Newport, nicknamed "America's First Resort," is a place out of a picture book, distinct for its polished yacht fleets, rose-coloured sunsets, and long-time association with America's fine and fabulous. The Kennedys were married here (Jackie was a local girl); and during his presidency Eisenhower spent time here at the Naval War College, which continues to introduce a uniformed presence to the lively streets. Tourists come today for the opulent fin-de-siècle mansions that line Bellevue Avenue – huge tree-lined estates and ornate palaces, former summer homes of the likes of the Astors and Vanderbilts.
Stroll beyond the extravagant facades, though, and you'll find much more, including many original eighteenth-century homes that sit among downtown's restaurants, boutiques, and shops. The town's prime seaside location also means that the views are often, if not always, free – a short drive and you're greeted by unrivalled shores, with rugged seascapes and long swaths of sand.
What is old can still be new, and this is true of Newport today as it was when the first settlers arrived in the harbor, a popular place of trade. Newport's rich cultural diversity comes from these early days of trade from the West Indies with settlers bringing unusual items like pineapples, which became a welcome symbol displayed then and now in the districts of many Newport inns, restaurants, homes and shops. Whether you are visiting Newport for a mansion tour, a music festival, a yachting event or relaxing vacation on the beach, you will want to explore this old city by the sea.
Downtown and Historic District
The downtown area of Newport is considered the historic district with its surrounding residential areas and The Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue in the Cliff Walk section. Newport is composed of rows of colonial homes, shops and eateries and the beaches skirting the city. Historic sites and architectural wonders draw many visitors to Newport. One of the lesser known yet interesting architectural designs is the Old Stone Mill in the middle of Touro Park on Historic Hill. The Old Stone Mill is said to be one of the oldest structures in the United States. Many people believe the Mill dates back to the Norsemen, 900 years ago. It could be the remains that are similar to Norse churches and towers found in Europe today. It is also rumored to be a colonial windmill or the ruins of a building built over a previous structure. The Old Stone Mill lends mystery to history and is the subject of debate and controversy in Newport and elsewhere today.
The historic structures of Newport are valued not only for their architectural aspects, but for the grace and beauty of landscape design surrounding the buildings, homes, museums and mansions. Green Animals Topiary Garden , a self-supporting estate of the Gilded Age with more than 800 topiary sculptures, is a perfect example of Victorian design.
Another estate, the most famous on the map in Newport is The Breakers , located in the Cliff Walk area on Ochre Point Avenue.
The Vanderbilt family fortune, attained through the advent of steamships and the New York Central Railroad, is displayed in all its grandeur in The Breakers, located in the Newport mansion district. The 16th Century European palaces of Genoa and Turin inspired this 70-room villa, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Today, along with other Newport homes in the mansion district, The Breakers is a National Historic Landmark. Many Newport music festivals are held on the lawns or inside the ballrooms or music rooms of these great estates. First Beach, also known as Easton's Beach provides a spectacular view of Newport's famous historical mansions.
If you squirm in your seat during a violin concerto and would rather skip out to sea, head back to the yachting district. This district of Newport is known in yachting circles all over the world and is home to many private yacht clubs and their avid yachtsmen. You may even stumble upon a regatta or a sailing race, as Newport sponsors several sail related events throughout the year. Sail aboard an America's Cup Yacht docked at the Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina at 49 America's Cup Avenue. On a sailing cruise you can view Newport's Point District, which is close to the harbor and the area of the Jamestown Bridge. See the smaller Colonial homes along the shore that Newport residents have restored and now make their homes. Sail past Newport parks, including Brenton Point State Park , and catch a glimpse of local fisherman trapping fresh seafood that might be your dinner. Learn why locals refer to their home as "the island" as you circle the coastline dotted with rocky beaches. Newport beaches, with their glistening sand naturally sculpted by nature, are some of the most beautiful in the world. Second Beach is located west of Third Beach , which runs to the mouth of the Sakonnet River. Third Beach, which faces the Narragansett Bay, is a favorite spot for locals to enjoy the passing sails and watch the soft sunsets by the sea.
