20 Best Things to Do in Newport, RI

Newport, RI

If you've ever found yourself lucky enough to step foot onto the quaint streets of Newport, Rhode Island, then you'll understand when I say there's something truly magical about this coastal city.

I wake up to the soft lull of the sea and spend my days bathed in the glow of its sunsets.

There's a rich, historical vibe that hums along the cobblestone streets and a vibrant energy that pulses throughout the bustling wharf.

Every day spent in Newport is an adventure waiting to unfold, and I can't wait to share with you the 20 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island!

Now let's dive in and explore all that this charming city has to offer.

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About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Enjoy a Morning Stroll on Newport's Stunning Cliff Walk

View of Cliff Walk
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Every time the sun rises, I find myself rejuvenated with an early morning stroll along Newport's most picturesque trail - the Cliff Walk.

It's a long, winding trail stretching over three and a half miles, perfectly nestled between the crashing waves of the Atlantic on one side, and the grand, historical mansions on the other.

The sheer beauty of this place is enough to take your breath away!

The trail is easy to follow, but it does have its rocky parts. My sturdy walking boots definitely come in handy!

Sadly, these rocky sections make it a no-go zone for baby strollers, but they make for a wonderful workout.

The trail varies in difficulty from easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level.

View of Cliff Walk
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On weekday mornings, around 8 am, the parking lot is usually empty, but by noon it fills out pretty quickly.

To make sure everyone finds a spot, I always ensure to determine where I want to start my walk.

There are plenty of parking spots around the same area.

Once I reach the end of the walk, there's a beautiful beach area - the perfect spot to relax, have a snack, and regroup before I double back.

On lucky days, I get to witness families enjoying their walks or locals jogging along the trail.

The Cliff Walk has also become my favorite spot for watching the sunset, painting the sky in hues of oranges and pinks.

Signage of the Cliff Walk
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Experience the Tranquility of Brenton Point State Park

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Every now and then, I find myself longing for a place of serenity.

My refuge? None other than the beautiful Brenton Point State Park.

Living just a short drive away, I often find myself there, favoring the vibrant green space that lines the Atlantic.

The park offers spectacular ocean views that never fail to leave me in awe.

It's a perfect spot for hiking, fishing, and of course, my favorite - picnicking.

Beyond the breathtaking view, I've spent countless weekends flying kites at the beachfront.

I like to pack a chair, a blanket, and some lunch, and make a whole day of it.

The park offers plenty of parking space, although it does tend to get busier on the weekends.

View of Brenton Point State Park
Phillip Sunkel IV / Shutterstock.com

For a history lover like me, the park is also a treasure trove of historical significance.

The remnants of an old mansion and the area's historical background add an extra layer of fascination.

There's nothing quite like immersing yourself in nature while also taking a step back in time.

But what really makes Brenton Point special is the sense of peace that washes over you the moment you enter.

It's a place that allows you to escape the daily grind and truly immerse yourself in nature's tranquility.

Explore the Historic Touro Synagogue

Front view of Touro Synagogue
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At the heart of our city lies a true gem, a testament to the rich history of our city and our nation.

Nestled on a hill, the Touro Synagogue has become a part of my life as much as the changing seasons.

Constructed in 1763, this masterpiece of Palladian architecture prides itself as the oldest existing synagogue in the U.S.

The minute you step inside, you can't help but feel the weight of history bearing down on you.

The aura of the place is such that you find yourself imagining the many generations of congregants who have gathered here for Shabbat and chagim.

Now, getting to the synagogue can be a touch tricky.

Parking can be a bit of a quest, as the area is usually busy.

Front view of Touro Synagogue
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And yes, the location on the hill means that regardless of which direction you're coming from, you're in for a bit of an uphill trek.

But trust me, the experience at the top is more than worth the effort.

Being in the Touro Synagogue is like being part of American Jewish history.

The building has not only witnessed the birth and growth of our nation, but it has also stood the test of time, serving as a sturdy pillar of faith.

There’s something truly special about knowing that this is not just a historic site to marvel at, but a functioning synagogue where community members like myself still gather to worship and celebrate.

Wander around The Breakers

Gate at The Breakers
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Every once in a while, I find myself drawn to the grandeur of The Breakers, a testament to the Gilded Age and a crown jewel in Newport.

