Living in Boston, MA, allows me to take fun road trips all over New England. I don’t take advantage of this fact very often. This past week I traveled to Newport, RI. I was meeting some college alum to attend a basketball game at the University of Rhode Island. It was a chance to take a fun road trip and cheer on the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. This trip also inspired this post, writing about visiting Newport off-season.
Read A Brief History of Newport: https://newporthistory.org/about/newport-history/
Some highlight from that post:
The first English settlers arrived in 1639. “Native people had been in the area for at least 5,000 years, and had established sophisticated land management and fishing practices. Current evidence points to the existence of a large summer settlement in what is now downtown Newport, and the work these native people had done clearing the land was one of the factors that made this area attractive to English settlers.“
“Among the religious groups attracted to this haven in a world of threatening intolerance were Quakers and Jews. Their presence, along with their international trade connections, helped transform the town from a small agricultural outpost to one of colonial America’s five leading seaports (along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston).”
“Later summer colonists during the Gilded Age included elite familes from South Carolina, the King and Griswold families of New York, and later the Vanderbilts. These families and many more whose presence here helped transform Newport into the Queen of the Resorts, built the mansions for which Newport has become famous, employing architects Richard Morris Hunt, McKim Mead and White, Peabody and Stearns, and others. Several of these mansions have become major tourist attractions.“
“Newport’s history has always been tied to the sea. During the colonial period the city’s harbor teemed with trading ships. With the arrival of the Summer Colony and the New York Yacht Club, Newport was on its way to becoming a yachting capital. The Yacht Club brought the famed America’s Cup to Newport in the 1930s where it stayed until lost to the Australians in 1983.“
“Visitors to Newport now come to learn about the area’s remarkable history as well as to enjoy the beauty and the hospitality of the City by the Sea. There is, of course, more than mansions for visitors to see in Newport. There are beautifully restored colonial landmarks for visitors to explore along with, fine small museums, such as the Museum of Newport History in the Brick Market which is a perfect place to begin a visit to the area where visitors can get an overview of the city’s history. The Newport Art Museum, the Tennis Hall of Fame, Audrain Automobile Museum, Fort Adams, Redwood Library, Touro Synagogue, Trinity Church, and many other attractions offer the visitors an unrivaled opportunity to explore aspects of this country’s history.“
Things to Do in Newport
The top 12 things to do from Discover Newport, https://www.discovernewport.org/things-to-do/.
I was only in Newport for one day, so I didn’t have enough time to check off every to-do item.
The things I did on my visit from the list:
1 – The Cliff Walk
“Newport’s enchanting 3.5-mile Cliff Walk is the perfect place for your moment of peace. Panoramic ocean views, crashing waves and the perfect amount of sea breeze on one side and stunning, century-old, Gilded Age mansions on the other; heaven is a place on earth.”
I parked on Narragansett Avenue, there was plenty of parking, and it was free. There is metered parking from May 1-October 31.
Part of the path is closed, but it is a short detour to the next entrance.
I only walked on the paved sidewalk; my total distance was 2 miles. The path continues on the rocks.
2 – Local Eateries
“Dining around Newport has never been better. New innovative, chef-owned restaurants—up and down The Classic Coast—are joining nationally acclaimed establishments, classic lobster shacks, and hip budget-friendly hangouts to create a delicious array of options for every taste.“
Finding a restaurant open for lunch was a little bit of a challenge. Some restaurants close during this time of year for renovations or staff breaks.
I asked my server, Olivia, about visiting Newport off-season. She lives in Newport year-round and enjoys dining at places that are too busy during the busy season. She likes living in Newport and has formed bonds with other locals. She said the locals easily recognize tourists.
3 – Stroll Downtown
“Wander downtown along cobblestone paths lined with a mix of local boutiques, exquisite galleries, award-winning eateries, eclectic artisans and so much more.“
I walked around and did some shopping after lunch.
Most of the stores were open and had a lot of fun merchandise. I love shopping at local stores; supporting small business owners is important, especially off-season. I didn’t need to buy any clothing or home decor, but I did buy an ornament and a fun framed word using scrabble tiles at Primavera Newport.
