Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island This Weekend With Kids

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Imagine stepping back in time to the Gilded Age, where grand mansions line the scenic shores. Welcome to Newport, Rhode Island, a historic gem teeming with coastal charm and rich American heritage. This guide explores the best activities and attractions this quaint city has to offer.

Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island
Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

From sailing on its sparkling waters to wandering through opulent estates, Newport invites you to discover its unique blend of history and luxury. Get ready to uncover the top must-see spots and hidden treasures in this picturesque locale, ensuring your visit is both memorable and filled with discovery.

See also: Best Things to Do in Block Island, Rhode Island This Weekend With Kids

Scenic Outdoor Activities in Newport, Rhode Island

Newport Cliff Walk

The Cliff Walk in Newport is a spectacular 3.5-mile trail that offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the grand Gilded Age mansions on the other. This trail, designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1975, allows you to experience both natural beauty and historical architecture​. As you walk, you’ll encounter rugged shorelines, wildflowers, and a variety of bird species, making it a delightful sensory experience​.

Cliff Walk Newport, Rhode Island
Cliff Walk Newport, Rhode Island

Key Viewpoints and Photo Spots

  • Forty Steps: Located at Narragansett Avenue, this historic stone staircase offers a dramatic descent to the ocean, perfect for photos.
  • Salve Regina University’s Ochre Court: This beautiful campus can be viewed from the trail, providing a picturesque backdrop of historic buildings.
  • The Breakers and Marble House: These iconic mansions are visible from the walk, offering stunning architectural views​.

Tips for Hikers

  • Best Times to Visit: The trail is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
  • Safety Tips: Wear sturdy shoes, especially if you plan to hike the entire trail, as the southern sections can be rocky and challenging. Be cautious of steep drops and slippery rocks.
  • Amenities: There are no restrooms or food vendors along the trail, so plan accordingly. Public restrooms are available seasonally at the Forty Steps entrance​.

Fort Adams State Park

Fort Adams State Park, located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, is home to one of the largest coastal fortifications in the United States. Built in the early 19th century, the fort played a crucial role in coastal defense and offers a glimpse into military history​.

Fort Adams State Park Newport, Rhode Island
Fort Adams State Park Newport, Rhode Island

Activities Available

  • Tours: Explore the fort through guided tours that take you through underground tunnels, officers’ quarters, and panoramic viewpoints.
  • Events: The park hosts various events, including the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival, attracting music lovers from all over.
  • Picnicking and Recreation: With expansive grounds, it’s a perfect spot for picnics, playing sports, or simply relaxing by the water​.

Best Times to Visit

The park is open year-round, but summer is the peak season due to the festivals and warmer weather. Visiting in spring or fall can also be pleasant with fewer crowds and milder temperatures​.

Sailing and Boat Tours

Newport is renowned for its sailing culture, offering a range of options from luxury yacht charters to casual harbor cruises. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or a beginner, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on the waters of Narragansett Bay.

Sachuest Beach Newport, Rhode Island
Sachuest Beach Newport, Rhode Island

Recommended Boat Tour Companies

  • Classic Cruises of Newport: Offers scenic harbor tours, sunset sails, and private charters.
  • Sightsailing of Newport: Known for its informative and relaxing sailing tours around Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.
  • Schooner Madeleine: Provides a classic sailing experience on a beautifully restored schooner​.

What to Expect on a Tour

  • Views: Expect stunning views of Newport’s coastline, historic mansions, and iconic landmarks such as the Claiborne Pell Bridge and Rose Island Lighthouse.
  • Duration: Tours typically last between 1.5 to 2 hours, with options for shorter or longer excursions.
  • Amenities: Many tours offer beverages and snacks, and some even include narrated histories of the sites you pass​.

Exploring Newport’s scenic outdoor activities offers a rich mix of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and maritime adventure, making it a perfect destination for any visitor.

