Best Things To Do in Newport, RI
Newport is a cute New England port town, but beaching it isn't the main thing to do here. Get your blood pumping with a stroll along the picturesque Cliff Walk trail. As you go, hop off to visit the infamous Newport mansions, especially The Breakers, the Marble House and Rough Point. History and culture buffs will want to take some time to explore Fort Adams, Touro Synagogue and the National Museum of American Illustration. And when your stomach is growling for lunch or you're in need of some shopping therapy, make your way down to Thames Street.
Updated December 5, 2019
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This scenic 3.5-mile walkway hugs the edge of Newport's shoreline and snakes by the backyards of many of the town's most glamorous mansions. Many visitors start at Easton's Beach or The Breakers mansion and head south to Bailey's Beach. Along the way, you'll catch a glimpse of other famous homes like the Marble House and Rough Point.
Though the views are gorgeous, the terrain can get treacherous on the trail's southern end. However, past visitors noted that if you can finish the trail, you'll be rewarded with some of the Newport's best views.
- #2View all PhotosfreeThames Street#2 in Newport, RI0.6 miles to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Nestled just steps from the waterfront, Thames Street has been Newport's main commercial drag since the 18th century. Here you'll find a collection of local shops like Thames Glass and Newport Fudgery, as well as more conventional stores like Express and Banana Republic. There's also a decent dining scene, ranging from budget-friendly seafood spots to ritzier establishments, such as Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant and Bouchard Inn & Restaurant.
This area also claims a high concentration of colonial homes, dating back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries that are worth exploring. And be sure to take some time to visit Trinity Church. This religious site was completed in 1726, and its cemetery acts as the final resting place of some of the city's earliest settlers.
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Newport's mansions are remnants of the lavish lifestyles of America's wealthiest industrialists in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Of all of Newport's famous homes, The Breakers mansion is the cream of the summer cottage crop. Commissioned in 1893 by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II, The Breakers is a Renaissance-style "summer cottage" inspired by the palaces in northern Italy. Its opulence knows no bounds: Italian marble, ornate gold ceilings, French antique furnishings and fixtures, diamonds, rubies and other precious gems encrusted in the walls … the list of absurdly expensive details goes on and on.
Today's visitors are understandably gobsmacked by the intense display of wealth throughout the mansion's 70 rooms. You can't tour every corner of the house, but you do have access to the kitchen and other behind-the-scenes rooms. And the outdoor grounds are a treat, too. According to recent travelers, the ocean views offered from the property are breathtaking.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Newport, RI2.6 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Originally owned by the Vanderbilt family, Rough Point eventually fell into the hands of local philanthropist, tobacco heiress and art collector Doris Duke, who refurbished the estate and donated it to the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1993. The property, which was reopened in 2000 as a museum, features family heirlooms and artwork and antiquities collected by Duke, plus two gardens and bay views.
This mansion may not be as grand or as well-known as other area properties like The Breakers and the Marble House, but continuously wins over visitors thanks to its connection to Duke. The artwork Duke collected over the years is also quite impressive, according to recent visitors.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Newport, RI1.5 miles to city centerSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.5 miles to city centerSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Overlooking Brenton Cove in Newport's Fort Adams State Park, this historic military compound was once used to defend Newport's harbor from potential enemies. Once it was gifted to the state of Rhode Island in 1965, the fortress reopened as a historic landmark. Today, visitors can wander the fort's halls and underground tunnels while taking in views of the harbor and Narragansett Bay.
According to recent travelers, Fort Adams is a must-see attraction for families and history buffs. To gain access into the fort, you'll need to go on one of Fort Adams' guided tours. Though a small fee applies, most visitors say tour prices are reasonable. The tours also offer tons of interesting insight into the history of the fort.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Newport, RI2.1 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.1 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Though the most well-known historic home in the area is The Breakers mansion, another must-see property by the Cliff Walk is the Marble House. Like The Breakers, the Marble House was originally owned by the Vanderbilt family. However, unlike its famous counterpart, this grand home was inspired by Versailles' Petit Trianon building and was named for the 500,000 cubic feet of marble used in its design.
Previous visitors raved about the Marble House's stunning water views and lavish interior. Although some found tour prices to be a bit high, many noted that discounted entrance fees are provided when purchasing a bundled two- or five-house tour ticket.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Newport, RI0.2 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Newport's Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the U.S. The Orthodox Jewish congregation has had ties to Newport since 1658, though their building wasn't completed until 1763.
Whether you're a devout Jew or just appreciate American history, past visitors said you cannot miss a chance to tour this historic landmark. Tour guides are extremely informative, and the building's colonial architecture is beautiful, according to reviewers. Just remember to check the property's tour times before you visit since daily operating hours vary depending on the season.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Newport, RI1.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Illustrated art is an image (usually painted) that is created specifically for magazine covers, posters and other advertisements. And the National Museum of American Illustration has one of the largest collections of illustrated works in the country, from the Civil War era through the 1950s. Norman Rockwell is perhaps the most recognizable artist here, but works by other artists such as Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker and Howard Pyle (known as the "Father of American Illustration") round out this collection of great Americana.
There's more to admire here, as the museum is housed in the stately 19th-century Vernon Court mansion. According to several recent visitors, the property itself is magnificent, let alone it's iconic exhibits housed inside. Some have even said that wandering around this museum was the highlight of their stays in Newport.
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