Some big-name stores in Newport include Vineyard Vines, Banana Republic, Lululemon, and Sephora.
My last stop was my favorite: Charter Books. I love shopping at local bookstores.
The staff is super friendly at this store, and they have a great collection of books and gifts.
If I had more time, I would have visited a museum or toured a mansion. One of the locals I spoke to said this is a great time to tour the mansions.
The most well-known is The Breakers. A guided tour costs $29/per adult.
There are also events to attend during the off-season (tickets are $20):
Winter Gilded Age Lecture Series: Learn about the historical set locations of Julian Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age” on HBO; African American designers and dressmakers who created the garments worn by privileged Newporters; cocktails that were all the rage in the Gilded Age; and the music that brought elegance and beauty to the soundtrack of the period.
You can attend these two events on Zoom for $10:
African American Designers and Dressmakers (on February 9th): Who were the designers and dressmakers who skillfully created garments for privileged Newporters in the past?
On Location From… HBO and “The Gilded Age” (on January 26th): Panelists from three locations where HBO’s “The Gilded Age” was filmed will discuss how the show has impacted period houses and properties and driven an interest in their history.
If you are into the Gilded Age, you can attend an event at The Vanderbilt: A Gilded Age Dinner Party with James Beard Award-Winning Maison Premiere. Join us at our historic Newport mansion and be transported back to a time of raucous parties of the early 20th-century, when the East Coast’s most notorious families threw extravagant, over-the-top fêtes, with our one-of-kind, white glove experience at The Vanderbilt. Available from December 15, 2022 to May 30, 2023. For 6 – 10 people, $500 per guest.
Things to do in January: https://www.discovernewport.org/blog/post/things-to-do-in-january/
If I were to visit Newport again in January, I would stay for the weekend. There are more fun activities to do, including:
Goat Hikes at Simmons Farm – SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS, STARTING AT 11:00 AM + 1:30 PM. Whatever the season, the goats of Simmons Farm welcome You to join them for a stroll through our bucolic pastures. Enjoy the company of your Caprine friend as they escort you through our scenic farm.
FARMERS MARKET AT MOUNT HOPE FARM: SATURDAYS IN JANUARY, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE AT HOTEL VIKING: SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS, 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM. $49 per person.
SHOREBIRD STROLL: SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, FROM 8:00 AM 9:00 AM. Join a Norman Bird Sanctuary naturalist at Third Beach for a hike along the shore to watch for visiting rare winter birds. Enjoy ocean views and look for scuttling Sandpipers, elusive Eiders, bustling Buffleheads, and more!
Staying in town off-season
January is hotel month: Rhode Island’s Hotel Month 2023 returns January 1-31, 2023 with big savings on overnight stays at Rhode Island’s top hotels, historic inns and quaint B&Bs. The month-long event features rates up to 50% off alongside complimentary amenities including spa treatments, dining credits, room upgrades, and special activities.
I stayed at the Hotel Viking. There are offers available: https://www.hotelviking.com/offers/. You can save a lot of money staying off-season. One night will cost you around $175 in January and $837 in June (without fees and taxes). Hotel Viking is very nice; the rooms are charming, and there is a nice bar and coffee bar in the lobby.
Some of the food service hours at the hotel are limited in January. But spa services are available, and a fitness center, an indoor pool, and a jacuzzi are open.
Pros and Cons of the off-season
May to October is the busy season in Newport. There are events throughout the year that might be fun to attend, including Newport Burger Bender, Newport Winter Festival, Newport Oyster and Chowder Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, and Holidays at the Mansion. Several locals mentioned December as a nice month to visit.
Pros: you save money on nice hotel rooms, there are no crowds, there are several indoor activities in town, you get to hang out with the locals (who are very nice), and the sunsets and scenery are nice.
Cons: some restaurants and businesses are closed or have limited hours, and winter weather might not cooperate with outdoor activities.
I will definitely visit Newport again to explore more sites and attend some fun activities.