Beaches and Waterfront Activities in Newport, Rhode Island

Easton’s Beach (First Beach)

Easton’s Beach, also known as First Beach, is Newport’s largest public beach. It features a 3/4-mile stretch of sand with excellent amenities to make your visit comfortable. You’ll find restrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, a shade pavilion, picnic areas with grills, and a playground for kids.

Easton's Beach Newport, Rhode Island
Easton’s Beach Newport, Rhode Island

There’s also a beach store where you can rent chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards, so you don’t have to lug all your beach gear with you. The Easton’s Beach Snack Bar is a must-visit, famed for its delicious lobster rolls​.

Activities Available

This beach is perfect for a variety of activities. Whether you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, or surf, Easton’s Beach has something for everyone. The waves are generally gentle, making it an ideal spot for families with young children. If you’re into surfing, this beach is known to have some decent waves, especially after a storm. Additionally, there’s a vintage carousel that adds a touch of historical charm to your beach day​.

Best Times to Visit and Seasonal Considerations

Easton’s Beach is best visited during the summer months when all facilities are open, and the weather is perfect for a beach day. Arriving early is wise, especially during peak season, to secure a good parking spot. Metered parking is available from May through October, costing $15 on weekdays and $25 on weekends.

If you can, walking to the beach is recommended to avoid parking hassles. The beach is open from sunrise to sunset year-round, but keep in mind that facilities are limited in the off-season.

Second Beach (Sachuest Beach)

Second Beach, officially known as Sachuest Beach, offers a more laid-back experience compared to the busier Easton’s Beach. It’s located a bit further from downtown Newport but is still easily accessible. This beach is often favored by locals and those looking for a quieter spot to relax​.

Sachuest Beach Newport, Rhode Island
Sachuest Beach Newport, Rhode Island

Unique Features and Activities

Second Beach is renowned for its fine sand and gentle surf, making it perfect for swimming and sunbathing. It’s also a great spot for surfing and paddleboarding, with rental services available nearby. The beach features ample parking, clean facilities, and even a snack bar. One unique aspect of Second Beach is the nearby Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, where you can explore walking trails and enjoy some birdwatching​.

Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor is the bustling heart of the city’s waterfront. It’s a vibrant area filled with boats, from luxury yachts to quaint sailboats, and offers stunning views of the marina and Narragansett Bay. The harbor is a hub for both recreational and commercial maritime activities​.

Newport Harbor
Newport Harbor

Popular Waterfront Dining Options

The harbor area boasts a variety of dining options where you can enjoy fresh seafood and stunning water views. Popular spots include The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar, known for its raw bar and lobster dishes, and Clarke Cooke House, which offers a more upscale dining experience. These restaurants are perfect for enjoying a meal while watching the boats go by​.

Sunset Cruises and Evening Activities

One of the best ways to experience Newport Harbor is by taking a sunset cruise. Several companies offer evening cruises that provide breathtaking views of the sunset over the water. Options include sailing trips on classic schooners or more modern vessels with full amenities. These cruises typically last around 1.5 to 2 hours and often include light snacks or drinks. It’s a magical way to end your day in Newport, enjoying the cool breeze and stunning vistas​.

Exploring the beaches and waterfront activities in Newport offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and scenic beauty, making it an ideal destination for all types of travelers.

See also: Top 10 Best National Parks in the USA

Historical and Cultural Attractions in Newport, Rhode Island

The Breakers Mansion

The Breakers is a stunning Gilded Age mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, built between 1893 and 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a prominent figure in the Vanderbilt family. Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, this 70-room mansion exemplifies the opulence and grandeur of the era. The estate is situated on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, adding to its majestic presence​.

The Breakers Mansion Newport, Rhode Island
The Breakers Mansion Newport, Rhode Island

Highlights of the Tour

Visitors to The Breakers can explore its grand interiors, which include a 50-foot-high Great Hall, marble columns, intricate plasterwork, and luxurious furnishings. Notable rooms include the grand ballroom, the music room with its gilt coffered ceiling, and the library adorned with rich mahogany and coffered ceilings. The Great Hall, designed to resemble a Renaissance courtyard, is particularly impressive with its mosaic tile floors and elegant columns​.

