Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island: 12 Fun Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island
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Are you dreaming of a New England getaway? Here are some of the most charming, historic, and utterly unique things to do in Newport, Rhode Island. This coastal gem, known for its stunning Gilded Age mansions and vibrant sailing scene, promises an unforgettable vacation experience.

Newport, fondly referred to as the “Queen of Summer Resorts”, is a treasure trove of history, culture, and seaside elegance. As one of the original 13 colonies, it carries a rich historical legacy, but it’s the city’s love for the sea that truly sets it apart. The best things to do in Newport will take anyone who visits in surprising adventures from its bustling wharves to its scenic Cliff Walk.

Whether you’re exploring the opulent halls of The Breakers, shopping along the historic Thames Street, or savoring fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Newport. It’s a city that caters to a variety of interests, making it all the more important for you to know which attractions are best suited for your unique tastes. To help, I’ve compiled a list of some of the must-see spots and activities in Newport.

With its rich colonial architecture and picturesque coastal views, Newport is a paradise for history buffs and nature lovers alike. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey through one of the most enchanting towns in New England. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Newport, Rhode Island.

The top places to visit in Newport, Rhode Island right now
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Best Places to Visit in Newport, Rhode Island

Ready to dive into all the coolest things to do in Newport? As noted above, this amazing seaside destination has something for everyone. So read on to discover all these interesting Newport places to visit.

Are you looking for unique city attractions and cultural sites? Or maybe you’re craving for a ‘feast for the senses’ kind of vacation experience? Or perhaps you prefer a relaxing getaway like taking a stroll on the beach. Alternatively, you might enjoy going for a cruise while enjoying some breathtaking views of nature. Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Newport can satisfy your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Newport, Rhode Island that you should know about.

1. Newport’s Gilded Age Mansions

This is one of the unique things to do in Newport, hands down. Step back in time and immerse yourself in the opulence of Newport’s Gilded Age. The city’s historic mansions, once the summer homes of America’s wealthiest families, are a testament to a bygone era of extravagance.

The most iconic of these is The Breakers, the grand summer estate of the Vanderbilt family. This 70-room Italian Renaissance-style villa is a spectacle of richly decorated interiors and stunning architectural details. From the grand three-story Great Hall to the lavish Music Room, every corner of The Breakers is a feast for the eyes.

Just a short distance away, you’ll find Marble House, another Vanderbilt mansion. It is known for its significant use of marble in its construction. Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, Marble House is a stunning blend of European influence and American opulence.

Don’t miss Rosecliff, modeled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles. This mansion is built for Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada. It has been the setting for several films, including The Great Gatsby.

Each mansion offers guided tours that provide fascinating insights into the lives of their former inhabitants and the lavish parties they hosted. These grand homes are more than just beautiful buildings; they’re a window into Newport’s storied past. As such, this lavish Newport attraction is one of the most popular sights in Rhode Island.

Newport's historic mansions, offering fascinating insights into lavish lifestyles and the city's storied past.
Newport’s historic mansions, offering fascinating insights into lavish lifestyles and the city’s storied past.

2. Thames Street

Looking for the best things to do in Newport? Don’t miss this one! For a shopping experience like no other, head to Thames Street in the heart of Newport. This historic street, lined with beautifully preserved colonial buildings, is a shopper’s paradise. From unique boutique shops and art galleries to some of the best bars in town, Thames Street offers a delightful mix of old and new.

As you stroll down the cobblestone streets, you’ll find a variety of local businesses offering everything from handcrafted jewelry and nautical-themed gifts to vintage clothing and home decor. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the numerous galleries showcasing works by local and international artists.

But Thames Street isn’t just about shopping. It’s also a culinary hotspot, with a plethora of restaurants and cafes serving up everything from fresh seafood to gourmet pastries. And when the sun goes down, the street comes alive with vibrant nightlife, featuring live music and bustling bars.

Thames Street is more than just a shopping destination; it’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, savor delicious food, and enjoy the lively atmosphere. For those seeking a truly unique experience, Thames Street is one of the best places in Newport you should know about.

Newport's Thames Street: Shopper's paradise with unique boutiques, art galleries, and historic colonial charm.
Newport’s Thames Street: Shopper’s paradise with unique boutiques, art galleries, and historic colonial charm.

3. Narragansett Bay

One of the coolest things to do in Newport to experience its coastal charm is by taking a sunset cruise on Narragansett Bay. As the sun dips below the horizon, painting the sky with hues of orange and pink, you’ll get to see the city’s historic lighthouses, Gilded Age mansions, and imposing forts from a unique perspective.

