Little Rhody for Little Girls (and their parents)?
August 31, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Heading to Newport, RI for the long weekend with my kids. Tell me what we shouldn't miss.

We're heading to Rhode Island tomorrow to spend Labor Day weekend visiting my sister, who's living in Newport temporarily. We fly into Boston and have already worked out plans for spending the afternoon there, but I'm interested in great ideas for the rest of our stay.

I've done plenty of research and have a whole list of possibilities, but I want to make sure that I don't miss any ideas that would be especially fun for my daughters, who are 7 and 9. And we promised their teachers that in exchange for missing two days of school (the first week back, even), that we'd make sure they got a little educational enrichment during our trip.

So hit me with your best Rhode Island For Families. Which of the historic/colonial farms in the area is the most fun? Is there one "stately manor" home that outshines the rest? Of all the various museums, are there a couple that really stand out and that are especially kid-friendly? I also want to know which beaches, parks, restaurants we should think about trying.

We have never been to this part of the country and my sister hasn't been there long enough to really be immersed in the local scene, so bring it on.

As a side question, I have heard from people on the ground that there shouldn't be any residual trouble from Irene to prevent us from enjoying Boston, but wouldn't mind confirming that.
posted by padraigin to Travel & Transportation around Newport, RI (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you're going to do just one manor house, The Breakers is the best/biggest. It has a "playhouse" that's practically the size of a normal family home. They might like the Green Animals Topiary Garden. The Cliff Walk is pretty nice, plus it's free. But these are all kinda obvious things that even a n00b in town will know about.
posted by bcwinters at 2:08 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: I was going to suggest the Astors Beechwood Mansion (in which tours are given in costume) but just saw that the mansion was sold and that tours are no longer given. Sad!

Seconding the Cliff Walk, if your girls like walking.

I feel like I ate lunch somewhere in Newport where the tables were arranged around a tennis court, which could be fun, but I can't remember the name of the restaurant. Sorry not to be more helpful!
posted by cider at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: Totally agree with the Breakers.

I think it also might a lot of fun to go to Marble House and learn about the epic Mother Daughter battles that went on in the house. I don't mention this as a means for your girls to get ideas for rebellion, but because it is a eyeful on how life was for some girls growing up. Very interesting.

I also really liked the Elms. But, the mansions each have their own audio tour and those can get tiring, especially for young uns. So, you might want to pick one or two houses and stick with those.

There is a park right on Ocean Blvd that is quite lovely.

You can also take them to the first synagogue in the U.S. as well as the International Tennis Museum.

Newport also has its own minor league baseball team (the Gulls) that play in an adorable little stadium right in the middle of downtown. That might be a lot of fun for some evening recreation.

I was just in Newport a few weeks ago, so feel free to MeMail me if you want further details. I'm jealous!
posted by Leezie at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: I second the Breakers.

Battleship Cove in Fall River is not far out of the way between Boston and Newport.

Sadly, Hammersmith Farm which was the other thing I was going to recommend, is no longer open for tours (now a private residence) and the furniture has been sold.
posted by Jahaza at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Newport Creamery! Not quite cultural but definitely of interest to 7 and 9 year olds.
posted by mlle valentine at 2:57 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: How timely! I grew up in Newport and just flew back from a vacation there yesterday.
For history, I'd skip the mansions and do a tour of the Colony House and the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House (more info on it and other tours here). Both buildings are much older than the mansions and would be more of a slice-of-colonial-life type thing. If you just want to gape at opulence, though, go to the mansions!

Cider, the restaurant you're talking about is La Forge Casino, right on the grounds of the Tennis Hall of Fame mentioned above. Nothing special food-wise, but it's a Newport institution and child-friendly.

If your kids like the outdoors, go to the Norman Bird Sanctuary, I loved that place as a kid. Nearby is beautiful Sachuest Point, also definitely worth a visit.

First Beach (officially Easton's Beach, but no one actually calls it that) has an aquarium that I've heard is fun. They also have concerts and other events. The seaweed is pretty bad there, so you may want to go elsewhere for swimming; Second Beach (officially Sachuest Beach) and Gooseberry are much better. Here is a good breakdown of the Newport and Middletown beaches.

For food, don't miss Cold Fusion Gelato. I'm not a seafood eater so I'll let others chime in there; for great Italian food I love Lucia or Mamma Luisa (they are very similar, owned by sisters I think). Skip Puerini's and Sardella's, they are overpriced.

Have fun! I wish I didn't have to leave!
posted by janerica at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: Brenton Point State Park has some of the most amazing kite flying you'll ever see, and it's a gorgeous place to picnic and wander. Nearby Ft. Adams State Park has a great tour of the historic fort, but also great views of sailboats and a neat beach where you can often find interesting bits of beach glass and such. Both are a bit of a drive from Newport itself, but an utterly beautiful drive and well worth doing.
posted by judith at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: Two summers ago, I stumbled upon the International Yacht Restoration School while on a walk in downtown Newport. It was incredibly cool. The building is very open, and they welcomed me to walk around. At the time they were in the process of restoring a 19th century ship, and I was able to walk all around the exterior of it, on a high platform, while they were working. Beautiful, educational (shipbuilding from either an engineering or a historical perspective), and really unique to the area. Definitely worth checking out.
posted by amelioration at 6:30 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: The Cliff Walk is great, but be warned at times it is more of a hike than a walk.
posted by comatose at 7:40 PM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers! They were all best and I am marking them as such because it turns out you can't do everything in four days but you also can hardly go wrong in Newport. Adding some links to other things we did to help future Askers.

What we ended up doing:
An absolutely top-notch dinner at Mamma Luisa (thanks janerica), as well as eating chowder at Black Pearl and dinner one night at 22 Bowen's, which manages to have both an excellent kids' menu and a killer wine list (the parental Holy Grail).

Second Beach, twice. After spending the first chunk of their life in Northern CA my kids are still totally enchanted by ocean water they can actually swim in.

We took a sunset cruise on Narragansett Bay, which was super fun and gave us a great and informative tour of the various sights on the bay, including the above mentioned Fort Adams and Hammersmith Farm. Also did the Cliff Walk, which was pretty easy for all of us and really beautiful, thanks to all who suggested it.

Toured a couple of the mansions (Rosecliff and The Breakers), mainly to test the waters with the girls and see if they might be up for touring chateaux on an upcoming trip to France. The Breakers has a special family audio tour that was really cute and the girls loved it, although I missed getting some of the more juicy Vanderbilt details and wish I'd done the regular tour. Thanks to everyone who gave advice re: the mansions.

We ate Awful Awfuls at Newport Creamery (thanks mile valentine) and also ate Del's Frozen Lemonade daily. We also visited the lobsters at the local fishmarket every day and finally brought some back to my sister's place the last night we were there, so that was my awesome new thing I got to do on this trip: cook lobsters for the first time ever! (also did some gorgeous cod the previous night).

Since we got into Boston fairly early but were completely exhausted from such an early flight, we took it easy and just did a Duck tour. This was completely silly and funny but also very informative, and also the girls got to drive the boat.

Thanks again for all your help!
posted by padraigin at 11:14 AM on September 6, 2011

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