Your Newport explorations will help you develop an eye for the paths and promenades of Newport, its great structures and landscaped walks, pulled together in detail and design in the many interesting architectural and historical displays and the natural shoreline that makes up the districts in the city of Newport.
Whatever your dining or drinking destination, Newport is a playground for your palette with plenty of sea air to keep your senses steady, and you in charge at the stern. Newport offers a wide variety of ambiance and taste, from a quick dockside lunch of oysters and champagne to festive clam and lobster bakes at the beach with frothing mugs of Narragansett beer or a barrel of your favorite brew.
Downtown and Historic District
Perhaps you want to celebrate a special event. There is no better place than Memorial Boulevard in Newport. Sardella's is an Italian restaurant known all over Rhode Island for its romantic atmosphere suitable for couples or friends, biting into a rich Lasagna al forno and sharing special moments with a delectable Scaloppini Saltimbocca. At Sardella's find casual elegance and old world charm complemented by excellent genuine Italian cuisine. Two paneled dining rooms are available for your enjoyment—one for a party of up to 60 people and another, in the Oak Room, with a capacity of 25. Savor a bottle of fine burgundy in The Tavern, or enjoy an intimate dinner in the Fireplace room. On the menu try the pesce del giorno, fresh fish of the day prepared by the chef, and Scaloppini Loretta, sauteed veal medallions. What is Bistecca di Manzo? It is a New York grilled strip steak, just begging for a bite. Sardella's, easily accessible from New York, Boston and Providence, is minutes from your skip at Newport harbor.
For more Italian cuisine and plenty of seafood, try Lucia Italian Restaurant where you can get an authentic taste of Northern Italy. With chefs from Vicenza (near Venice) and Rimini, they know a thing or two about seafood and serve it the best way: fresh! In addition to the numerous pasta and seafood dishes you can get, vegetarians can also be assured a hearty meal with an entire vegetarian menu filled with dishes from every course to satisfy every desire.
By now your head may be reeling from excitement, but not enough to eliminate that nightcap at H20 , which is under The Inn At The Harbor, across the street from The Red Parrot in downtown Newport. You can enjoy dinner or simply a drink from the deck and enjoy the water view. Or stop at The Mooring Restaurant on Sayer's Wharf, or Christie's on Thames Street for a drink and a view of the lit harbor. You will find a few spots in Newport open past midnight for drinks, but keep in mind that most kitchens close at ten.
If your Newport visit leans more towards days of yore on land rather than sea, the Rhode Island Quahog Company is the dining experience of your dreams. This establishment, a former summer residence, offers a mid-week Gourmet Getaway, where they will teach you to prepare culinary delights. You can choose your own menu or they will design one for you. Learn culinary terms and enjoy the fruits of your labor with a gourmet breakfast and a full course gourmet dinner. At the Rhode Island House, you are asked to bring that special bottle of cellar wine to go with your meal.
Another fine Newport establishment known for its ambiance of old age charm and spectacular views of a lighthouse and Narragansett Bay is Castle Hill Inn & Resort on Ocean Drive. You will find a master chef preparing succulent ingredients supplied by local fishermen, and served in an elegant dining room, which requires a formal dress code overlooking the Bay. Choose from a selection of over 200 wines on their list — perhaps a 1996 Chardonnay to go with your haddock fillet. Begin your dining experience with New England clam chowder or native morels and fiddleheads sauteed in orange oil, then on to a main course of crab meat and artichoke salad. Try buttered native lobster with cucumber-sweet corn, or a grilled beef tenderloin with summer green beans sprinkled with almond butter. Strawberry shortbread or a crème brûlee for dessert, or maybe a light shrimp bisque or scampi with lemon oil for brunch.
If you are a true wine buff, you must view the expanse and selection of the fine bouquets at Sakonnet Vineyards , the oldest and largest Rhode Island winery located east of Newport in Little Compton. Sample an estate Samson Brut 1995 gold medal sparkling wine, or their 25th Anniversary Claret. These wines are known for their distinctive style and balance, especially complementary with the food of your choice. Events at this winery include a Master Chef series featuring professional chefs, gourmet classes with individual instruction, preparation of full course meals and the selection of the appropriate wines for each course.