Visiting Information

The Breakers is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the house and grounds closing one hour after the last tour admission. Admission tickets are $26 for adults and $8 for youth aged 6-17. The mansion is partially accessible, with an elevator in service. Visitors can opt for self-guided tours using the Newport Mansions app, available for download on smart devices​.

Marble House

Built between 1888 and 1892 for Alva Vanderbilt, Marble House is another jewel of Newport’s Gilded Age. The mansion cost $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble, showcasing the Vanderbilt family’s immense wealth. Marble House played a significant role in transforming Newport into a fashionable summer resort for America’s elite​.

Marble House Newport, Rhode Island
Marble House Newport, Rhode Island

Unique Architectural Features

Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the mansion is an architectural masterpiece featuring a blend of Beaux-Arts and Renaissance styles. Its opulent interiors boast intricate woodwork, gilded rooms, and a grand staircase. The house’s front is marked by a colonnade of Corinthian columns, adding to its grandeur​.

What to Expect on a Tour

Visitors can explore the lavish interiors, including the grand ballroom and the Chinese Tea House located on the grounds. Marble House offers a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle of the Vanderbilts, with rooms adorned with gold leaf and exquisite art pieces​.

Touro Synagogue

Touro Synagogue, dedicated in 1763, holds the distinction of being the oldest synagogue in the United States. It stands as a symbol of religious freedom and the rich history of Jewish life in America. The synagogue was designed by British architect Peter Harrison and is renowned for its Georgian architecture​.

Touro Synagogue Newport, Rhode Island
Touro Synagogue Newport, Rhode Island

Historical Importance and Guided Tours

The synagogue played a pivotal role in the early Jewish community and continues to be a place of worship and historical education. Visitors can take guided tours that delve into the synagogue’s history, its architectural features, and its significance in American history​.

International Tennis Hall of Fame

Located in the Newport Casino, the International Tennis Hall of Fame was established in 1954 to preserve the history of tennis and honor its greatest players. The building itself dates back to 1880 and is an excellent example of Shingle Style architecture​.

Notable Exhibits and Events

The Hall of Fame features exhibits on tennis legends, historic artifacts, and multimedia displays that celebrate the sport’s history. Noteworthy events include the annual Hall of Fame Open, a professional tennis tournament held every July​.

Visitor Information

The Hall of Fame is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with ticket prices ranging from $18 for adults to $12 for seniors, students, and children. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the museum and the beautiful grounds of the Newport Casino.

Shopping and Local Markets in Newport, Rhode Island

Thames Street

Thames Street is the bustling heart of Newport’s downtown, offering a mix of historic charm and modern flair. This lively street stretches about 1.5 miles, filled with a blend of colonial architecture and contemporary shops.

Walking along Thames Street, you’ll find an array of boutique stores, art galleries, and souvenir shops that cater to every interest. From nautical-themed gifts to high-end fashion, there’s something for everyone.

The street is particularly vibrant during the summer when tourists flock to enjoy the lively atmosphere and scenic views of Newport Harbor​.

Notable Shops and Boutiques

  • Lemon & Line: Known for their nautical-themed bracelets made from maritime materials, offering a unique keepsake of Newport.
  • Style Newport: Specializes in custom-made jewelry inspired by nautical signal flags, perfect for sea lovers.
  • Shore Soap Company: Offers handcrafted soaps and lotions with oceanic inspirations, a local favorite.
  • Seaside Art Gallery and Coastal Contemporary Gallery: Showcase beautiful artworks that capture the essence of Newport’s coastal charm​.

