Things to do in Newport, RI

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    Castle Hill Lighthouse: A historic Newport landmark

    Photo courtesy of enfi/iStock

Get Your Bearings in Newport

By Amber Nolan
Travel Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

In a city that has always been the summer playground for the wealthy, the accommodations are on par with the historic mansions. Grandiose hotels overlook the harbor, while moderately-priced digs like the Marriott and the Hyatt are also available. The Attwater is one of the newest boutique inns to open in the area, following a trend of a more intimate, upscale stay.

Avoid:

Peak holiday weekends. Go right after Labor day when the weather is still warm but peak season is over.

What to Eat

Newport is seeing a culinary revival: several well-known chefs are setting up shop, food tours are becoming a popular attraction with visitors, and the Newport Mansions annual "Food and Wine" festival continues to draw crowds. The harbor is home to several seafood joints, all offering killer views and fresh catches of the day, while budget clam shacks offer alternative options.

Be Sure to Sample:

Lobster rolls and clam chowder.

Things to See

As a seaside city, Newport draws crowds with its sandy beaches, sailing vessels and multiple other attractions. Nothing beats a quiet harbor sail as the sun sets, followed by dinner and dancing on the town. It has always been a retreat for the well-to-do, and many of the vacation homes are able for tours through the Newport Mansions Preservation Society. 

Hot Tips:

Combo tickets of the mansions offer savings if you plan on visiting more than one.

Places to Party

In the 18th century, Newport was known as the rum capital of the world, so it's no surprise that there is an abundance of pubs, bars and lounges in the area. Most of the action is centered around Broadway, the local's nightlife center, but there are several "after dinner" spots along Thames Street that are open late, like the infamous Brick Alley Pub with a ghostly past.

Hot Tips:

Be sure to try Newport's own Thomas Tew Rum!

Where to Shop

Newport has its share of souvenir shops full of t-shirts, magnets, coffee mugs and more. Rhode Island is known for making silverware and fine jewelry, and there are also several art galleries that showcase the work of local artists. Thames Glass allows visitors to make and take home their own unique creation.

Avoid:

Shops right by the harbor.

Best Local Souvenir:

Anything pirate themed.

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Things to do in Newport


Newport is known for...

Five of Newport's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Sailing:

The prestigious America’s Cup is frequently held in Newport where the fastest sailing ships race for the trophy. The area is often referred to as the "sailing capital of the world." Its waters are home to hundreds of vessels, and several sailing companies offer harbor tours and sunset cruises aboard past winners. Learn a bit about sailing, steer the boat, and kick your shoes off and relax on the deck with a cocktail in hand as the sun slips below the horizon.

2. Pirates and History:

Believe it or not, the city used to be a northern safe haven packed full of pirates until the British Crown gave Newport an ultimatum and they sentenced 26 to death by hanging. It also ranked among other legendary cities for having one of the highest remaining colonial buildings in the United States. Historical walking tours and ghost tours give insight into Newport's rebellious past, including the Pirates & Scoundrels Walking Tour, which explains why it earned the name "Rogue's Island."

3. Mansions:

Newport showcased a display of wealth during the Gilded Aged of the late 19th Century, and these summer homes are now accessible to the public. Original furniture, decor, and paintings remain intact and self-guided tours include a treasure trove of information. Two of the most popular are the Marble House and the Breakers, both owned by the Vanderbilt family with the latter containing platinum walls in one room and sweeping views of the sea. Multi-mansion passes are available.

4. Seafood & Surfing.:

It's no coastal California, but the locals take advantage of the waves and many surfers visit during the summer hurricane season and wait for the swells. It is a seaside town, after all, meaning the fresh seafood comes straight from the ocean to your plate. Numerous restaurants offer New England clam chowder, lobster rolls, scallops, and more. The higher-end restaurants can be found along the historic harbor and Bellevue Ave, while bargains are scattered along Broadway and Flo's Clam Shack will always have a line.

5. Beaches & Cliffs:

There are several soft-sand beaches in the Newport that are sheltered by coves and inlets, and the cliff walk is a must-do when visiting. The 40 Steps are and infamous location for watching the waves crash into the rocky coast. First Beach is closest to town with numerous creature comforts (restrooms, snack bar), and Second Beach is the best option to avoid the seaweed that can pile up. Nearby is Purgatory Chasm, a beautiful overlook and picnic spot.