Alive with pleasure
July 7, 2008 5:53 PM   Subscribe

What is there to do in Newport, RI? Any sights, tours, or restaurants we shouldn't miss?

My fiance and I will be in Newport, RI next weekend for a wedding. We have about a day and a half that's not booked up with wedding-related activities.

Thanks to this Ask MeFi, we know how to get to the city from the Providence Airport.

What do we do once we get there? We've checked out the official website, but nothing really jumped out.

A little about us: we're in our mid-30s. We like historical walking tours (like this?), pubs that pour proper pints of Guinness (like this?), and eating good seafood al fresco.

Any daytime sailing tour recommendations? (Is SightSailing any good?)

And finally...are we foolish to think we don't need a rental car? We're staying at the Best Western Mainstay Inn (just north of Rt. 138), which appears to be walking distance from the Historic Downtown Area. Is our hotel in a pedestrian friendly area or are we going to have to play Frogger across an interstate to get downtown?

Input on these and any other enjoyable diversions are appreciated.
posted by slmorri to Travel & Transportation around Newport, RI (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Tour at least one of the mansions. We took the tour at The Breakers on a passthrough of Newport years ago and were quite glad we did.
posted by briank at 6:00 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: There are some decent wineries around. Here are a few. They're pretty low-key and have some good ice wines.

Seconding the mansions. You can't go too wrong with any of them -- some are more popular and thus more expensive than the others, but really, you only need to see one to be amazed at how ridiculously rich some people are.

Downtown you'll probably be fine without a car, but if I recall it's a decent walk down to the mansions from the town center. I've only ever driven.
posted by olinerd at 6:25 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: The town is fun for strolling, and very quaint and lovely, and the mansions are certainly worth seeing, not just for the ridiculousness of wealth on display, but also for the art and ornamentation on display. My favorite thing to do in Newport, however, is to drive out Bellevue to Ocean Avenue and picnic at Brenton Point Park. It's a great place to fly a kite. The drive continues up to Fort Adams Park, also lovely, and offers beautiful views of the ocean and the harbor.
posted by judith at 7:39 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: I think some of the "smaller" mansions are more interesting and exquisite than the better known ones. Kingscote, Chateau-sur-Mer and the Issac Bell House in particular.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:38 PM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you so much everyone. Keep the suggestions coming!
posted by slmorri at 8:42 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: By all means have a meal at Scales and Shells and Café Zelda (named for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife).

Have drinks (and/or a meal) on Bannister's Wharf, especially the Candy Store in the Clarke Cooke House.

Note: the restaurants and bars on summer weekends are packed!
posted by ericb at 8:59 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: Regarding walks ... there's the famous Cliff Walk.

If you have a rental car, then be sure to take in the Ten Mile Drive.
posted by ericb at 9:09 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: If you're in Newport for just a day, do what it's famous for and go sailing. There are a number of charter sailboat tours. If those are all booked..

The Tennis Hall of Fame is pretty cool and near the mansions.

Salve Regina (a university in the mansion district) is open for tours during the summer.

and I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the Newport Creamery for an AwfulAwful.
posted by Andrew Brinton at 9:27 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: Regarding sailing, I recommend the Adirondack (or the Adirondack II, whichever one is in Newport right now). I enjoyed it, they'll take you around the bay for an hour or two, very scenic. Here's their site.

Second the cliff walk if you're interested in going for a long walk. Definitely check out one of the mansions, they're cool if you're historically-minded, as you say you are. If you're interested in tennis, there's the hall of fame on Bellevue Ave, and it looks like there is a tournament going on there next weekend.

The hotel you're staying at is unfortunately a couple miles north of where you'll want to be most days. The hotel is basically on a 4 lane road with Walmarts and stuff. If you're interested in gambling, you'll be right across from Newport Grand, though I've never gone there. It's not until you get downtown (about 1.5 miles south of there) that Newport's really walkable. Downtown is great for walking, so you might just want to get a cab or perhaps a bus or shuttle that runs from your hotel to downtown, and not bother with trying to rent a car.

Once you're there, you could easily spend a day shopping, dining, sailing, listening to live music, etc, without a car. It should be pretty easy to wander around and find a place to eat seafood al fresco. I suggest, rather than trying to plan where to eat now, that you just walk around Thames St / America's Cup Ave downtown and see which place grabs you.
posted by knave at 9:46 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: Go get drunk. Newport has some of the best dive bars north of New Orleans.

My favorites:

The Tiki Bar in the back room of the Salvation Cafe up on Broadway - great for drinking with hipsters, scenesters, professional yachtsmen, aspiring chefs and failed playwrights.

