Rhode Island

Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island | Coastal Weekend Getaways

The Yankee Magazine editors share some of their favorite places to eat, favorite places to stay, and favorite things to do in Newport, RI.

By Yankee Magazine

Aug 17 2022

The Newport Cliff Walk

The Newport Cliff Walk

Photo Credit : Alexander Nesbitt
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Always check for the latest information before making travel plans.
Though Newport is one of New England’s most venerable cities (it was founded in 1639), the “City by the Sea” is hardly stuffy — what with its bustling harbor and lively downtown scene. Still, history has its place here, especially when it comes to Newport’s magnificent 19th-century seaside mansions. There are plenty of things to do in Newport, RI, as well as some of our favorite places to stay and eat… So why not make a weekend of it and get to know one of the prettiest coastal towns in New England first-hand?
Things to Do in Newport, RI | Coastal Weekend Getaways
Things to Do in Newport, RI | Coastal Weekend Getaways
Photo Credit : Alexander Nesbitt

Best Things to Do in Newport, RI

The Cliff Walk

Blending the best of Newport’s Gilded Age architecture and its dazzling oceanside location, the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and ranks as one of the best things to do in Newport, RI. Actually, you could say it’s one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. The path, which takes about 2.5 to 3 hours at a reasonable pace, starts at the western end of First Beach, off Memorial Boulevard, and finishes up at Bailey’s Beach and Bellevue Avenue. (And if 3.5 miles seems too long, don’t worry: There are plenty of stops along the way!) SEE MORE: Walks Worth Their Salt | New England Ocean Walks

Newport Mansions

Lose yourself in bygone luxury when you take a tour of one or more of the Newport Mansions, which include the Breakers and Marble House (both former residences of the Vanderbilt family), Rosecliff (based on the fabled French Grand Trianon at Versailles), and the Elms (a copy of a lavish French estate called Château d’Asnières). Those are the heavy hitters, but bear in mind that some of the lesser-known mansions — including Hunter House and Chepstow — are also well worth a visit. SEE MORE: Newport Mansions | Experiencing the Gilded Age

National Museum of American Illustration

This museum offers a unique perspective on American art as it focuses on an often-overlooked genre, illustration, in all its various forms. In addition to its permanent American Imagists Collection — a treasure trove of art created for books, periodicals, and advertisements — the museum hosts a changing lineup of temporary exhibits that focus on such themes as “Advertising as Art,” “Norman Rockwell and His Contemporaries,” and even “My Little Pony: Under the Sparking Sea.”

International Tennis Hall of Fame

Brimming with more than 1,900 artifacts of tennis history (including Andy Roddick’s red, white, and blue sneakers and Rene Lacoste’s original “crocodile” blazer), this museum is perfect for sports fanatics. But it appeals to families, too, with interactive exhibits such as a touch table that lets visitors “serve” tennis trivia questions back and forth, and a “Call the Match” exhibit in which anyone can step into the role of a big-league sports broadcaster. Plus, you can participate in clinics or book time on the grass courts where 1881’s first U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships were played. SEE MORE: International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum | A Rare Find in Newport, Rhode Island
Newport Mansions | Experiencing the Gilded Age
Front facade of Rosecliff, one of the famous Newport Mansions | Things to Do in Newport, RI
Photo Credit : Bethany Bourgault

Newport Restaurants

Belle’s Café

So much to see, so little time? One of our fast-refueling favorites is this nifty café tucked away in the middle of the Newport Shipyard. Sit inside or outside, and enjoy views of the harbor as you tuck into hearty breakfast fare (think: omelets, pancakes, egg and cheese sandwiches with sausage, bacon, or ham) or lunch standards like burgers, salads, and “hot-off-the-press” paninis. Open seasonally.

The Black Pearl

A former sail loft that stands today as one of Newport’s most loved restaurants, the Black Pearl offers more than one dining experience to choose from. The Tavern boasts a more casual and warm atmosphere while still offering a wide-ranging lunch and dinner menu. The Commodore’s Room, by contrast, is elegance itself, with its white linen tablecloths, fine china, and real silver. Finally, during the summer months you can dine alfresco at the Waterside Patio and Bar, which comes with a magnificent view of the harbor.

Cru Café

Located just behind the Audrain Automobile Museum, Cru Café bills itself as a “purveyor of craft café dining.” Translation: It makes food fresh, and from local ingredients whenever possible. The menu, therefore, gets some seasonal tweaking, but you can count on finding the ultra-filling quinoa scramble for breakfast (eggs, spinach, gruyere, and quinoa) and sandwiches with a tasty twist, like the Yankee Muffuletta and the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese.

Midtown Oyster Bar

To sample some of the city’s best and freshest seafood, make tracks for this vast and inviting eatery, opened in 2013. Midtown Oyster Bar is not short on ambition, with its three bars, two patios, and staff of 100-plus. But the real star is the food, which includes Newport’s largest raw bar (featuring up to a dozen different kinds of oysters). Non-seafood-enthusiasts shouldn’t fret — there are options on the menu for them, too, including a dynamite steak frites.
The Castle Hill Inn
The Castle Hill Inn | Things to Do in Newport, RI
Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons

Newport Hotels & Inns

Armistead Cottage

There are only two rooms at this cozy bed-and-breakfast perched near the start of the Cliff Walk — which means guests can count on feeling catered to. Regardless of whether you choose the Victorian Room (king bed) or the Lilac Room (queen bed), you’ll enter a private retreat decorated with period antiques and outfitted with a romantic fireplace. In the morning, head down to the dining room for a three-course gourmet breakfast — yum!

Castle Hill Inn

Formerly the private “summer cottage” of Harvard scientist and engineer Alexander Agassiz, this 1875 Victorian mansion is today among the swankiest getaways in Newport; in fact, it was the first property in Rhode Island to join the distinguished Relais & Châteaux Hotel Association. So if you’re looking to splurge, this is the place to do it. Luxurious amenities include gas fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, and an on-site spa; four-star cuisine is just steps away at the Dining Room. And can we talk about those views?!

Francis Malbone House

Originally built in 1760 for shipping merchant Francis Malbone, this house passed through many families on its way to becoming a genteel historic inn in 1989. Situated in the heart of Newport, the Francis Malbone House makes an ideal base from which to launch shopping and dining excursions; the 20 unique rooms come in a variety of configurations and settings (we’re a tad partial to the ones that open directly onto the lovely courtyard). What are your favorite things to do in Newport, RI? Let us know in the comments!This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE: Coastal Weekend Getaways in New England | Your Perfect Weekend