Follow in the footsteps of Gilded Age tycoons this summer and leave the heat and humidity of the concrete jungle for the fresh air and glamour of Newport, Rhode Island. Explore history, enjoy great food and just kick back and relax in this quaint, New England resort town.
WHERE TO GO
Any trip to Newport wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historic mansions that served as a summer escape for some of the country’s wealthiest families. Meander through marble-lined hallways and draped bedrooms as you experience what life was like in the early 20th century for the nation’s elite. Ten mansions are under the purveyance of the Preservation Society of Newport County, most of which are open from the end of May through mid-October (admission prices vary). The Breakers, perhaps the most famous of the Newport Mansions, was the “summer cottage” of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Another Vanderbilt home, Marble House, is good for those craving a peek at the opulence of the age. Meanwhile The Elms, home of coal magnates the Berwinds, offers up a unique behind-the-scenes look at servant life (as a separate tour) for all you “Downton Abbey” fans out there.
Not feeling the whole mansions deal? Check the National Museum of American Illustration ($18 adults, $16 seniors, $12 students and $8 children 5 to 12, children under 5 not admitted, summer season hours Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., guided tours on Fridays at 3 p.m.; Vernon Court, 492 Bellevue Ave., 401-851-8949), featuring works by the likes of Norman Rockwell and J. C. Leyendecker, or the Newport Art Museum ($10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 students, children under 5 free, open Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun., noon-4 p.m.; 76 Bellevue Ave., 401-848-8200). Newport is also home to the largest collection of Colonial-era architecture in the country, so simply a drive around the town is a treat for architect buffs.
WHERE TO EAT
Downtown Newport is teeming with places to grab a quick bite or enjoy a more indulgent meal. A drive down Thames Street or a walk through the many wharfs is sure to reveal a delicious dining option for any palate.
For some French flare and fare, snag a table at Bouchard Inn & Restaurant (505 Thames St., 401-846-0123). Enjoy foie gras, escargots, filet de boeuf, sole and more. A more casual dining experience can be had at Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant (140 Thames St., 401-849-6334), which serves up American grub with a multicultural twist. Stop here for yummy steaks, burgers and seafood. Sip a classic or signature cocktail as you enjoy views of Newport harbor and Narragansett Bay from the Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen (41 Bowens Wharf, 401-849-7778). The fresh, seasonal and local menu features bites and small plates like almond-filled, bacon-wrapped dates, shrimp wontons with soy ginger dipping sauce, sauteed lobster over Narragansett ricotta gnocchi and delicious seafood including, of course, fluke.
WHERE TO SHOP
Downtown Newport is riddled with shops providing all manner of goods, from jewelry to jerky, clothing to antiques. Meander through Bannister’s Wharf (1 Bannister’s Wharf, 401-846-4500) and peruse some nautical fine art photography at Onne van der Wal Photography, leather handbags and accessories at Brahmin, resort clothing at Newport Breeze and much more.
Antique aficionados should beeline for the Armory Antique Marketplace (385 Thames St., 401-848-2398), with goods from more than 70 dealers. Housed in the historic Newport Armory, the marketplace features antiques, jewelry, vintage clothing, nautical paraphernalia, art, books, pottery, glassware and other collectibles.
WHERE TO STAY
The historic Hotel Viking (1 Bellevue Ave., 401-847-3300) has been part of the Newport community since 1926 and is the perfect blend of history and modern comfort for your Newport stay.
For a room with a view, there’s Castle Hill Inn (590 Ocean Drive, 401-849-3800), overlooking Narragansett Bay. During a luxurious stay, peruse the historic site’s famous grounds and scope out the lighthouse on the hotel’s property.
For a more intimate experience, try one of Newport’s many bed & breakfasts, such as the Architects Inn (2 Sunnyside Place, 401-845-2547), a 23-room Victorian mansion that’s the former home of famous Newport architect George Champlin Mason.