Nestled in the lap of nature, overlooking the magnificent ocean, this mansion that once housed the Vanderbilts, is nothing short of spectacular.

A visit to this palatial summer home is like stepping into the pages of an ornate history book.

The vastness of the mansion never fails to astonish me.

The rooms stretch on and on, each with an opulence that reflects the influence of French and Italian aesthetics.

Front view of The Breakers
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The self-guided tour gives an intriguing insight into each room, its furnishings, and its past.

One of my favorite spots is the terrace balcony on the second level.

Its incredible view of the ocean is something I never tire of.

As the waves crash against the shore, a sense of tranquility washes over me and I can't help but marvel at the seamless blend of man-made artistry and natural beauty.

As someone who has visited the mansion multiple times, I can vouch for the excellent maintenance of the place.

Each visit feels like the first, with the sparkling interiors and well-manicured gardens always leaving me in awe.

Not to mention the efficient tour system and amenities that only enhance the experience.

The Hunter House Tour is a worthy addition that I would recommend to any visitor.

Front view of The Breakers
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Have an Enchanting Visit to The Elms Mansion

Exterior of The Elms Mansion
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

You wouldn't believe the splendor that's hidden in the heart of Newport.

The Elms, a Gilded Age mansion, is a hidden gem that you need to explore.

As you walk into the mansion, you're greeted by enchanting marble columns that stand majestically on the first level.

Their beauty is only heightened by the meticulous lighting design that accentuates their grandeur.

One of the most fascinating parts of the mansion is the dance hall.

It's a place that transports you back in time, making you feel like a guest at one of their opulent parties.

The intricate window design is another marvel that catches the eye, providing stunning views of the expansive backyard.

However, what truly sets The Elms apart is the secret under-tunnel used to transport coal.

It's an ingenious design element that not only showcases the innovative minds of the past but also adds a touch of mystery to the mansion.

Garden of The Elms Mansion
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

To make the most of your visit, don't forget to leverage technology.

Download their app and use it as an audio guide during your tour.

This will immerse you in the rich history of the mansion, its previous inhabitants, and the architectural marvels within.

If you're visiting with others, consider becoming a member - it's a cost-effective way to gain access and explore all the historical houses in the area.

The Elms is completed with a fantastic collection of sculptures and paintings, and the property boasts free parking.

Interior of The Elms Mansion
Dan Hanscom / Shutterstock.com

Revisit the City's History at the Marble House Mansion

Exterior of the Marble House Mansion
Yingna Cai / Shutterstock.com

Marble House is a former summer home of the Vanderbilts, now serving as a museum.

The mansion has always been a highlight of the city, a captivating stone Beaux-Arts-style mansion that seems to hold a piece of history in every corner of its extravagant structure.

Seeing the mansion for the first time, you would probably be struck by just how well the name "Marble House" fits the place.

Its structure, inside and out, is built from marbles.

The way the sun hits the white marble, casting a glow that's almost ethereal, is enough to take anyone's breath away.

The Vanderbilts used to spend their summer here, and as I walk through the rooms, I can almost hear the whispers of the past.

I usually take my time to explore, using the audio guide from the App.

It’s fascinating to listen to the stories of the family, their guests, and the history that unfolded within these marbled walls.

Staircase in the Marble House Mansion
Yingna Cai / Shutterstock.com

What makes it even more special is the mansion's history and place in the suffragist movement, adding another layer of depth to the house's already rich history.

I often find myself gravitating towards the tea house, where I enjoy a spot of high tea, immersing myself in a tradition that was once new to me.

I cannot recommend this enough if you are ever in city.

Although it’s much smaller than the Breakers, the Marble House stands out with its lavish marble structure.

The house is usually not too crowded, especially when I go there on a weekend morning.

Interior of the Marble House Mansion
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Spend a Day at Bowen's Wharf

View of Bowen’s Wharf
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There's a certain charm to Bowen's Wharf that you just can't find anywhere else.

Nestled in the heart of Newport, this bustling harbor square is a must-visit, with its quaint boutiques, inviting cafes, and intriguing galleries.

I've personally spent countless afternoons just wandering through the array of shops, each one unique and filled with character.