Companies like Coastal Queen Cruises offer a range of different cruises, each providing a unique way to experience Newport’s maritime heritage. Whether you’re sailing past the iconic Newport Bridge or getting a close-up view of the historic Fort Adams, these cruises offer unforgettable views and photo opportunities.

As you glide along the calm waters, you’ll also get a chance to see some of the bay’s diverse marine life. This includes seals, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds. And with a glass of champagne or a cocktail in hand, it’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring Newport.

A sunset cruise on Narragansett Bay is more than just a scenic boat ride; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and rich history of Newport from the comfort of a luxury yacht. As one of the top Newport attractions, you’ll definitely want to add this to your travel itinerary.

Sunset cruise on Narragansett Bay: Immersive beauty and rich history, a must-do in Newport.
Sunset cruise on Narragansett Bay: Immersive beauty and rich history, a must-do in Newport.

4. Newport’s Cliff Walk

As far as things to do in Newport go, this activity is among the coolest! For breathtaking coastal views and a touch of history, take a stroll along Newport’s famous Cliff Walk. This 3.5-mile-long trail, which winds along the eastern shore of Newport, offers stunning vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and a unique perspective of the city’s historic mansions.

As you walk along the path, you’ll pass by architectural marvels like The Breakers, Marble House, and Rosecliff, each standing as a testament to Newport’s Gilded Age. These mansions, with their beautifully manicured gardens, form a striking contrast to the rugged natural beauty of the coastline.

Whether you’re an avid hiker looking for a scenic trail, a history buff interested in Newport’s Gilded Age, or a photographer in search of the perfect shot, the Cliff Walk has something for everyone. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, as the path can be rocky in places. And don’t forget your camera – the views are truly picture-perfect.

The Cliff Walk is more than just a walking trail; it’s a journey through Newport’s history and natural beauty. As such, I recommend this thing to do in Newport to everyone I meet.

Explore the Cliff Walk – a journey through Newport’s history and natural beauty

5. Bowen’s Wharf

No visit to Newport would be complete without a stop at Bowen’s Wharf, a historic maritime hub that’s now a vibrant center of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Nestled in the heart of downtown Newport, this bustling wharf is home to a collection of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, all housed in 18th-century commercial wharf buildings.

As you wander through the wharf, you’ll find a variety of unique items, from handcrafted jewelry and nautical-themed gifts to locally made clothing and artwork. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir of your Newport adventure or a gift for someone back home.

But Bowen’s Wharf isn’t just about shopping. It’s also a culinary hotspot, with restaurants like The Lobster Bar offering fresh, locally sourced seafood with stunning harbor views. Whether you’re craving a lobster roll, clam chowder, or a gourmet seafood platter, you’ll find it here.

It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the city’s maritime heritage while enjoying the best of its contemporary culture. For those who love charming historic buildings, waterfront dining, and diverse shopping options, visiting Bowen’s Wharf is one of the unique things to do in Newport.

Wharf shopping: Unique gifts and souvenirs in Newport.
Wharf shopping: Unique gifts and souvenirs in Newport.

6. Easton’s Beach and Gooseberry Beach

Beach lovers will love this top thing to do in Newport. Newport’s location on Aquidneck Island means it’s surrounded by water, offering plenty of beautiful stretches of sand and hidden coves for you to enjoy. Whether you’re a sun worshipper, a sandcastle builder, or a wave rider, Newport’s beaches have something for everyone.

Easton’s Beach, also known as First Beach, is the largest public ocean surf beach in Newport. With its soft sand, gentle waves, and a vintage carousel, it’s a favorite among families. There’s also a snack bar, picnic area, and a playground. This makes it easy to spend the whole day here.

For a quieter beach experience, head to Gooseberry Beach, a private beach that’s open to the public. Tucked away in a cove and surrounded by rocky cliffs, it’s a peaceful spot to relax and soak up the sun.

Don’t forget to pack your beach essentials and prepare for a day of fun in the sun. After all, a day at the beach is a day well spent. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best things to do in Newport!

Easton's Beach is Newport's largest surf beach, perfect for family fun with soft sand, gentle waves, and a vintage carousel.
Easton’s Beach is Newport’s largest surf beach, perfect for family fun with soft sand, gentle waves, and a vintage carousel.

7. Newport Vineyards

Experience Rhode Island in style at this unique place to visit in Newport. For wine and beer enthusiasts, a visit to Newport Vineyards is a must. This 100-acre farm, nestled in the heart of Newport County, is home to 50 acres of vineyards, producing a variety of award-winning wines. From crisp whites to full-bodied reds, there’s a wine to suit every palate.