Celtica on Long Wharf - Gorgeous Irish pub, lots of big screen TV's, but unless the Sawx are playin' the Yanks, get a seat at the window and watch the harbor instead. Working lobstermen, unemployed construction workers, forty-something post-yuppies and other long-time locals drink here. Pleasantly quiet on weeknights.

Billy Goodes', across from the Quaker Meeting House - This is where the professional alcoholics drink now that the River Belle closed down. Cheap booze, surly barmen, stale-beer-in-the-carpet ambiance, and usually an entertaining folk act on the weekends. The Open Mic night on Thursdays is completely out of control, and not to be missed. Also, the food's better than it should be, but we won't hold that against them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:30 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'll generally echo what ericb and knave said, except I thought the Tennis Hall of Fame was kinda lame. To each their own, I guess.

re: restaurants, I'll second the recommendation of Scales and Shells. As far as I know though they don't take credit cards, it's cash or check only and meals can get pricey (but it's worth it). Busker's on upper Thames St. is pretty good, and Via Via on lower Thames sells some really tasty pizza. I thought the Newport Blues Cafe was overrated, and the atmosphere at the Rhino Bar was pretty lame, but your tastes may differ.

Also, I think it's some kind of law in RI that you have to get Del's at least once every summer.
posted by xbonesgt at 6:13 AM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: I second the Cliff Walk, Tennis Hall of Fame, Via Via and the Mansions. I'm a big fan of The Red Parrot. You can't eat outside, but the first floor windows open wide to create that feeling. Check out St. Mary's church, where John and Jackie Kennedy got married.

The best part about Thames Street is its walkability. Take a cab downtown, then just walk around until you find something that tickles your fancy.
posted by LouMac at 6:39 AM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, to get into the center of town from where your hotel is is definitely at least a 30-45 minute walk, and public transportation/sidewalks in Middletown/Newport are next to nonexistant. I'd seriously recommend the rental car, if that's an option, as it's nice to just take a drive down Bellevue Avenue along Ocean Drive (Bretton Point State Park is drop-dead gorgeous), and walking there or to the mansions would take half your day.

Seconding Scales and Shells and Buskers for good seafood and beer, respectively. For a good local microbrewery, with great pub food, a pretty good seafood selection, and that's a bit away from the relentless crowds, Coddington Brewery in Middletown isn't too-too far from your hotel and they make their own Irish Stout. I highly recommend it. Norey's restaurant on Broadway (whether for brunch or dinner) is also amazing.

You should also by sure to order coffee milk with your breakfast, and grab an Awful-Awful shake at the Newport Creamery on West Main Road. For greasy, low-rent seafood, with buoy decor, and plenty of outside seating, check out Flo's Clam Shack across from First Beach.
posted by acorn1515 at 6:48 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Brenton point SP. Flocks of colorful kites, rocky seashore with small sandy inlets, very nice. Seagulls will take food from your hand - in the air, or catch it if you toss it up. Do try to be there around high tide; dead low tide can get aromatic.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:48 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nope, your hotel is not particularly pedestrian friendly. I bet they have shuttle service downtown, though.

Seconding Zelda's($$$), Salvation Cafe($$) and Billy Goodes'($), all awesome. The Fastnet (used to be Aidan's) is an Irish pub, perfect for your Guiness needs. It's right at the bottom of Broadway. They usually have live Irish music on Sunday afternoons (it's been a while since I've tried to go, but I assume it's still happening). Norey's has great brunch - get the smoked salmon eggs benedict.

If you're movie goers, the Jane Pickens theater is great fun, very old timey.

For boats, seconding Adirondack as a good choice, or Rum Runner II if you prefer power boats (I do!).

Just walking around Thames Street downtown will be lots of fun. Get an awesome gelato at Cold Fusion or have a Del's Lemonade. Eat wherever looks good. Have a drink at the Smokehouse if it's not too packed.

I don't know what nights you have available or what your musical interests are, but the Indigo Girls are playing Saturday night at the yachting center, and here's the schedule for the Newport Blues Cafe.

If you do get a rental car, Fort Adams is a great place to go walking, and there are beautiful ocean views (free parking, no entrace fees or anything). Second beach is another great spot, and more scenic than First Beach in my opinion (parking most definitely not free).
posted by robinpME at 10:00 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, I think it's some kind of law in RI that you have to get Del's at least once every summer.

Yes, I, too, believe it's a law.
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: Well, if it's the law....

Thank you everyone.
posted by slmorri at 1:48 PM on July 8, 2008

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