On a different note, perhaps you are visiting Newport for a regal black-tie Saturday night of dinner and dancing at the Officers' Club at the Newport Naval Base. In summer, enjoy complimentary hors d'œuvres or an outdoor barbecue on Friday nights from 5pm to 7pm. A wide selection of soft drinks, fine beer and wines are available under the canopied deck facing the Newport Bridge. The Officers' Club is not a closely guarded military secret, yet it is not advertised to the public. Check in at the main gate of the base and you will receive a card, and someone there will sponsor your admittance.
From the stately and historic homes on Cliff Walk to the buzz on Bannister's Wharf , Newport will keep you busy.
Trinity Church Trinity Church , located in the Historic District, is a popular attraction where George Washington once worshiped. Tour the nearby Newport Colony House and the Touro Synagogue , America's oldest. Close by is the Isaac Bell House , famous for its shingle features, then dine at the popular Red Parrot Restaurant .
Fort Adams State Park St. Mary's Church is on everyone's list of places to see; it's the state's oldest Catholic parish. When you've finished admiring the architecture, grab a bite at Elizabeth's Newport Cafe . Browse the exhibits at the Newport Postcard Museum , then check out the offerings at Aardvark Antiques . Take a trip to Fort Adams State Park , explore the grounds and relax.
Bannister's Wharf Bannister's Wharf is filled with unique shops and fantastic restaurants that attract visitors year round. Dine at the nearby seafood restaurant H20 , then take a long stroll down Cliff Walk . You'll pass the historic Marble House . Continue on to nearby Easton's Beach , have a swim and relax on the sand.
Bellevue Avenue The Redwood Library & Athenaeum can be found on Bellevue Avenue, as can the historic Elms mansion. Stop into the Newport Creamery diner and have lunch. The Newport Art Museum has paintings, furniture and jewelry on display, while the nearby, palatial Chateau-sur-Mer is open for tours.
Sachuset Wildlife Park The Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, with its many trails, is a popular place for hiking as well as bird watching. Nearby Sachuset Wildlife Park offers visitors the chance to swim and fish, while the rough waters at Sachuset Beach are popular among surfers. Tour Newport Vineyards & Winery , then head back downtown and have dinner at Sardella's .
Sunset harbor cruises and winery tours, a self-guided tour of Cliff Walk and a tour of the city on a dinner train are yours for the taking.
Walking Tours Secret Garden Walking Tour ( +1 401 847 0514/ http://www.secretgardentour.com/ ) Chepstow Tours ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1006 ) The Elms ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1002 ) Newport Historical Society Walking Tours ( +1 401 846 0813/ http://www.newporthistorical.org/ ) Salve Regina University ( +1 401 847 6650/ http://www.salve.edu/ ) Chateau-sur-Mer ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1005 ) Belcourt Castle ( +1 401 846 0669/ http://www.belcourtcastle.com/ ) The Wayfarers ( +1 401 849 5087/ http://www.thewayfarers.com/ )
Boat Tours Classic Cruises of Newport ( +1 401 847 0298/ http://www.cruisenewport.com/ ) Spirit Of Newport ( +1 401 849 3575/ http://www.spiritofnewport.com/services_prices.htm/ ) Viking Boat Tours ( +1 401 847 6921/ http://www.vikingtoursnewport.com/ )
Train Tours Newport Dinner Train ( +1 401 841 8700/ http://www.newportdinnertrain.com/ )
Helicopter Tours Bird's Eye View Helicopters ( +1 401 843 8687/ http://newportrihelicopter.com/newportri.php?fr=header )
Winery Tours Sakonnet Vineyards ( +1 401 635 8486/ http://www.sakonnetwine.com/ )
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Historical Tours Chepstow Tours ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1006 ) The Elms ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1002 ) Newport Historical Society Walking Tours ( +1 401 846 0813/ http://www.newporthistorical.org/ ) Salve Regina University ( +1 401 847 6650/ http://www.salve.edu/ ) Chateau-sur-Mer ( +1 401 847 1000/ http://tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1005 ) Belcourt Castle ( +1 401 846 0669/ http://www.belcourtcastle.com/ )