But it’s not just about wine. The property is also home to Taproot Brewing Co., which has been fermenting small batch beers for the past 25 years. Whether you’re a fan of hoppy IPAs, smooth stouts, or fruity ales, you’ll find something to enjoy.

Take a guided tour of the vineyards and the winery to learn about the winemaking process, from grape to glass. Then, settle down in the tasting room or the outdoor patio to sample a selection of their wines and beers. Pair your drinks with a meal from their farm-to-table restaurant for a truly indulgent experience.

With its beautiful vineyard views, delicious wines and beers, and welcoming atmosphere, Newport Vineyards offers a taste of Newport’s agricultural heritage in a relaxed, enjoyable setting. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Newport? You bet!

Visit Newport Vineyards in Rhode Island: A unique 100-acre farm with award-winning wines to suit every palate.
Visit Newport Vineyards in Rhode Island: A unique 100-acre farm with award-winning wines to suit every palate.

8. Fort Adams

History lovers will love this top thing to do in Newport. For a dose of American history, take a tour of the historic Fort Adams. Built between 1825 and 1838, this imposing fortress was designed to defend the harbor and the naval base at Newport. Today, it stands as a testament to America’s military past.

The fort offers both guided and self-guided tours, allowing you to explore its extensive network of tunnels, bastions, and redoubts. As you wander through the fort, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers who once lived and worked here.

Don’t miss the chance to climb up to the fort’s ramparts for a panoramic view of Narragansett Bay. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Newport Bridge and the downtown waterfront.

Fort Adams is more than just a historic site. It’s also a venue for concerts and festivals, including the famous Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Whether you’re a history buff or a music lover, Fort Adams has something to offer. This makes a visit to Fort Adams one of the best things to do in Newport.

Fort Adams: Historic site, concerts, festivals - a must-visit in Newport for history buffs and music lovers.
Fort Adams: Historic site, concerts, festivals – a must-visit in Newport for history buffs and music lovers.

9. Castle Hill Lighthouse

For a unique experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in Newport. Tucked away on the rocky coastline of Newport, the Castle Hill Lighthouse is a hidden gem that’s worth seeking out. This charming lighthouse, built in 1890, is not only a navigational aid but also a popular spot for photography enthusiasts and anyone looking for a tranquil picnic spot.

The lighthouse itself is not open to the public, but the surrounding area is accessible and offers stunning views across the bay. From here, you can see the Newport Bridge, the Castle Hill Inn, and on a clear day, Block Island in the distance.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer looking for the perfect shot or a nature lover seeking a peaceful retreat, the Castle Hill Lighthouse is a must-visit. Just remember to wear sturdy shoes – the path to the lighthouse can be rocky and uneven. With so much charm and personality, Castle Hill Lighthouse is one of the top places to visit in Newport.

Castle Hill Lighthouse is a unique gem on Newport's rocky coast, perfect for photography and picnics.
Castle Hill Lighthouse is a unique gem on Newport’s rocky coast, perfect for photography and picnics.

10. International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum

It would be a crime to write an article on the top things to do in Newport without mentioning the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. Tennis enthusiasts and history buffs alike will enjoy a visit to theInternational Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. Housed in the historic 1880 Newport Casino, the museum pays homage to the evolution and history of the sport and its many stars.

As you explore the museum, you’ll discover a wealth of tennis memorabilia. This includes vintage tennis equipment, historic photographs, and interactive exhibits. The museum also honors the greats of the game, with a Hall of Fame featuring inductees from around the world.

But the International Tennis Hall of Fame is not just a museum. It’s also a thriving tennis club with grass courts that are open to the public. If you’re a tennis player, don’t miss the chance to play a match on these historic courts.

Whether you’re a tennis fan or just interested in sports history, the International Tennis Hall of Fame offers a unique and engaging experience. There’s so much to see at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum, that it’s no wonder this is among the best things to do in Newport.

International Tennis Hall of Fame: Engaging sports history for tennis fans and a must-do in Newport.
International Tennis Hall of Fame: Engaging sports history for tennis fans and a must-do in Newport.

11. Brenton Point State Park

Looking for what to do in Newport? Look no further than Brenton Point State Park. For a relaxing day out in nature, head to Brenton Point State Park. This 89-acre green space, located at the southwestern tip of Aquidneck Island, offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay.

The park is a popular spot for picnics, with plenty of tables and grassy areas where you can spread out a blanket and enjoy a meal with a view. There’s also a range of outdoor activities available, from hiking and bird watching to kite flying and fishing.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the park’s historic ruins. This includes the remnants of the Brenton Point military fort and the abandoned carriage house. These structures add a touch of intrigue to the natural beauty of the park.

