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Long weekend to RI - Lodging, Restaurants etc.

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I am surprised my husband for his 30th birthday with a four day trip, within a day's drive of NYC. Newport, RI was recommended although we will also have a two year old with us. I am looking for a quiet town with great restaurants and a beautiful beach as we will be visiting in June. Something for the little one would be nice too but not absolutely necessary. Any suggestions re: Newport or somewhere else. Thanks in advance!

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    Amanda,

    We lived in RI for 6 years. It is a beautiful spot for a long weekend. Newport is lovely, but the best spot in RI is Block Island. You can take a ferry from Long Island--so you will eliminate the long and boring ride up 95. Where to stay depends on your budget.The Blue Dorie Inn is right next to a beach, and it is a pretty little inn. Other wonderful places to stay include the Hotel Manisses, and the Rose Farm Inn. Don't worry about your little one. Besides the beach, you can rent bikes with child seats and tool around the island, stop for a picnic lunch at the pond (can't remember its name), go to the farmer's market, or call the Nature Conservancy who runs programs for children during the summer. My kids adore this place, and you will too! If you decide on Newport instead, visit Hammersmith Farm (if it is still open to visitors), and Breakers, and do a bit of the Cliff Walk. It is fantastic. Watch Hill Inn is a wonderful place to stay in Newport. Have fun, B

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    If you really want a quiet place, neither Newport or Block Island is quiet during a summer weekend. If you choose Block Island and end up with wet weather, there is little to do indoors.
    Newport offers several fabulous beaches( 2nd and 3rd beaches), as well as some smaller beaches that are great for toddlers( Gooseberry). In good weather, there are the beaches, driving ocean drive, walking the Cliff Walk, visiting Purgatory Chasm, taking harbor tours and sailing tours, a side visit to a vineyard in nearby Sakonnet, kite flying at Fort Adams, and many other activities. In bad weather, there are tours of the mansions, shopping on Bellevue Ave, the Art Gallery, shopping on Thames Street and the Brick Marketplace. There are lots of great restaurants - Pier, Christie's,White Horse Tavern, the Inn at Castle Hill, and many, many more. I hope this helps. Good luck!!
    If you want to take time off your drive and Long Island is an option for you, you can take the car ferry to New London.

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    Emily gave you some good tips. Newport definitely is not a quiet place on a June weekend. Neither is Block Island. But Newport still can be fun, and there are places not too far away that you could drive to if the crowds get overwhelming.
    Little Compton, across the Sakonnet River, is one such place (that is where the Sakonnet Vineyards are located, not in Sakonnet as Emily posted). LC is one of the best-kept secrets of New England. Check out the Common Lunch and the nearby Congregational Church with its historic cemetary. Take a drive to Sakonnet Point, and a walk on the little beach there. It's usually peaceful, though on a weekend there will still probably be people around. Goosewing Beach, not far from there, is also nice and usually not overcrowded. (Keep in mind that to get to Little Compton, you must go north and take the bridge from Portsmouth into Tiverton, then drive south to Little Compton; there is no bridge from Newport to LC. Nothing is really far, though; remember, this is Rhode Island.) You might even consider staying in LC rather than Newport, and taking a day trip to Newport, though I'm not too sure about accommodations there. (I'm a RIer and have been to LC many many times, but offhand can't recall any hotels there; however, there may be a B&B or two.)
    Other ideas re Newport: the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown (right next to Newport, still on Aquidneck Island) can be a nice people sanctuary too, and it has a small but interesting museum/display room and giftshop. There's also Green Animals, a topiary garden in Portsmouth, again not at all far from Newport. (Your child might enjoy GA.)
    Keep in mind that, in Newport, people tend to congregate on Thames Street; but there is far more to Newport than Thames Street. Try a stroll around the historic hill overlooking Thames. For instance, take a walk on Spring Street, or visit the "Viking Tower" in Touro Park. You'll enjoy the architecture along the way, and get some breathing space. Also, the Point section of Newport, west of Thames, is good for relaxing and has some beautiful 18th century houses. (Craftsmen, merchants, and ship captains used to live in this area.)
    Outside the Thames area, Brenton Point, even when crowded, always seems to have space for another kite and can be surprisingly peaceful amidst the throng, if only in an inner sort of way.
    These are some ideas should you decide to visit Newport. It's a beautiful place, and you will probably have a great time if you visit; but be aware it IS Newport, and it has the draw of those "White Elephants" (the Bellevue-area mansions), and it's been a magnet for RI visitors for over a century.
    As for restaurants, you got good info in Emily's posting. The White Horse Tavern has great food (though expensive) and the tavern itself is a wonderful place. There is also La Petite Auberge, a highly respected French restaurant. And, if you want to eat on the cheap but get good food and enjoy a nice atmosphere, try Aidan's, not far from the Court House. It's an Irish pub. They really know how to pour a Guinness there, and the shepard's pie is pretty good.
    Hope this helps. Have fun wherever you end up!

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    Major erratum: I meant Newport has been a magnet for VISITORS (not necessarily just RI visitors) for over a century. (Wish Fodor's allowed an editing period at this forum.)

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