Despite its small size, Newport, Rhode Island, is a city whose list of attractions runs wide and deep. It boasts impeccably preserved Gilded Age mansions, a legendary sailing scene, historic churches (including the oldest synagogue in the U.S.), museums of every stripe, and lively shopping and dining — not to mention its famous namesake folk and jazz festivals. Planning a Newport day-trip or quick getaway and want to be sure you’ve seen, done, and eaten the essentials? Here are five of the best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island.
5 Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island
Attracting more than a million visitors from around the world each year, Newport Mansions — the name given to a curated collection of 11 historic properties — is the undisputed grand dame of the local architectural scene. Its holdings include turn-of-the-century “summer cottages” such as The Breakers
, an 1895 mansion where the Vanderbilt family lived and entertained on a grand scale (think: 10-course dinners for 100 guests, with a footman behind each chair) and the 1892 Marble House
, inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private palace at Versailles.
Manmade grandeur vies with nature’s beauty along the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile public path whose popularity dates back to the 1880s. Traversing the eastern side of the island, it squeezes between the ocean and the back yards of baronial estates such as Rough Point, the 49-room English manor where heiress Doris Duke’s pet camels roamed amid gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
For a taste of Napa in Newport, stop in at this vineyard set on preserved farmland overlooking Rhode Island Sound, where a unique microclimate contributes to the terroir
of its award-winning wines. Having recently undergone $4 million upgrade, Newport Vineyards is New England’s largest grower of grapes but also a visitor-friendly destination with tours, a tasting room, a restaurant, a brewery, and a market. Plus, the beautiful 10-mile Sakonnet Greenway Trail runs right alongside if you’d like to take a stroll.
The harbor has long been the soul of Newport, and even as a modern shopping and dining scene has grown up along Thames Street and the city’s best-known wharves — Bowen’s and Bannister’s — the area has held on to its atmospheric cobblestones, granite-walled quay, and mix of 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Browse modern preppy apparel and accessories at Kiel James Patrick
and pick up a Gilded Age–inspired souvenir at the Newport Mansions Store
; enjoy a cocktail on the patio of The Black Pearl
, housed in a 1920s sail loft, or dig into pristine local seafood at Fluke Newport
What could be better on a perfect summer day than to hit the water in “The Sailing Capital of the World”? Narragansett Bay is filled with sights to see — including Fort Adams, Rose Island Lighthouse, and the Claiborne Pell Bridge — and there are no shortage of cruise operators waiting to take you out. Among our favorites are the Newport-Jamestown Ferry
and the two vintage-racing-yacht companies, 12 Meter Yacht Charters
and America’s Cup Charters
Have your own list of the very best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island? Leave your picks in the comments below!
This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated.
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