Dining Options Along Thames Street

Thames Street is also a foodie’s paradise, with numerous dining options ranging from casual eateries to fine dining. Some highlights include:

  • Brick Alley Pub: Famous for its nachos and Sedona Burger, this spot offers a relaxed atmosphere with great food and drinks.
  • Red Parrot Restaurant: Located in a historic building, it serves a diverse menu with everything from seafood to pasta.
  • Buskers Irish Pub & Restaurant: Enjoy traditional Irish fare and live music in a cozy setting.
  • Benjamin’s Raw Bar: Perfect for seafood lovers, known for its fresh oysters and clams​.

Newport Farmers Market

The Newport Farmers Market is a vibrant hub for fresh, local produce and artisanal goods. Held weekly, this market is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a wide variety of products from local farmers and artisans. It’s not just a place to shop but also a community gathering spot where you can enjoy live music and meet the people behind the products​.

Popular Vendors and Products

  • Aquidneck Farms: Known for their sustainably raised meats and fresh dairy products.
  • Sweet Berry Farm: Offers a delightful range of seasonal fruits and homemade preserves.
  • Newport Vineyards: Provides locally produced wines, perfect for sampling the flavors of Rhode Island.
  • Local Artisan Bakers: Enjoy freshly baked bread, pastries, and other sweet treats​.

Seasonal Highlights and Events

The Newport Farmers Market features seasonal events that make each visit unique. In the spring and summer, you can find an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Fall brings a harvest festival atmosphere with pumpkins, apples, and hearty root vegetables. Throughout the year, special events like cooking demonstrations and holiday markets add extra excitement to your visit​.

Food and Dining in Newport, Rhode Island

Seafood Restaurants

Newport is renowned for its seafood, offering a variety of top-notch restaurants:

  • The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar: Known for its fresh seafood and waterfront views, try their signature “Bag of Doughnuts” – lobster, crab, and shrimp fritters.
  • Fluke Newport: Offers a seasonal menu with dishes like lobster pasta and seared scallops, perfect for a fine dining experience.
  • Benjamin’s Raw Bar: Famous for its raw oysters and clams, this is a must-visit for shellfish enthusiasts​.

Signature Dishes to Try

When in Newport, don’t miss out on these local favorites:

  • Clam Chowder: A creamy, hearty soup that’s a staple in many Newport seafood restaurants.
  • Lobster Roll: Fresh lobster meat served in a buttery roll, often accompanied by fries or a salad.
  • Stuffies: Stuffed quahogs (a type of hard clam) mixed with a flavorful stuffing of herbs, bread crumbs, and chorizo.

Newport Vineyards

Newport Vineyards offers a delightful escape into the world of wine. Located just a short drive from downtown Newport, this vineyard spans over 100 acres and produces a variety of wines, from crisp whites to robust reds. The vineyard is family-owned and has been a staple of the Newport wine scene for decades​.

Wine Tasting Experiences and Tours

Visitors can enjoy guided tours that walk you through the winemaking process, from vine to bottle. Wine tastings are available daily, allowing you to sample a selection of their finest wines. Pair your tasting with a visit to the vineyard’s on-site restaurant, Brix, which offers farm-to-table dining in a beautiful setting​.

Events and Special Activities

Throughout the year, Newport Vineyards hosts a variety of events, including wine dinners, live music nights, and seasonal festivals. These events provide a great opportunity to enjoy the vineyard’s offerings in a lively, social atmosphere​.

Local Cafes and Bistros

Start your day at one of Newport’s charming cafes and bistros:

  • Corner Café: Known for its hearty breakfasts and welcoming atmosphere. Try their famous Portuguese Sweet Bread French Toast.
  • Belle’s Café: Located at the Newport Shipyard, this spot offers a unique dining experience with views of luxury yachts. Their brunch menu includes delicious options like crab cake benedict and avocado toast​.

Popular Spots for Coffee and Light Meals

For a casual bite or a cup of coffee, check out:

  • Empire Tea & Coffee: A local favorite for its cozy vibe and excellent coffee. They also offer a variety of pastries and light snacks.
  • Meg’s Aussie Milk Bar: Known for its Australian-inspired menu, offering great coffee and unique breakfast options like the “Aussie Brekkie”​.

