In the summer, Newport’s beaches (and restaurants, and streets, and parking spots) are full of sun-seekers on holiday. While there is an undeniable pleasure in sipping an al fresco cocktail by the shore in the City by the Sea, there’s also a lot to be said for an off-season visit. The prices drop, the long wait-times drop and the scenery is just as beautiful, even if you’re wearing a few extra layers.
Here’s how to spend a winter weekend in Newport, R.I.
The Ultimate New England Winter Festival
With 150 events spanning 10 days, Newport’s Winter Festival has a lot of good reasons to call itself the biggest cold-weather celebration in New England. The festival is happening Feb. 13-23 this year, and includes outdoor ice bars at Hotel Viking and Gurney’s Resort, chili and mac and cheese cook-offs, live ice sculpting demonstrations and a hot drink competition at The Red Parrot.
For kids, there’s a teddy bear tea, a princess party and fun performances like a mad science show and “BubbleMania.” That’s on top of live music or comedy shows nearly every day.
One of the festival’s most memorable events is Beach Polo, which happens on Feb. 22-23, when the Newport Polo team plays a friendly match on Second Beach.
Sweater Weather Comfort Food
While the Winter Festival is happening, another citywide event is also taking place: the Newport Burger Bender. Restaurants around Newport have created nearly 40 specialty burgers, in both meat and vegan varieties, to compete for diners’ votes and win the taste-off. Diners that vote are entered to win restaurant gift cards.
Some of the crave-worthy contenders: The Homer Burger, from Brix Restaurant, made with house bacon, sharp cheddar and a fried egg on two glazed doughnuts; or a Big Mac-inspired “Impossible Mac” from La Forge Casino Restaurant, made with plant-based burgers and secret sauce, stacked on a triple-decker sesame bun.
Gliding Through Winter
While a common instinct in the coldest months is to stay warm by any means possible, Gurney’s Resort, on Goat Island, gives guests some good reasons to get chilly. Through the end of February (and beyond, weather permitting) the hotel is offering outdoor ice skating daily on its waterfront rink.
To warm up afterward, Gurney’s has heated outdoor igloos that can hold up to six people, where you can have apres-skate snacks and drinks. Each igloo has a different theme, from Harry Potter to Tropical Oasis, with decorations and activities inside.
Don’t miss the goats, William and Cornelius, who live in a replica Newport Mansion on the property. If you catch them on a cold enough day, they might even be wearing their sweaters.
A Spirited Season
There’s another way to warm up in winter: with a tipple to take the chill out of your bones. Newport has several nearby wineries, distilleries and breweries, and many of them are having events in February.
Newport Vineyards is hosting its 24th annual WINEterfest on Feb. 15-16, where there will be grape-stomping competitions and an ice wine bar. Newport Craft, which brews Newport Storm beer and distills liquors like the pirate-inspired Thomas Tew Rum, is hosting events all month long. Feb. 14-16 is a Girl Scout Cookie and Beer Pairing Weekend, and Feb. 21-23 is a Cheese & Beer Pairing Weekend. In between, there are tastings of barrel-aged beers and straight-from-the-barrel spirits. As always, remember to enjoy responsibly and always designate a sober driver.
Where to Stay
The beauty of Newport in the off-season is that cost-prohibitive prices become perfectly affordable. Case in point: the Four Diamond Vanderbilt Auberge Resorts Collection, which offers s’mores by the fireplace and outdoor fire pits, along with a spa and indoor pool.
The same with The Chanler at Cliff Walk, another Four Diamond hotel directly on First Beach. Named the most romantic hotel in America by Conde Nast Traveler, the property features villas with private hot tubs and saunas.
The Four Diamond Newport Marriott, with several restaurants and bars inside, is a total steal this time of year.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Newport, R.I., in the offseason? Share in the comments.
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