The Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue are the go-to attraction for many Newport visitors. These ornately detailed late-19th-century homes, designed with a determined one-upmanship by the very wealthy, are almost obscenely grand. Their owners—Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts, and other budding aristocrats who made the city their playground for a mere six–eight summer weeks each year—helped establish the best young American architects and precipitated the arrival of the New York Yacht Club, which turned Newport into the sailing capital of the world.
Newport's music festivals are another draw: Bob Dylan famously went electric at the Newport Folk Festival, and in recent years, the outdoor festival has featured up-and-coming and internationally known indie and folk bands. In its earlier days, the Newport Jazz Festival hosted the likes of Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra; today it remains a showcase of traditional and avant-garde jazz. The Newport Music Festival brings classical music to the mansions, many of the artists and ensembles making their American debuts.
History buffs are enthralled by the large collection of Colonial-era architecture—Trinity Episcopal Church, Touro Synagogue, and the Colony House among them—reveling in these monuments to Newport's past as a haven for believers in religious freedom.
Pedestrian-friendly Newport has so much else to offer in such a relatively small geographical area—beaches, seafood restaurants, galleries, shopping, and cultural life. Summer can be extremely busy, but fall and spring are almost as nice and far less crowded.