Exploring Newport’s shopping, markets, and dining scenes offers a perfect blend of local flavor, historical charm, and culinary delights, making it a must-visit destination.

Special Events and Festivals in Newport, Rhode Island

Newport Jazz Festival

The Newport Jazz Festival is a cornerstone of American music history, having been established in 1954 by Elaine and Louis Lorillard, with the legendary George Wein as its organizer. It quickly became a prestigious event, drawing jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.

The festival’s significance is underscored by its role in popularizing jazz and its impact on the music scene globally. The 1956 performance by Duke Ellington, which revitalized his career, and the experimental fusion of jazz with rock in the 1969 festival are particularly notable highlights​.

Highlights and What to Expect

Held annually at Fort Adams State Park, the festival offers stunning views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. The 2024 lineup includes both legendary musicians and contemporary artists like Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper, promising a diverse and dynamic musical experience. Attendees can expect a mix of classic jazz performances and innovative new sounds. This year’s festival also features a special tribute to the late saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Newport Folk Festival

The Newport Folk Festival, founded in 1959, is another iconic event in Newport’s cultural calendar. It has been the stage for groundbreaking performances, including Bob Dylan’s controversial switch to electric guitar in 1965 and early appearances by artists like Joan Baez and Johnny Cash. The festival is celebrated for its role in the folk music revival and continues to feature a mix of established and emerging artists​.

Tips for Attending and Ticket Information

Held at Fort Adams State Park, the Newport Folk Festival typically sells out quickly. It’s best to purchase tickets as soon as they become available. Attendees should prepare for varying weather conditions, as the festival takes place rain or shine. Bringing sunscreen, a hat, and a reusable water bottle is advisable. Public transportation and shuttle services are available to ease parking and traffic concerns​.

Seasonal Events

Overview of Notable Events Throughout the Year

Newport hosts a variety of seasonal events that add to its charm year-round:

  • Christmas in Newport: This month-long celebration features concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, and historical reenactments, transforming Newport into a festive winter wonderland.
  • Newport Flower Show: Held every June at the Newport Mansions, this event showcases stunning floral displays and horticultural excellence.
  • Newport International Boat Show: One of the largest in-water boat shows in the country, taking place each September, it attracts boating enthusiasts from around the world.

Event-Specific Tips and Highlights

For Christmas in Newport, dress warmly and plan to explore the beautifully decorated mansions and outdoor light displays. The Newport Flower Show is perfect for garden enthusiasts; early arrival ensures you can attend popular lectures and workshops. For the Boat Show, purchasing tickets in advance and arriving early can help avoid long lines. Comfortable shoes are a must, as there’s plenty to see and explore​.

These events and festivals highlight Newport’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant community, offering something special for every visitor throughout the year.

Practical Information for Visiting Newport, Rhode Island

Getting Around Newport

Newport offers a variety of transportation options to help you get around easily:

  • Walking: With its compact size and historic charm, Newport is perfect for exploring on foot. Many attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance in the downtown area.
  • Biking: Renting a bike is a great way to navigate Newport’s streets and scenic paths. Several rental shops offer bikes and scooters, making it easy to explore without worrying about parking​.
  • Public Transport: The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) operates buses and trolleys in Newport. The trolleys are especially convenient for tourists, with routes covering major attractions like the Cliff Walk, Bellevue Avenue, and the mansions​.
  • Car Rentals: If you prefer driving, car rental services are available. However, keep in mind that parking can be tricky during peak seasons.

Parking Information and Tips

Parking in Newport can be challenging, especially during summer weekends. Here are some tips:

  • Visitor Gateway Center: Located on America’s Cup Avenue, this center offers the largest parking facility with both surface and garage options. Rates are $2 for the first hour and $1.50 for each additional hour, with a daily max of $24.50​,
  • Mary Street Lot: Close to Thames Street, this lot provides easy access to downtown. Rates are $3 per hour or $20 per day.
  • Pay-by-Plate Parking: Available in various locations, including near the Cliff Walk and downtown areas. Rates are generally $1.25 to $2 per hour​.

