I fall more in love with Newport, RI with each visit. There is so much to do in this classic New England coastal town. I have never run out of new things to try or places to explore. Here is a list of the best things to do in Newport, RI.
1. Enjoy the views along The Cliff Walk
Walking along this 3.5 mile trail is my favorite activity to do while in Newport, RI. With ocean waves crashing on one side of you and gilded age mansions on the other, you will always have amazing views. Listen to the gulls sing and breath in that ocean air.
The Cliff Walk is mostly paved and stroller friendly but becomes rough at the southern end. Look out for the 40 steps that lead down to the ocean for a closer view.
2. Tour a Mansion
The Gilded age mansions are the icon of Newport. These “summer cottages” of the wealthy is where extravagant balls were held by candle light in the 19th century. The Breakers is probably the most well known and gets all dressed up for Christmas.
If you have kids, one or two mansions will give you your fill. It takes about 45 minutes to walk through each mansion.
If you don’t have the time or energy to see all nine mansions, I would say the top three would be the Breakers, The Elms and Marble House. Currently, the Breakers is the only mansion open, with Marble House opening on May 28, 2021.
No reservations are necessary. You can purchase a ticket at the gate. Each mansion has a self-guided audio tour. You will be instructed to download an app. As you pass through each room, you can click through the tour on your own so you are always going at your own pace. Remember to bring your earbuds. Please note that no strollers are allowed inside the mansions.
3. Green Animals Topiary Garden
Kids of all ages will be in awe of this whimsical topiary garden made up of a menagerie of animals. This magical place is set on a seven acre estate with views of the Narraganset Bay. In addition to more than 80 topiaries in the shape of animals, Green Animals is home to a remarkable array of flowering bulbs, perennials, annuals and shrubs that bloom colorfully throughout the spring, summer and fall. Located just outside of Newport at 380 Corys Lane, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
4. Cruise down Ocean Drive
Just beyond the gilded age mansions will bring you to the more modern mansions. This winding road along the ocean does more than offer a view of how the 1% live. There are also amazing views of the ocean, rocky ledges and cliffs.
5. Brenton Point State Park
As you come down Ocean Drive, you will come to Brenton Point State Park. It is a great place to park and get out so you can take it all in. While the park has picnic tables and walking trails, there is also a large field popular for flying kites.
This state park is located right at the point of land where the Narraganset Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. You can walk right across the street to enjoy perfect views of the rugged New England coast.
6. Have a beach day
There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Newport and neighboring Middletown.
Easton’s Beach (First Beach) is probably the most popular. Located just steps from Newport’s famed Cliff Walk, this beach has ample parking, restrooms, showers and a lifeguard on duty. Kids will love the snack bar, Save the Bay Aquarium and riding the carousel (currently closed).
For a more quiet experience, head to Third Beach. Third Beach is a beautiful, family friendly East facing beach. This beach has less waves and overlooks Third Beach Harbor located near the mouth of the Sakonnet River. There are grills, picnic tables, and a shade structure located near the boat ramp. Port-a-johns are located in the parking lot.
For a full list of beaches, click here.
7. Eat at the Oldest Tavern in the World
The White Horse Tavern is the oldest operating restaurant in the country and is acknowledged as the 10tholdest in the world. The tavern has been listed as a National Historic Landmark, having served guests since 1673. Open for dinner every night, lunch on Friday and Saturday as well as brunch on Sunday.
8. Have a picnic at Fort Adams
Fort Adams was once known as the largest coastal defense works of its kind in the United States. These days it is better known for its annual summer concerts when the Jazz Festival and the Folk Festival draw thousands to enjoy the music and beautiful surroundings.
Situated at the mouth of the Newport Harbor, Fort Adams State Park offers an exceptional panoramic view of both Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. The Fort Adams Trust provides public and private guided tours as well as youth group overnights.
9. Stroll Newport Harbor at Sunset
I love strolling Newport Harbor at sunset with all of the pink hues reflecting off the water. Kids will love the arcade at Ryan Family Amusements.
Bowen’s Wharf has some of Newport’s best restaurants. You can shop till you drop on Thames Street. Personally, I would skip all of the tourist traps, get a cone at Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream and just check out all of the boats.
10. Save The Bay Seal Watch & Nature Cruises
Newport, RI is known for sailing and the best way to see the harbor is by boat. There are so many cruises to choose from. For a full list of harbor tours, click here.
With children, I would recommend the Save the Bay Seal Watch and Nature Cruise. Kids will love going on a boat ride to see these adorable creatures on Citing Rock. They will learn all about the local habitat on this one hour educational tour.
A longer 1.75 hour trip includes a tour of the Rose Island grounds where you actually dock to see the lighthouse.
11. Visit a Museum
Newport is filled with museums for just about any interest! The most notable are:
- Tennis Hall of Fame
- Newport Art Museum
- National Museum of American Illustration
- Naval War College Museum
- Museum of Newport History
- Audrain Automobile Museum
12. Take a Food Tour
Rhode Island Red Food Tours bring people from all walks of life together to share the sustenance and bounty of Rhode Island. It’s fantastic food, and so much more.
Each all-encompassing tour ventures off the beaten path to at least six independent restaurants, where you will sample creative foods featuring local ingredients, learn about the chef’s background and food philosophy, and discover the history and culture woven through the city’s food scene.
From historic taverns to vegan juice bars, you will get to try some of Newport’s best offerings. Learn about neighborhood history while washing down good food with good drinks. There is nothing better!
13. Take a walk on the wild side at Norman Bird Sanctuary
Just outside of Newport, RI in the town of Middletown, you will find this beautiful sanctuary. Norman Bird Sanctuary is a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary and environmental education center with more than 325 acres of diverse habitats and seven miles of hiking trails. Trail maps are available for download on their website.
This place is such a gem and was a real highlight of my trip. I walked the Hanging Rock Trail. This trail is one one mile long and part of it goes over wooden walkways.
At the end of the trail, you will come to this lookout over the ocean. Kids will love scurrying over the rocks, but be careful at the cliffs edge.
Wear good shoes because the areas unique rock formations called “puddingstone” or Purgatory Conglomerate can be real ankle twisters.
Adults are $7, children at $3 and under 3 years of age is free.
14. Ride the Rails with Rail Explorers
Experience a railroad like you never have before! A rail explorer is a pedal powered vehicle that rides on railroad tracks that are no longer in operation.
Rail Explorers operates along the Old Colony Railroad, built in 1862. The rails meander alongside spectacular Narragansett Bay offering riders unique views that include Jamestown, the Mount Hope Bridge, Hog Island Lighthouse, and coastal woodlands.
Choose either the Tandem Rail Explorer (2 seats @ $42.50pp) or Quad Rail Explorer (4 seats @ $37.50pp) for your ride. Single rider ‘VIP Seats’ are also available.
Younger children may not be able to reach the pedals but can be safely buckled in to enjoy the ride. Toddler harnesses are offered for additional security for little explorers.
15. Rent a scooter
I have never done this, but a “Scoot coupe” looks like a really fun way to explore the area. Scooter World offers a variety of vehicles to rent ranging from bicycles to 3-wheeled scooters.
The activities in Newport, RI are pretty endless. Let me know your favorite in the comments below. As for accommodation, I usually stay in the family-friendly Hotel Viking. Visit the link for my honest review.
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