide of what to do in Newport:
What to do in Newport
Tour the Mansions
The Preservation Society of Newport County owns and runs tours at many of the historic mansions. We toured the two most well-known of the residences: The Breakers and The Marble House.
The Breakers is a 70-room Italian-style palazzo that will take your breath away. The “summer cottage” is one of the most incredible mansions that I have ever seen. When the home was being used as a summer residence it had a staff of 40. It also has 20 bathrooms, which seems slightly excessive.
We were surprised to find a bit of a line to get into The Breakers. It took 15 minutes to get tickets – and that was in April. The Breakers is the most popular of the Newport Mansions, and if you visit in the summer expect it to be a little crowded, and consider purchasing tickets online in advance.
The Marble House is just down the coast, and the stately home with 7 bedrooms seems small in comparison to The Breakers. The Chinese Tea House on the lawn overlooking the sea might look slightly out of place, but it is beautiful.
I studied Art History and I have a Master’s in American Fine and Decorative Art, which means that I have toured a lot of historic homes. The mansions in Newport are amazingly well maintained and the audio tours were engaging and informative. We had so much fun at The Breakers that we decided to go to Marble House the next day. I was with both my father and my husband, and they aren’t really the type of guys that get excited about touring historic homes, but they really liked The Breakers and Marble House.
Heads up – The Preservation Society of Newport County offers a few different ticket types, some of which include tickets to multiple homes.
Have a Pint in America’s Oldest Tavern
The White Horse Tavern is the oldest tavern in America. George Washington is said to have visited this tavern that opened in 1673. The tavern has both a bar and more formal dining rooms with a business casual dress code.
Hit the Beach
It wasn’t exactly beach weather in April, but the beaches in Newport are gorgeous. Even if it isn’t beach weather, you should go for a walk on the beach, the Newport shoreline is majestic.
The Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile path the runs between the mansions and the Atlantic Ocean. We were lucky to have warm and sunny weather and walking the Cliff Walk was the perfect activity. I will say that Charles and I were extremely worried that we might run into Kelly on this walk. We had only part of their Saturday itinerary, and we had to guess and hope that we wouldn’t accidentally be spotted in Newport. If we were, Kelly would have easily realized why we were in town and the proposal wouldn’t be a surprise.
Explore the Shops
Newport is filled with the cutest shops! The town has a mix of small locally owned boutiques, and well-known stores like J.Crew and Sephora.
Kiel James Patrick is one of the more well-known local shops where they sell New England preppy style fashions.
Check out Newport’s Special Event Calendar
Our visit coincided with the Daffodil Days Festival, a two weekend-long festival celebrating the blooming for Newport’s 800,000+ daffodils. Other events include the Newport Flower Show, and the Newport Jazz Festival.
A weekend isn’t long enough to take advantage of Newport’s many activities. Other activities include the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the Audrain Automobile Museum, Fort Adams State Park, Harbor Cruises, Trolley Tours, and a few vineyards.
Where to Eat in Newport
A casual pub at Bowen’s Wharf that is known for its burgers and tater tots. My father, a hot dog connoisseur, was especially impressed by the quarter pound hot dog that came topped with Guinness cheese cause, bacon, and onions.
At first glance you might dismiss The Black Pearl as a tourist trap. But don’t. The food is surprisingly good. The restaurant chowder is the #1 thing to order, it has a smooth creamy consistency and loaded with clams. It isn’t too creamy or overly heavy. In the summer the Black Pearl has plenty of outdoor seating.
This restaurant has two sections, an area for casual dining and a more formal area with table service. Not only was the food excellent, the casual dining area is dog-friendly, which meant that my sister’s dog could join us for our meal.
Friends were kind to send us a bunch of recommendations and we weren’t in Newport long enough to try them all. These recommendations include: Smokehouse Cafe, Barking Carb, The Mooring, Brick Alley Pub, Scarpetta, and Sardellas. Several people also recommending having a drink on the lawn at the Castle Hill Inn.
Things to Know About Newport
Newport is Dog-Friendly
Kelly brought her dog Milo along for the trip, and she wanted me to tell you that Newport is very dog-friendly. She stayed in a dog-friendly hotel, and she had fun bringing Milo to the beach and taking him for walks around town. We were happy to discover that Stoneacre Brasserie lets dogs inside. Dogs are probably allowed at the patios at restaurants too, but we didn’t test this out since it was still too chilly to dine outside.
Getting to Newport
We had been in New York City and we took the Amtrak up to Providence. Pro tip: buy beers at Penn Station to drink on the ride. Once in Providence, we took an Uber from the train station to Newport. The 40-minute ride cost about $45 and since Newport is easily walkable, we didn’t need a car. And I want to let you know that parking in downtown Newport can be challenging, but the Newport Mansions and beaches have a good amount of free parking.
If you aren’t close enough to take the train, you can fly into Providence’s TF Green Airport. We flew out of TF Green and our flights on United to Chicago were only $139.
Where to Stay in Newport
I can’t leave you hanging – I need to tell you about the proposal. Longtime readers of The Kittchen probably know Kelly. We travel together often and have been to Costa Rica, Morocco, Spain, and Ireland together in recent years.
Kelly’s now-fiancé, Andrew grew up at St. George’s School, a boarding school where his parents both worked. Newport is his hometown, and he planned an elaborate proposal back at St. George’s School. Andrew had told Kelly that they were going to Newport for a Christening. Kelly was suspicious, but Andrew had friends who helped him sell his story.
St. George’s School has a beautiful chapel with a bell tower offering views of the ocean. Andrew hired a cellist and a violinist who were playing at the chapel. Andrew ran off to “go to the bathroom” – but he was really hanging up his favorite photos of him and Kelly in the belltower. Andrew’s friend told Kelly that they were taking Christening photos up in the belltower, and told Kelly to join Andrew up there. When she got to the top he was on one knee.
You are probably already impressed, but the story continues on. When the left the chapel, Kelly’s dog Milo was there waiting for her. They all walked down the hill to the beach, as a bagpiper played. Once they arrived at the beach, a group of family and friends were waiting with champagne. Charles is happy that we got married 6 years ago and that he doesn’t need to try and top this proposal.
Charles and I are so glad that we engagement-crashed and went to Newport. It was my first time in Newport (except for one night out during senior week in college), and it instantly been filled with such happy memories.
Have you been to Newport? Did I miss anything on my guide of what to do in Newport?