- Distance from Washington, D.C.: 100 miles
- Best time: May to October
- Best for: Girl's GetawayRomanticFood and Wine
There's a lot to love about this coastal gem, particularly the fantasy that allows you to imagine what life might be like on the other side of the 99 percent. The rich and famous arrived about a century ago, building their glittery mansions with rolling lawns and leaving behind a legacy the rest of us have been daydreaming about ever since. For friends looking to dine at hip restaurants and venture out on sunset cruises, Newport is a weekend getaway worth pursuing.
But though the city indeed sparkles—literally on a perfect, sunny day—it is actually more accessible than it appears. The brilliant blue water and perfect sky call to all sorts of leisure enthusiasts—yachtsmen in polo shirts and ladies who lunch—you too can be one of those ladies who revel in the Gilded-Age fantasy, if even for a day. – By Lisa Oppenheimer
Newport Cheat Sheet
View a printable list of all sights, restaurants, entertainment, and hotels from this itinerary. View
1 In season, the pier at touristy Bannister's Wharf hops with visitors poking into shops, taverns, and bakeries. It's the perfect place to start your visit with the girls, tchotchke browsing and people watching.
2 Experience the yachting fantasy with a sunset cruise aboard the schooner Madeleine. The trip comes with a Champagne toast and about the best view of the harbor you can get without being a Vanderbilt.
3 Your crew will adore the chic, modern Tallulah on Thames, serving outstanding fresh food. The chef can tell you the source of the ingredients right down to the boat that caught the fish. The menu changes daily, but we'd recommend any of the risotto dishes.
1 Fuel up for the day at Mokka (476 Thames Street; 401-619-1530) to try some of its fabulous pastries and get your hands on that all-important cup of Joe. Head a little further down to the transportation and visitors' center where you can grab maps and pick up the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) Yellow Line to Bellevue Avenue. A car is optional today; for a nominal charge, the trolley (and foot power) will get you everywhere you need to go.
2 Explore Newport's grand estates—The Breakers, The Marble House, and Rough Point (the Doris Duke residence), among others. All are within a few steps of each other. Buy a ticket for the formal tours (each takes about an hour) or, in the case of Rosecliff, amble the glorious grounds gratis.
3 To experience the American version of Downton Abbey, visit The Elms' Servant Life Tour. The decidedly "downstairs" tour peeks into places like the basement kitchen, where you'll cross paths with butlers, cooks, and other servants. Make reservations in advance; hold on to your tour ticket stub to access your next stop.
4 In season, lunchtime is perfectly lovely when enjoyed at the Elms Carriage House. The food is somewhat standard fare—sandwiches, salads, etc.—but the unique ambiance can't be beaten.
5 After spending the morning inside, step out for a wander on the Cliff Walk. Running seven miles between ocean and mansions, the lovely walk is a must do, though treacherous in spots. The short paved path between Ruggles and Narraganset is particularly easy to walk, and without the steep drop-offs.
6Fish is the only thing on the menu at Scales & Shells, but you won't be disappointed. It's a small menu of littlenecks, naked fish, and piccatas and marsalas, but it's an experience your taste buds won't forget. Just bring cash, as no credit cards are accepted.
7 Climb up to the third floor at Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen and be rewarded with one of its signature cocktails (try the two-tequila fire dancer) and a magnificent, panoramic view of the wharf and harbor.
1 Champagne, eggs Benedict, a stellar view ... brunch on the lawn at the lovely Castle Hill Inn has got it all. Dine inside and enjoy live jazz music while you eat. Pricey? Yup. But, you'll be so spoiled, you won't regret a minute. Make sure to travel here via a tour of scenic Ocean Drive. And, inquire ahead about proper dress.
2Drink in the ambience at Greenvale Vineyards, one of several wineries on the Coastal Wine Trail. Tastings are available but remember—you have to drive home ... eventually.
3 Whimsical animals on the Green Animals Topiary Garden are a marvel with more than eighty creatures on site. Anyone who has ever tried a hand at gardening will be unable to leave unimpressed.
Where to Stay
Our favorite hotel in Newport is The Vanderbilt Grace (rooms from $495/night). With its hip style, happening rooftop bar, and luxury spa, this is the ultimate hotel for a girl's getaway.
Hotel Viking (rooms from $140/night) makes a good choice for visitors looking for Gilded Age treatment without the full Gilded Age price. You'll still pay for the privilege in season—but less than at some of the loftier haunts.
When to Go
In general, like any beach resort, summer in Newport rocks. But shoulder season—May and October—are excellent for the cost conscious, and while you'll miss the summer festivals, many restaurants and attractions remain open through Columbus Day. In late-July/early-August, the Newport Jazz Festival attracts music fans for big-name acts and many outdoor performances.
How to Get There
By Car from Boston: Newport is about eighty miles south on I-95 to RI-24. On summer weekends it could still take several hours to reach, particularly because much of it is on a smaller highway.