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The Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

Most people travel to Newport, Rhode Island, for it’s stunning beaches, but there are so many other fun and thrilling things to do in this famous seaside town. It’s the perfect city for a romantic getaway, a girls-only weekend, or a family vacation. Whether you’re trying to spend your time working on your tan, exploring the city’s many historical and cultural heritage sites, or partying it up in Newport’s lively nightlife scene, there is something for every sort of traveler to appreciate throughout all the seasons.

Really, we can’t overstate how many many awesome things there are to do in Newport. From historic mansion tours to scenic cliff walks to stuffing your faces with fresh-caught seafood, you’re sure to return home from your trip with a mountain of memories.

Unlike bigger – and flashier – vacay destinations like Hollywood, Orlando, or the Big Apple, there aren’t an overwhelming number of activities to conquer in Newport, making it the perfect spot for travelers hoping to enjoy a low-key, laid-back weekend excursion.

Keep watching to discover the best attractions, sights, and natural wonders that await you in one of New England’s most inviting destinations.

Viewcation Presents: The Best Things To Do In Newport, Rhode Island

Greenvale Vineyards

This highly-celebrated winery can be found right outside of downtown. The vineyards stretch out along the coast, so the winery is not only very lush but it also offers unparalleled views of the shoreline. On the weekends, the winery likes to entertain it’s guests with live jazz music. They also offer ample outdoor seating.

Unlike pretty much every other destination featured in this video, Greenvale Vineyards isn’t within walking distance of Newport’s downtown district. Still, if you have a car or don’t mind getting an Uber, you won’t have very far to travel to have an incredible experience. Be sure to buy a bottle or two of your favorite varietal to take back home with you.

The Cliff Walk

This three-and-a-half mile walk takes you along Newport’s beauteous coastiline. In addition to providing stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, this walk will also take you past dozens of the city’s most luxurious and historic mansions, such as Marble House, The Breakers, and Rosecliff. Throughout the trek, you’ll have numerous vista-point opportunities to snap a few photos.

The path begins on the North End over at Easton Beach. It ends on the South End at Bailey’s Beach. The path has varying degrees of difficulty from paved easy trails to rugged, rocky ones. Fortunately, throughout the walk, there are a total of eight points that grant you street access. So, if you come upon a part of the path that’s a bit too much, you can always exit.

For most folks, it takes about two and a half hours to walk the entire Cliff Walk one way. We recommend beginning your stroll at Forty Steps and then walking out to Marble House for the chance to experience both the easiest and most challenging legs of the trail. Along that route, you’ll also see some of the best landmarks within the shortest period of time.

Alternatively, you can always see the mansions from the comfort of your car. To do this, drive along the famous Ocean Drive. While traversing this National Historic Landmark District, you’ll see breathtaking views of the shore along with landmarks like Narragansett Bay, Newport Harbor, Fort Adams State Park, and King Park.

Easton Beach

The aforementioned Cliff Walk, as noted, begins at one of Newport’s most popular beaches. Easton Beach is THE spot to be on a warm summer afternoon. With it’s white sand and shallow water, it’s one of the best places to kick back, relax, and read a book while the kids build sand castles and splash around.

The beach isn’t particularly long, but there’s ample space to spread out and enjoy that clean, crisp New England fresh air. So, be sure to bring a towel and beach chair, because catching a few rays on Easton’s Beach is one of the most relaxing things to do in Rhode Island.

Thames Street

This street is one of two streets in Newport where visitors will find all the action. Quite a few of the city’s best restaurants and bars, such as Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant, are located along Thames. On top of that, it’s also a great place to find locally owned and operated stores, galleries, and boutiques.

If you’re looking for a great spot to take your special someone out for dinner or simply searching for where all the people are, Thames Street is a great place to be. Even if you don’t plan on doing any shopping, simply strolling around and peeking into the shops is pretty soothing.

Bellevue Avenue

Running parallel to Thames Street, Bellevue Ave runs through the city’s most historic district. From the historic mansion, Rogue Point, to the equally historic Hotel Viking, this street is packed full of buildings dripping with style and class. Bellevue offers visitors quick street access to several other renowned estates, including Rosecliff, Marble House, The Elms, and Chateau-sur-Mer.

Our favorite, however, has to be the section of the avenue between Mill Street and Bowery Street. Here, the buildings are all incredibly charming. You might even forget where you’re at and assume that you got transported to an idyllic European village.