For those looking for a peaceful spot to relax, a scenic trail to explore, or a place to enjoy outdoor activities, a visit to Brenton Point State Park is one of the coolest things to do in Newport.

Brenton Point State Park is a cool Newport spot for relaxation, scenic trails, and outdoor activities.
Brenton Point State Park is a cool Newport spot for relaxation, scenic trails, and outdoor activities.

12. Newport’s Best Sea-to-Table Restaurants

Looking to visit one of the best places in Newport? Add this to your bucket list! Newport’s coastal location means it’s a paradise for seafood lovers. The city is home to a plethora of restaurants serving fresh, locally sourced seafood, from casual beach shacks to upscale dining establishments.

For a truly memorable dining experience, try one of Newport’s sea-to-table restaurants. These eateries pride themselves on serving the freshest seafood, sourced directly from local fishermen and served with a creative flair.

Whether you’re craving a classic New England clam chowder, a succulent lobster roll, or a gourmet seafood platter, you’ll find it in Newport. And with many restaurants offering stunning waterfront views, you can savor your meal while watching the boats bobbing in the harbor or the sun setting over the ocean.

Dining in Newport is more than just a meal; it’s an experience that combines the city’s maritime heritage, culinary creativity, and natural beauty into one delicious package, making this one of the unique Newport things to do.

Newport is a seafood lover's paradise with diverse dining options, from beach shacks to upscale restaurants.
Newport is a seafood lover’s paradise with diverse dining options, from beach shacks to upscale restaurants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Newport? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Newport, Rhode Island:

Newport, Rhode Island, has long been a popular destination in RI. Here’s why:

  1. Gilded Age Mansions: Newport’s historic mansions, like The Breakers and Marble House, offer a glimpse into the opulence of the American Gilded Age, showcasing the wealth of families like the Vanderbilts.
  2. Sailing and yachting: Known as the “Sailing Capital of the World”, Newport has hosted numerous prestigious sailing events, including the America’s Cup.
  3. Cliff Walk: A scenic 3.5-mile walkway that combines the natural beauty of the Rhode Island coastline with the architectural history of Newport’s gilded mansions.
  4. Festivals: Newport hosts various renowned events, such as the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, and the International Boat Show.
  5. History: As one of America’s oldest cities, Newport boasts historic sites, colonial homes, and museums that offer a deep dive into American colonial history.
  6. Seafood and cuisine: Its coastal location means fresh seafood, especially lobster and clam chowder, is a staple in local restaurants.
  7. Beaches: Gorgeous sandy beaches, like Easton’s Beach and Gooseberry Beach, are perfect for relaxation and water activities.

The city’s blend of rich history, maritime traditions, architectural marvels, and coastal charm makes Newport a cherished destination for many.

What is the best time to visit Newport, Rhode Island?

While Newport is a year-round destination, the best time to visit is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is warm and all attractions are open. However, this is also the busiest time, so be prepared for crowds.

How many days do I need to explore Newport?

A weekend getaway is enough to see the main attractions of Newport. However, if you want to explore the city at a leisurely pace, consider staying for three to four days.

Is Newport a walkable city?

Yes, Newport is a very walkable city. Many of the main attractions, including the historic mansions and Thames Street, are within walking distance of each other. The city also has a trolley system that makes it easy to get around.

Captivating view of Bowen's Wharf, Newport, Rhode Island, showcasing its shops and historic charm.
Captivating view of Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, Rhode Island, showcasing its shops and historic charm.

What should I pack for a trip to Newport?

Pack comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t forget your beach essentials. And no matter when you visit, bring a jacket, as it can get chilly by the water, especially in the evenings.

Is Newport Island worth visiting?

Absolutely! Newport Island, a jewel in Rhode Island’s crown, offers a delightful mix of picturesque beaches, top-tier seafood restaurants, and a range of activities, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler.

What is Newport best known for?

Newport is best known for its stunning Gilded Age mansions, reminiscent of a bygone era of opulence, and its vibrant waterfront filled with top-notch seafood restaurants and bustling marinas. It’s also famed for the Newport Jazz Festival, an annual event that draws music lovers from around the globe.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island, is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and coastal charm. From the opulent Gilded Age mansions and the bustling shops of Thames Street to the scenic beauty of the Cliff Walk and the culinary delights of its sea-to-table restaurants, Newport offers a wealth of experiences that cater to a variety of interests.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, a foodie, or a shopaholic, you’ll find something to love in Newport. So why wait? Start planning your Newport adventure today and discover the many treasures this New England gem has to offer.

The top things to do in Newport, Rhode Island for all types of travelers
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