If you’re thinking about visiting Newport for the first time, you’d be in good company. You see, Newport is the star of many firsts. It hosted the first circus in the U.S. (1774). It was the first city in the country to have gas-illuminated streetlights (1803). Even the first electric light photograph was taken in Newport (1866).
What’s its next first? Welcoming you!
Between its rich and storied history, award-winning restaurants, scenic views, shopping and attractions, Newport is a destination that refuses to be boring. With all there is to do, it might be hard deciding where to start, but your search ends here.
Here are five of our favorite Newport attractions.
Take a stroll back in time. Cliff Walk – named for its location upon the soaring seaside cliffs of Newport’s eastern shoreline – is a 3.5-mile trail that takes you past jaw-dropping ocean views and gorgeous Gilded Age mansions. A visitor favorite, Cliff Walk is designated as a National Recreation Trail within a National Historic District, making it a uniquely special place. Start your journey at Memorial Boulevard near Easton’s Beach. Walking the trail in its entirety takes about 2.5 hours. Open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year and free to enter.
Want to experience Downton Abbey and the Gilded Age in real life? Have your pick of more than a dozen magnificent properties, all teeming with the history, art and architecture of their heydays. As summer cottages for America’s wealthiest from 1870-1910, every Newport mansion tells a story, giving visitors an intimate look behind the curtain of the lavish lifestyles and opulent culture of those who lived in them, and the realities of the servants who worked to keep everything running.
Self-guided audio tours and guide-led tours are available. Plus, be on the lookout for events taking place within the mansions all throughout the year from ballet performances to holiday celebrations and much more.
Newport’s position on Aquidneck Island made it an ideal location as a colonial sea port for whalers, traders and adventurers. Today, Newport’s famed harbor is home to sailing of all sorts from America’s Cup competitions to cruises and more.
Visitors can join in on the fun. Climb aboard your choice of sailboat or power boat with Newport Classic Cruises to take in the stunning views of the harbor and Narragansett Bay either on a warm sunny afternoon or as a sunset cruise to close out your day. Other ways to get your sea legs include taking a seal cruise, chartering an antique yacht and taking a guided tour cruise to learn about the harbor’s history.
Once you’ve explored all you can on foot, it’s a good time to take a meandering ride down Ocean Drive. Beginning at historic Bellevue Avenue, this 10-mile road winds and weaves through one of the most scenic sections of Newport. It passes through gorgeous natural landscapes and famous landmarks such as Hammersmith Farm – where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis grew up, Gooseberry Beach, Fort Adams State Park and Breton Point State Park.
Want to make your drive even better? Renting an antique car to cruise along in only maximizes the experience, in our opinion.
To truly experience a place, you must try the local fare.
You won’t have trouble finding a gem, either. Newport has one of the best food scenes in the state of Rhode Island, boasting award-winning restaurants and some of the freshest seafood around. Craving something hearty? Order a bowl of clam chowder at The Black Pearl, where they’ve been perfecting their famous recipe for over four decades. Or head on over to Flo’s Clam Shack for a half dozen of golden clam cakes to enjoy while you take in the eclectic surroundings.
During the summer months, you can’t do better than a classic Maine-style lobster roll from Luke’s, served from a waterside window and alongside other tempting menu items like shrimp rolls and crab rolls. Scales & Shells has you covered for seafood pasta cravings with their lobster fra diavolo that’s made-to-order and impossibly flavorful. For local ingredients, colonial charm and white tablecloths, try White Horse Tavern, a beloved favorite that’s been open since 1673.
Discover Newport today.