If there’s one place that’s on our bucket list of places to visit every summer, Newport, RI is it. Sure, there can be traffic and tourists, but it’s also a sports town and if you know where to go and how to avoid the crowds can be a great getaway. Here’s our pick for 9 things to do in Newport:
Get Out on the Water:
Newport has been all about boats and yachts ever since the America’s Cup – one of the oldest and grandest of sporting races – first came to the U.S. in 1930 as magnates such as J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt competed against British and other foreign contenders. While the Cup is no longer held here, there is a 12-Meter Championship which revives the classic yachts that once competed for the cup (held July 8-13 this year). And Newport remains the home port for some of the biggest and most beautiful yachts in the world. t If you just want to head out for a sail on your own, stop by Sail Newport at Fort Adams where you can rent a small sailboat (such as a J/22) for a day or half-day.
Hit the Beach:
If you’re looking to get wet, head to Second Beach where the waves are long and smooth. You can rent a surfboard or take lessons at Island Surf & Sport or at a few other shops in Middletown, RI. First Beach tends to be a bit more crowded and if you are looking for more seclusion, head to the white sands of Third Beach.
Fish or Dive In:
If you’re dive certified – or want to become so – the clear Atlantic waters and rocky shores off Brenton Reef are teeming with sea life. You might spot a seal here in the cooler months. Spear fishermen (with permits) hunt for stripers and there’s a wide variety of sea life.
Ride Ocean Drive:
One of the most scenic bike rides (or runs) in America is the 10-mile coastal route along Ocean Drive. You can escape the crowds of downtown Newport and head out to where waves break against the rocky shores, past waterfront mansions and back into town – or to extend the ride, head out to Third Beach and take a dip before returning. Bubbles Dive Center or The Dive Shop in Newport can help get you outfitted or on a dive.
Do the Cliff Walk:
If you think of Newport, Rhode Island, the vision of magnificent mansions might come to mind. In truth, Newport is one of the few places in America where you’ll find a concentration of estates as grand as any you might find in the English countryside or the Loire Valley. The Cliff Walk, a designated National Recreation Trail that runs 3.5 miles along the coast, gives you a seafront view of many of the grand mansions. If you have time to visit just one or two, The Breakers, a 70-room ornate palazzo, was built for railway magnate “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt (his family also helped build Shelburne Farms). We also love Rosecliff, which is modeled after the Grand Trianon, one of the palaces in Versailles, France.
Check out the Polo:
Yachts, mansions and polo – they all seem to go together and yes, Newport’s polo scene is just what you would expect. But besides the opportunity to see and be scene, stomp the divots (meaning you pat down what the players kicked up) and check out tailgate parties where Moet Chandon flows as freely as beer it’s a chance to see an impressive sport in action. All-star players take to the field every Saturday.
You can also see some of the top international players fresh off Wimbledon compete at the Hall of Fame Open on July 14-21 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame whose grass courts have hosted legendary players since the 188o.
Hit up a Music Festival:
Newport rocks pretty much every weekend but there are certain weekends when it seems that festivals take over the town. For much of July, more than 60 classical concerts are held around the town – some even in the halls of the grand mansions – as part of the Newport Music Festival. The Newport Folk Festival, held July 26-28 in 2019 has hosted legends such as Bob Dylan and the music, performed at Fort Adams, echoes out across the harbor. The Newport Jazz Festival, which first started in 1954, is also legendary for having performers such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and others.
There are few places to find seafood as fresh as in Newport. Flo’s Clam Shack, a simple picnic-table, take-out kind of place just across from the beach in Middletown in legendary for its puffy, crispy whole-belly clams. If you want to step back in time, for a more elegant meal stop in at the White Horse Tavern, a National Historic Landmark in a classic red Colonial in town that started serving guests in 1673. The Black Pearl, the Candy Store and the Midtown Oyster Bar are other must-stop places.