Accommodation Recommendations

Top Hotels and B&Bs

  • The Chanler at Cliff Walk: A luxury hotel offering stunning views, historic charm, and exceptional service. Ideal for a splurge-worthy stay.
  • Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina: Located on Goat Island, this resort offers beautiful waterfront views, a spa, and several dining options.
  • Francis Malbone House: A top-rated B&B known for its elegant rooms, excellent breakfast, and central location.

Budget-Friendly Options and Luxury Stays

  • Budget-Friendly: The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina offers comfortable accommodations with great views at a reasonable price. For a cozy and affordable B&B experience, try the Artful Lodger Inn.
  • Luxury Stays: For an opulent experience, the Vanderbilt offers luxurious rooms, a rooftop bar, and a rich history​.

Travel Tips

Best Times to Visit Newport

The best time to visit Newport is from late spring to early fall (May to October). During this period, the weather is pleasant, and many festivals and events take place. Summer is the peak season with the most tourists, so book accommodations early.

Packing Essentials for Different Seasons

  • Spring/Fall: Light layers, a jacket, comfortable walking shoes, and an umbrella.
  • Summer: Lightweight clothing, swimsuits, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Winter: Warm clothing, including a heavy coat, gloves, scarves, and waterproof boots.

Safety Tips and Local Customs

  • Safety Tips: Newport is generally safe, but it’s always wise to stay alert in crowded areas and keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Local Customs: Tipping is customary in restaurants (15-20% of the bill). Newport has a relaxed coastal vibe, so casual attire is acceptable in most places, though some fine dining restaurants may have a dress code.

By planning your transportation, accommodations, and packing according to these tips, you’ll ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip to Newport, Rhode Island.

Final Thoughts on Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

As our exploration of Newport, Rhode Island, comes to a close, it’s clear why this charming city captures the hearts of all who visit. From its breathtaking coastal views to the opulent Gilded Age mansions, Newport offers a unique blend of history, luxury, and natural beauty.

So take these memories, rich with the spirit of exploration and discovery, and let them inspire your next adventure. Newport is more than just a destination; it’s a vivid reminder of America’s dynamic past and present.

FAQs on Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

Is Newport, RI worth visiting?

Yes, Newport is definitely worth a visit. Whether you’re there for a day or longer, you can enjoy walking the scenic Cliff Walk along the ocean, touring the historic mansions, and exploring the vibrant downtown area filled with shops and restaurants.

What is Newport famous for?

Newport is famous for several key attractions:

  • Newport Mansions: These historic summer homes of America’s wealthiest families.
  • Cliff Walk: A scenic 3.5-mile walkway along the coast.
  • Sailing and Yachting: Known as the sailing capital of the U.S.
  • Music Festivals: Hosting notable events like the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival.
  • Historic Sites: Including the oldest synagogue in the U.S., Touro Synagogue, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

How can I spend one day in Newport, RI?

In one day, you can enjoy the best of Newport by:

  • Starting with the Cliff Walk: Enjoy breathtaking ocean views.
  • Visiting a Mansion: Tour the opulent Breakers or Marble House.
  • Exploring Downtown: Shop and dine in the charming area.
  • Driving Ocean Drive: Experience stunning coastal views.
  • Stopping at Brenton Point State Park: Ideal for a picnic or kite flying.
  • Ending with a Visit to Castle Hill: Enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Newport is special for its unique blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural attractions. It’s surrounded by water, which gives it a stunning coastal charm. The city boasts beautiful architecture, from colonial buildings to Gilded Age mansions. Newport also has a rich history with numerous galleries, shops, restaurants, and activities that appeal to a wide range of visitors.

What is special about Newport, Rhode Island?

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