When the film director Martin Scorsese chose to film The Age of Innocence, a novel by Edith Wharton – a story about the 19th century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman's cousin, he had no doubt what mansion to use as a prototype for the house of one of the New York City's best families, Archer. Scorsese chose one of the Newport’s mansions.
Today many mansions continue in private use. Hammersmith Farm, the mansion from which Jackie Kennedy was married, was open to tourists as a 'house museum,' but has been purchased and reconverted into a private residence. Still many other mansions remain open to tourists, showcasing interiors and exteriors of the houses, some with a perfect preservation of how it was back in the days. Some, though, were converted into academic buildings, when the owners could no longer afford their tax bills.
Newport is also known as a New England summer resort. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy used it as their summer getaways. When in the town, you can also visit the St. Mary's Church, where Jackie Kennedy and John F. Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953.
A major 18th century port city, Newport now contains among the highest number of surviving colonial buildings of any city in the United States. So, it’s no surprise that the city is the home Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and a major United States Navy training center.
Founded in 1639, Newport is the city on Aquidneck Island in the state of Rhode Island, The nearby famous locations include Providence (about 23 miles away) and Boston (61 miles).
Most people associate Newport, RI with its famous mansions and incredible selection of the seafood products – most specifically, the RI and New England lobster and chowder, which the locals are very proud of and can’t do any wrong in cooking it. Any restaurant in the town has the local seafood, like haddock fish, lobster, oysters and New England chowder, which here has variations of – the classic option and the scallop chowder.
Newport connects few major water ways, which, hundreds years ago, made a few merchants very rich and whose mansions are now gracing the Ocean Cliffs and Bellevue Avenue of the city. These mansions belong to earlier bankers and merchants, who made their fortune from trading with such empires as China, Mongolia and India, when only a few people in the United States had any connections with the foreign countries. You would be surprised to find out that some of the earlier millionaires retired at the age of thirty.
Newport is not a big city. It only has about 25,000 residents, which also makes it a perfect quiet location for a getaway from the big cities like New York City and Boston – on one hand, it has a great variety of the restaurants and a few bars, most of which offer live music, but on the other hand – it’s small enough to feel like you are in the countryside.
In addition to the colonial architecture, the city is known for its Gilded Age mansions, which have also received extensive restoration from both private owners and non-profits.
As mentioned above, one of the most touristy places in the city is the National Historic Landmark District, Bellevue Avenue. It’ the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where important tennis players are commemorated, as well as a number of mansions dating back to the Gilded Age, including The Breakers, Belcourt Castle, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Rough Point, and the William Watts Sherman House. If you are planning to stay in the city, any hotel will have the information for you for the museum hours, tours, etc.
According to the locals, during the late fall and winter months, Newport becomes relatively quiet, but during the summer months, the town offers various festivals, like the Newport Jazz Festival, the Sunset Music Festival, the Newport Folk Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, and the Newport International Boat Show.
While the beach season in and around Newport is only two-three month long, it does have many beaches, public and private. In Newport, the largest public beach, Easton's beach, or First Beach, has a view of the famed Cliff Walk. Sachuest Beach, or Second Beach, in Middletown is the second largest beach in the area. Gooseberry Beach is a public beach located on Ocean Drive. Newport's two private beaches, Bailey's Beach (Spouting Rock Beach Association), and Hazard's Beach, are each exclusive and located on Ocean Drive.
One other major attraction in Newport is The Newport Cliff Walk. It is a 3.5-mile public access walkway that offers breathtaking views of the mansions on one side and the deep horizons of the ocean – on the other side. The residents use it for running and walking the dogs.
On a good warm day, you might see many yachts, which is a rather common sighting, taken that for many years Newport was home to the series of yacht races for the America’s Cup.
Newport is also a great getaway for the couples. It’s not as expensive as, say, Cape Cod, but affordable enough, because the city offers low-key bars and restaurants and many sights to see by foot that does not cost anything, unless you wanted to go inside the mansions, the price of which varies from $15 to $25 per person. Moreover, the city is small enough as to be able to walk everywhere, no car needed.
Many local hotels offer couple massages and deals on the hotels that include complementary champagne and Jacuzzi in the room, like the Bellevue Inn does. From hotels to bed-and-breakfast places, Newport is an attractive location for both couples and families that look to take their kids to the nature and expose to the history of the first settlers of the East Coast vs. the places, which offer indoor activities for the kids.
Must to eat and drink:
- Lobster, lobster, lobster
- New England Clam Chowder
- Rhode Island oysters
- Local fish
- Newport’s restaurants make some of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever had…
The restaurants, which I liked and would recommend:
- The Lobster Bar – located right in the harbor with a deck, it’s a place that is very hard to miss because it looks like an old bar and a fish market together. However, it’s one of the places that offers one of the best New England clam chowder and you can select your own lobster to cook from the pools outside the restaurants filled with live lobsters. If you are staying at the place with a grill and kitchen, you can buy the freshest seafood and cook it yourself. It’s what the locals do. They also make a very good spicy Bloody Mary!
- The Clarke Cooke House – this restaurant is my favorite by far, a three-level restaurant offers beautiful views of the bay, great selection of the local fish and seafood, a signature Bloody Mary with a twist – with an oyster on top of the drink, and live music on Saturdays after 11pm. This was our choice to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday and we had so much fun at the restaurant with the other visitors and locals, who were dancing the night away to the live band.
- Mooring Restaurant – besides the lobster and clam chowder, the restaurant has a great selection of the oysters from Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York states. Try their Plum Point, Walrus & Carpenter, Rhode Island Wild, Blue Point and Cockenoe oysters.
- The Black Pearl Restaurant – this is a great spot for both day and night. The restaurants offers a long menu of seafood dishes and they pride themselves with the award-winning clam chowder. Note: this place is always crowded, be prepared to wait for a table and/or make a reservation in advance.
Surprising enough, all of the above restaurants are located in one area – on the waterfront of Newport.
Must to sightsee by foot:
- Bellevue Avenue: start from the south and head to the north of the Avenue and you won’t miss a mansion, including the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The avenue ends with the Ocean Drive that offers beautiful views of the ocean and the private residencies. If walking, you can continue to walk along the Ocean Drive that leads up to the Newport waterfront – about an hour – an hour in a half walk. Or, you can take the Cliff walk and walk back, while seeing the mansions that are located close to the cliffs.
- The Newport Cliff Walk – a must, no matter how cold and/or hot is outside, it’s an absolute must-to-do sightseeing activity. Don’t miss the views of the mansions you were unable to see from Bellevue Avenue.
- St. Mary’s Church – if you are fascinated with one of the America’s both tragic and beloved presidential love stories – Jackie and JFK, visit the church, where they were married.
- The beaches – if you are visiting Newport in the summer time, go to the beaches of the town, the white sandy-rocky beaches are clean and offers many shells to look for for the kids and beautiful views of the ocean.
- The local shops, filled with the cutest items, symbolizing everything that Newport offers – from the ocean findings to the handmade crafts. Or you can get a Starbucks cup that says Newport…
Must to visit for entertainment:
Even though Newport is not the center of the nightlife, it does offer a few places that are popular among both the locals and tourists, One of them is the Newport Blues Café. Do not expect to find a great variety of sophisticated alcoholic drinks, Newport is not the place for it (unlike, say NYC), but it does offer the local nightlife music, performed by the local bands and musicians. Seeing the tourists and locals from around the country rocking to the local bands would, no doubt, make you want to grind as well.
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If there is anything I don’t mention, please feel free to add it to my article in the Comments and/or tweet to me at @AlisaKrutovsky. Look forward to hearing from you!