Bellevue Ave also features some of the best eats in town. A few standouts include Pasta Beach, Empire Tea & Coffee, and CRU Cafe. Not only that, but the street is also home to the must-visit International Tennis Hall of Fame. If that’s not your vibe, right down the block is the Audrain Auto Museum.

Mansion Tours

By now, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that some of Newport’s most popular attractions are it’s mansions. While the majority of us will never be able to afford one of our own, you don’t have to be loaded to appreciate Newport’s most opulent abodes.

With dozens of mansions dating back to the Gilded Age, visitors are able to tour many of Newport’s most lavish domiciles thanks to the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport County, which owns many of them and offers tours.

We’ve already mentioned several of Newport’s most famous mansions, but at the risk of sounding redundant, a few of these include The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, and Chateau-sur-Mar. 

While the mansions themselves are lovely to look at and adorned with period-appropriate furnishings, they also boast a ton of history. For example, Rosecliff, which was completed in 1902, was built for Theresa Fair Oelrichs. This well-off socialite hosted several, no doubt fabulous, parties here, including one where the famous magician Harry Houdini was a guest.

Then you have Marble House, which was built as a summer cottage for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. It was constructed between 1888 and 1892 and was designed by Richard Morris Hunt n the Beaux-Arts architecture style.

For a taste of the “good life” without having to have a bottomless bank account, touring these mansions is one of the best ways to see what life was like for the wealthiest Newportonians in the late 19th century.

Also, fun fact: The Breakers got it’s name from the sound of the waves breaking on the rocks along the seas-cliffs in the mansion’s backyard.

Bowen’s Wharf

This cozy square is located along a scenic harbor Downtown and features dozens of adorable cafes, upscale restaurants, and unique boutiques. While it’s a bit on the touristy side, Bowen’s Wharf is still well-worth a visit. It a fantastic place to go for a leisurely walk and offers a really nice vibe at night. The atmosphere on the Wherf, even on a weekday, feels like the weekend. So, really, there isn’t a bad time to visit.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, grab a cone at Kilwin’s ice cream across the street before strolling down the wharf to catch a sunset. As you explore, you’ll surely find plenty of intriguing sights to stop and ogle at.

Long Wharf

While this spot isn’t exactly one of the most notable places in Newport, we still really appreciated walking around at sunset while marveling at the boats docked in the harbor. The wharf is across the street from Thames Street, so it shouldn’t be all that out of your way.

US Naval War College

As it’s name implies, this museum documents the history of the Naval War College as well as the naval activities that have taken place in the Narragansett Bay dating back to colonial times. Although it’s not a  particularly large museum, it should be of interest to history buffs – especially those that are interested in learning about the history of maritime warfare.

National Museum of American Illustration

Unlike any other museum we’ve been to, this museum chronicles the Golden Age of illustration, spanning from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.

Newport Art Museum

This museum first opened it’s doors in 1912 and was commissioned by one of the country’s oldest art associations. Throughout it’s galleries, visitors can see over 2,200 works of art dating back to the 1800s. There is also a sizable amount of contemporary art, mainly linked to Rhode Island artists.

Museum of Newport History

This museum offers guests an intriguing look back in time while highlighting some of the city’s most important historical events and milestones. Visitors can learn all about the Gilded Age, Newport’s maritime history, and even a bit about the people who originally settled the town. Beyond that, the museum proudly boasts a collection of more than 10,000 artifacts, including clothing, furniture, and musical instruments.

Castle Hill Beach & Lighthouse

At the end of Ocean Drive along the always-beautiful Narragansett Bay you’ll find a historic lighthouse that was built back in 1890. Though it was built more than 130 years ago, it’s still used to this day for navigation purposes, guiding ships entering the narrow passage between Conanicut Island and Aquidneck Island.

Brenton Point State Park

One last place we wanted to give a shoutout to before wrapping this video up is Brenton Point State Park. It sits on the former estate of legendary Rhode Islander William Brenton and offers visitors fabulous views of the Atlantic ocean. If you’re in the area, you might as well stop by and have a picnic. The park is also great for hiking, cycling, and fishing.

On that note, we’ll go ahead and wind things down, but before we sound off, we’d like to toss the mic over to you to let your voice be heard. What are you most excited to see or do in Newport, Rhode Island, and if you’ve already visited before, what are a few of your favorite spots to visit? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching!