my first summer back in new york after college involved a seriously long trek from brooklyn up to limestone, maine. i had to drive a giant white econoline van full of merch up to a phish festival and thankfully was able to stop for snacks a few time during the marathon drive. one of the stops i made was a quick bite for lunch in newport, rhode island. ever since i’ve wanted to get back to eat some lobster rolls and watch the ocean from the cliff walk. and today, thanks to andrea mchugh, i’ve finally got a guide of things to do in town if i ever get back. andrea is a freelancer writer who visited newport on whim and nested there a year later. today, she happily resides (and shops!) in the city-by-the-sea and is sharing her detailed local’s guide to shopping, eating, drinking, site-seeing, sailing, over-nighting and celebrating in newport. if you’re cruising up the east coast any time soon i highly suggest a stop in town- the view from the water is simply gorgeous. thanks to andrea for her hard work! [image above via travelpn.com]
CLICK HERE for the full newport guide after the jump!
Newport City Guide
by Andrea E. McHugh
If Newport is not the most beloved locale in New England, it’s on the short list. Founded in 1639 in pursuit of religious sovereignty, Newport is today, a city synonymous with the sea. Home to sailing’s most prestigious race for decades, the America’s Cup, life on the water is part of Newport’s pedigree. Perched on the southernmost tip of Aquidneck Island, the country’s wealthiest families flocked here during the Gilded Age to build their summer “cottages” at the ocean’s edge; the same bluebloods that turned “summer” into a verb. Dubbed America’s First Resort, this island community swells to more than 100,000 during the warmer months, all here to take in historic and cultural sights, year-round events, hundreds of diverse shops and eateries, classic New England charm and priceless factory-installed views.
EAT + DRINK
From New England traditional to contemporary cuisine to ethnic eateries, Newport affords countless dining experiences. The unofficial cocktail in the City-by-the-Sea is the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a concoction of dark rum and ginger beer and side-effect of the swelling sailor scene.
White Horse Tavern As America’s oldest operating tavern (serving since 1673), this eternally dim nod to colonial architecture boasts exposed beams, clapboard walls, cavernous fireplaces and wide-plank floorboards underfoot. White-linen-dressed tables are illuminated by romantic candlelight, a simple milieu for rich dishes, including their signature lobster bisque and beef Wellington.
Clarke Cooke House The epicenter of Newport’s social scene on bustling Bannister’s Wharf, the Cooke House is a historic four-story building housing, from the underground up, The Boom Boom Room nightclub, the wharf-level Candy Store (a more casual dining space), the Bistro Bar (the main floor of the original house), the Mid-Way (a bar overlooking Bannister’s and Bowen’s wharves, and on the top level, the Sky Bar and adjoining porch (the most elegant of the dining rooms). Peppered with memorabilia of Newport’s era in the America’s Cup spotlight, the Cooke House is a must-visit for your see and be seen lunch or best dressed night out.
Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen This newer addition to the dining scene is known for expertly crafted drinks (think: fresh pressed herbs), an unexpectedly delightful wine list and a diverse small and large plates menu. The small but chic third floor lounge may lure you in but the farm to table ingredients, locally harvested shellfish, and classic fare alongside rethought standards will bring you back.
Perro Salado A cozy, eclectic Mexican cantina set inside an early 18th-century home, each room in Perro Salado is distinctively imperfect in the warmest way. The snug back bar is the heart of the building as the sea breeze passes through in the warmer months and the fire crackles when temperatures drop. It would be a sin to miss the guacamole served with homemade tortilla chips, warm tostones and toasted pipians– pair with their signature spicy cucumber margarita.
Atlantic Grille Best known for creative “bennies,” a fresh take on eggs Benedict, this surf-inspired breakfast spot serves belly-busting portions to help you hang ten or stay happily ashore.
Ristorante Lucia Authentic Northern Italian cuisine on popular Thames Street. Two dining rooms offer two different experiences: one oozes romantic trattoria with soft lighting and crisp linens while the other is a casual pizzeria. Both offer the same menu with the same fresh, simple ingredients and ample vegetarian dishes.
The Mooring A staple on the waterfront, The Mooring is best known for fresh seafood in a casually sophisticated setting. All-stars include the award-winning native scallop chowder and the signature “bag of donuts,” a serving of lightly fried lobster, crab and shrimp fritters with chipotle-maple aioli.
Brick Alley Pub Synonymous with Newport itself for more than 25 years, BAP or “The Brick,” is about local lore and comfort food. Burgers are king here (with big ‘ol steak fries) and bits of Newport swag from regattas to the US Open to retired street signs and license plates are hoisted and hung across seemingly every inch.
Flo’s Clam Shack Equally tacky as it is tasty, Flo’s embodies everything a New England clam shack should be. Directly across from Easton’s (or First) Beach, order “chowda,” “stuffies”(diced clams and chorizo tossed in herbs and breading baked in a quahog shell– a bonafide Rhode Island delicacy) or “lobsta” rolls from a window, get a rock with your order number on it and wait to be called. Classic.
Spark Tiny Broadway fusion bistro. Case in point: Thai shrimp nachos, with sautéed shrimp, red bell peppers, leeks and scallions over crispy wonton skins served with Thai red curry sauce.
Salvation Café Eclectic eatery outfitted with outdated albums and funky tag sale finds. Hip and usually hopping, the adventurous but unpretentious menu will please diverse palates including vegetarians. If too crowded up front, sneak to the back tiki bar for more room. Best known for their pad Thai, creative cocktails and sangria served by the jarful.
Sambar This Brazilian import pours authentic mouth-watering tapas, red, white or champagne sangria by the pitcher, mojitos, and Caphirina, the national cocktail of Brazil.
22 Portside The seasonal outdoor annex to 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille at dock’s edge has an enviable wine list (more than 35 wines by the glass and 650 bottles), light fare and raw bar, but it’s the prime people watching real estate that’s key.
Pop Kitchen + Cocktails Swanky lounge décor, modern fireplace and the specialty martini menu make Pop memorable. DJs or live music every weekend and often throughout the week.
Pasta Beach Service can be slow but the freshly prepared Italian dishes, including wood fired pizza, crusty bread, fresh pastas and homemade sauces are worth the wait. Local’s secret: go for lunch when it’s less busy; same menu, less frenzy (the restaurant doesn’t take reservations).
Café Zelda One part sailor’s tavern, three parts semi-formal dining room, and the two areas are equally welcoming. The chef’s specialty is chicken fried lobster– seriously.
Scales and Shells No reservations, no credit cards, no problem, because Scales and Shells, with its Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant feel, daily specials on the chalkboard and open kitchen has attracted crowds (first-come first-serve) for decades. Landlubbers will be lost in this seafood haven.
Castle Hill Even the traditional local flavors and native seasonal ingredients take a backseat to the dining room’s panoramic view of where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic. Fine dining on the heart of Ocean Drive, Castle Hill, a historic mansion inn, serves lunch and dinner. If not there to dine, it’s worth the jaunt just to sip champagne on the lawn as sailboats lazily glide out to sea.
The Black Pearl In the summer, the Pearl’s patio is bustling. Inside, the former sail loft has two dining spaces: the formal Commodore’s Room, and the relaxed tavern, with spindle-back chairs and casual menu.
Asterisk Once a car service garage with the doors still in place and lifted during warmer months, Asterisk’s adopts a Manhattan-bistro feel with an open kitchen, high ceilings and warm décor. The menu is a mix of land and sea and their experienced bartenders shake a mean espresso martini.
Corner Café Proves that Irish and Portuguese breakfasts can live together in harmony. Giant cups o’ joe ensures few refills.
Christie’s Once a rowdy watering hole on the docks, the new owners retained the name and reinvented in a different space to create a modern, hip restaurant with retro stylings and a fabulous 20- person communal table.
COFFEE & PASTRY
Brisk mornings and chilly winters promises plenty of opportunities for your daily java fix.
Coffee Grinder This tiny outpost sits at the end of Bannister’s Wharf where four-legged friends are as welcome as their human counterparts. Sit on an Adirondack and take it all in or grab and go.
Empire Tea & Coffee Students, professionals and hipsters commune at this Broadway hub; some for the coffee, others for bubble tea, some to bury their faces in their laptops, some to community organize, others to play board games. A ton of loose teas are on hand for the anti-java crowd.
Jonathan’s Ocean Coffee Roasters In the heart of Washington Square, this spot attracts locals for their morning (and afternoon) caffeine fix.
Katrina’s Bakery Fresh baked goods on famed Bellevue Avenue; can’t go wrong.
Mad Hatter Bakery Cupcakes are king at this Broadway bakery across from City Hall. Ethnic favorites too, like Irish soda bread and St. Joseph’s Day Italian zeppoles are worth every calorie.
Starbuck’s Centrally located on Thames Street, the java-giant planted its flag here years ago. Seating areas up and downstairs, wi-fi, the works.
Dunkin’ Donuts Yes, it’s a chain, but seeing as though Rhode Island supposedly has the most franchises of this beloved brand per square mile, you don’t have to travel far to see this familiar name in lights.
The Cookie Jar This sweet spot on Bannister’s Wharf seems to supernaturally permeate the air around it with the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies daily.
The wharves, Brick Market Place, upper and lower Thames Street, Washington Square and Bellevue Avenue are dotted with designer fashion and home décor shops, antique stores, art galleries, resort clothing shops, and more mom-and-pop discoveries.
House Home décor, linens, candles, tableware, bath and body, accessories; a haven of fresh finds for comfortable living.
The Linen Shop A staple on posh Bellevue Avenue with luxurious bedding and bath linens, home accessories and always fabulous window displays.
Laura Jean A denim den for men and women carrying well known lines including Seven, J Brand, Hello Skinny, Sweet Pea, Three Dots, Luchesse Boots, Stuart Weitzman and Donald J Pliner—yee-haw!
Michael Hayes Duds for the discerning shopper. Gala gowns to day wear with upscale designers including Tory Burch, Sue Wong and Missoni.
Wag Nation Every dog has its day here with cashmere sweaters, foul weather gear, leashes and collars to suit any furry friend’s personality, top shelf pet food and treats, pillowy doggie beds—pawsitively precious.
Rib & Rhein Manhattan chic meets St. Tropez boutique with clothing, coffee table books, international pieces, glassware and things you never know you needed but must have.
Kristina Richards Studio Denim to designer cocktail dresses with pieces from Ella Moss, Splendid, Hudson denim, Minnie Rose, Milly, Haute Hippie, Corey Lynn Calter, Juicy and Shoshanna.
Island Outfitters Perpetuating Newport’s preppy persona for men and women with tons of Vineyard Vines, Lilly Pulitzer, Milly, Lacoste and Sperry.
Brick Market Place Four acres of more than two dozen clothing, shoes, jewelry and gift shops including Jason & Co., Sole Desire, Ooh! Ooh! Shoes, Ireland Calls, Oriental Arts, Platinum House, Bermuda Bay and Lynn Arden’s Children’s Shop.
Green Envy Eco-friendly boutique in Brick Market Place that doesn’t skimp on style. Artisan accessories amid colorful, soft, eco-chic clothing for men and women.
Pleasant Surprise Your Brick Market go-to place for a quick pick-me up and irreverent curios for that person that has everything (because chances are they never received a “crazy cat lady” action figure).
Bellevue Beauty Walk Beauty brands, gifts, jewelry—a beautiful girly shop on Bowen’s Wharf.
Alex and Ani Hip jewelry store featuring precious metal pieces at every price point—many pieces seen on celebutants.
CK Bradley A Bellevue boutique inspired by preppy styling and beautiful things.
Chace ‘n’ Lulu Dresses, tops, skirts, denim, accessories—a pretty palatte with smaller lines and a few hot shots including Kate Spade, BCBG and Susana Monaco.
Isoude The boutique studio of couture designer Katie Brierley featuring exquisite cocktail ensembles, formal gowns, skirts, tops and more.
The Apothecary A beauty outpost that is essentially a gal’s dream makeup counter, Bare Bare Escentuals anchors the shop but Stila, Mario Badescu skin care and MD Skincare are at your fingertips.
Annabelle Sassy, sexy and classy lingerie is the staple of this boutique that has expanded to designer denim, yoga wear, well fitted tops and dresses.
Down Under Jewelry Carries famed lines including Alexis Bittar, Echo and the Dreamer, Me & Ro, Wendy Mink and more.
Wish An upscale resale shop with big names and little hassle. Oversized Givenchy sunglasses, Chanel boots, Vera Wang weddings gowns– this hodgepodge is a treasure trove of finds.
Prep Pink details, a dainty chandelier and a smattering of lines including Julie Hewitt Los Angles, BECCA and a ton of Kiehl’s (and a lot of paraben-free/organic choices).
Mansions, galleries, historic and cultural attractions, parks and walks for miles, there is a long list of things and places to see in Newport that it will take more than one visit to take it all in.
Cliff Walk A 3.5-mile walk, some paved, some rougher terrain, along the coastline. By far one of the must-do’s in Newport, and a great vantage point to see the mansions.
Newport Mansions It was the summer colonists of the Gilded Age with names like Vanderbilt and Astor that built their seasonal “cottages” that today lure millions to Newport. Owned on operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County, seeing one or two in a visit (definitely The Breakers) will leave you looking forward to more.
Newport Art Museum Home to the oldest art association in the country, this National Historic Landmark keeps things interesting with painting, photography, sculpture and mixed media exhibits in addition to their permanent collection.
Aquidneck Lobster Company At the end of Bowen’s Wharf, see where the day’s catch is off loaded and pick out a lobster to bring home for dinner.
Ocean Drive Just as it sounds, this winding road traces the coast and weaves through some of the most stunning homes in Newport. Stop at Brenton Point to inhale fresh ocean air.
Rough Point One of the many homes of “the richest little girl in the world,” billionairess Doris Duke summered at this jaw-dropping estate for much of her adult life. A gallery inside the home brings exhibits including an intimate peek at everything from her haute couture collections to fine furnishings.
The Redwood Library and Athenæum is the oldest lending library in America, and the oldest library building in continuous use in the country. More than just a sanctum of literature, the library is alive with bibliophiles and the casual readers alike.
The Jane Pickens Theater What started out as a church in 1834 is today a single-screen theater showing everything from major motion pictures to less-known independents resplendent with century old detailing and gourmet concessions (cappuccino and chocolate, anyone?)
The International Tennis Hall of Fame At the 1880 Newport Casino, the museum’s galleries chronicle the history of tennis exhibits, video, and classic memorabilia from historic champions and today.
Saint Mary’s Church The oldest Catholic parish in Rhode Island but better known as the setting for the Sept. 12, 1953 wedding of Newport summer resident Jacqueline Bouvier to the junior senator from neighboring Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Vineyards Coastal temperatures yield savory grapes and thus, three vineyards in the area: Newport Vineyards,
Touro Synagogue A Newport landmark since 1763, Touro is the nation’s oldest synagogue building and played a vital role during the American Revolution.
Sail aboard one of the legendary Cup winners in this prestigious fleet. Champions include Weatherly, Intrepid and Freedom, and the contenders aren’t too shabby either.
Rum Runner Built in 1929 during the height of Prohibition, the motor yacht was once once used to smuggle cases of scotch and whisky but today leisurely cruises Newport Harbor for the best views of the city.
Schooner Aquidneck An eighty-foot traditional, gaff rigged, topsail schooner that glides through Narragansett Bay—ideal for champagne sipping.
Recognized names including the
Hotel Viking Since 1926, the Viking has been considered “the” place to stay in Newport. The historic hotel on the hill offers a traditional English afternoon tea and rooftop bar (in-season).
The Chanler at Cliff Walk Billed as a “luxurious seaside mansion retreat,” this boutique hotel lives up to its well-earned reputation. Also home to the highly-lauded Spiced Pear restaurant.
Pearls of Newport A trio of 18th and 19th century colonials links by private gardens. Rooms and suites feel more like your little Newport pied-à-terre in lieu of a hotel room.
Castle Hill Inn & Resort Perched on a private, 40-acre peninsula with panoramic ocean and bay views, this former private mansion offers respite at the inn, a private chalet, or ocean front cottages. No stranger to good press, Castle Hill was voted one of the top hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure, and New York Times called it ‘the best spot in town.’
Mill Street Inn Centrally-located mill building-cum-small luxury hotel with uncommonly found modern décor including exposed brick walls, beamed ceilings and rooftop patio.
Rose Island Lighthouse Ever wanted to fulfill that dream of being a lighthouse keeper? One of the only places in the world you can sleep in a working lighthouse. Stay for the night n the first floor, or, stay for the week and work the lighthouse.
La Farge Perry House Sets itself apart with amazing breakfasts prepared the former chef innkeeper (try her homemade cookies). Eggs are cooked to order, brioche French toast and buttermilk pancakes served daily and on Sunday, it’s all about the Eggs Benedict.
Unlike other resort cities, Newport is alive all year along with festivals, concerts, parades and city-wide celebrations. Here are just a few that keep people coming back:
Newport Folk Festival Having just celebrated 50 years, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger and in more recent years, the Cowboy Junkies, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett, The Black Crowes have added this defining festival to their resume.. The festival is traditionally held in August at Fort Adams State Park.
Newport Jazz Festival Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock, Frank Sinatra, even rock groups Led Zepplin and The Allman Brothers have graced the stage thanks in part to festival founder and organizer since 1954, George Wein.
Great Chowder Cook-Off “Chowda” is taken seriously in these parts, which is why chefs from around the country (even an international entry or two) look to earn their stripes, and crowd loyalty, in this traditional chowder competition.
Newport International Film Festival A week-long film fest features documentaries, shorts, feature-length films and animation in addition to workshops, discussion panels and parties.
Alive with Irish heritage, Newport celebrates all things Celtic at this annual Labor Day weekend festival—one of the biggest Irish fests in the county. Three days of nonstop shenanigans with tons of live music, a marketplace, Irish dancers, pipe and drum corps, a children’s fun center and more.
International Boat Show Four days and fifteen acres of more than 750 new powerboats and sailboats. Largest in-water boat show in the northeast, fourth largest in the country.
Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival A weekend for epicureans and oenophiles with events at some of the most spectacular milieus in the city.
Christmas in Newport A month-long celebration of all things Christmas with everything from a traditional plum pudding stir to Santa’s arrival by boat to performances of the Nutcracker at a mansion to rides aboard the Polar Express. Events, including lantern tours, town Christmas tree lightings, and concerts, appeal to adults, children and everyone in between.
International Oktoberfest Biergartens, bratwurst, and Bavarian music are the staples of this 3-day weekend. Take in two stages with live music, international food (including a visit from the world’s largest grill cooking up many things that end in –wurst), plenty of beers and the ubiquitous yodeling competition.
Newport Flower Show Set in early summer at Rosecliff, see horticultural specimens and floral designs, special garden exhibitions, take in lectures and demonstrations, and shop the Oceanside and Gardeners’ Marketplace.
Sunset Music Series Held throughout the summer under the waterfront tent with nationally-acclaimed artists playing a variety of music.