It's a little on the pricey side, but well worth it for the quality and variety.

One of my favorite activities is hopping on one of the many boat tours that operate from the wharf.

Each tour offers a unique perspective of the city, and the views from the water are simply breathtaking.

If you're planning to drive, arrive early, especially during mid-season, as parking can be a challenge.

View of Bowen’s Wharf
Albert Pego / Shutterstock.com

There is some three-hour street parking available in the vicinity, and a few smaller paid parking lots, so you won't be left stranded.

Let's not forget about the food. I've had some of my best meals at the restaurants on the wharf.

The food is always fresh, delicious, and served with a side of beautiful harbor views.

One particular spot I recommend is the Black Pearl bar.

Stroll Down Memory Lane at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum

View of Redwood Library and Athenaeum
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One can't help but be drawn into the magic and history of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.

Time seems to stand still in this 1700s colonial library, still housed in its original neoclassical building.

As I wander the quiet halls, I am struck by the profound sense of the past the library evokes.

The library serves not only as a gatekeeper of rare books but also houses an exquisite art gallery that leaves me in awe every time.

This place is an architectural marvel that echoes with the whispers of antiquity.

View of Redwood Library and Athenaeum
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

The timeless beauty of the structure stands as a testament to the rich cultural history of Newport.

It's a proud reminder that this was the first library in America.

But it's not just a library; it's also a vibrant cultural hub, housing an impressive collection of fine art.

Every time I visit, I discover something new, something fascinating – a rare book, a unique piece of art, or perhaps, a quiet corner I hadn't noticed before.

Have a Wonderful Day at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Front view of International Tennis Hall of Fame
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I've always been a huge tennis fan, so having the International Tennis Hall of Fame practically in my backyard is just amazing.

I must have lost the count of how many times I've visited this place.

It always feels like there's something new to discover, with its rich history, fantastic exhibits, and well-preserved memorabilia.

Front view of International Tennis Hall of Fame
Pernelle Voyage / Shutterstock.com

One of the highlights for me is the opportunity to play on the historic grass and clay courts.

It's an incredible experience to feel the bounce of the ball and the softness of the turf underfoot, just like the legends who played the first U.S. Open championship here in 1881.

The tour is always fun, engaging, and educational.

Even if you're not a die-hard tennis fan, the stories behind the exhibits and memorabilia are captivating.

Experience a Trip to the National Museum of American Illustration

Living in Rhode Island, one can stumble upon hidden gems that offer enriching experiences.

The National Museum of American Illustration is one such jewel tucked away inside an awe-inspiring Newport mansion, offering a unique blend of history and art.

Stepping into the museum, you're immediately greeted with an introductory movie that transports you into the world of American illustration art.

The historic mansion, brimming with art, is an adventure in itself.

Each visitor is equipped with a tablet and headphones, your personal guide through the awe-inspiring collection of American pictorial art.

The best part? You can meander at your own pace, soaking in the history and intricacies of the artwork.

Being able to stand just inches away from the art and furniture was a truly remarkable experience for me.

I could see every minute detail in the majority of pieces, which was a treat to the eyes.

The museum operates on an honor system, trusting its visitors to respect the artwork and refrain from touching it.

This close proximity allows one to fully appreciate the artwork in a way that's rare in most museums.

The museum is a must-visit for anyone with a love for art, design, fine art, or commercial art.

The experience of standing before the original work of such great American artists is simply breathtaking.

Take Pictures of the Castle Hill

View of Castle Hill Lighthouse
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Let me tell you about a place that's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember - the Castle Hill Lighthouse.

Now, I won't sugarcoat it for you.

On the spectrum of lighthouses, it may not be the grandest or most imposing, but it's been a persistent beacon for vessels entering the East Passage between Conanicut Island and Aquidneck Island since the 1800s - and I have a soft spot for things that persist.

View of Castle Hill Lighthouse
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Early morning visits are my favorite. Even on those grey, drizzling days when the world seems to lose its color, there's something comforting about the sight of the lighthouse against the moody sky.

It's not a big structure, but you can hike right up to it.

And if you're lucky, you might even catch sight of someone casting his line into the ocean and a world of rocky coastline just waiting to be explored.

See Various Cars at Audrain Auto Museum

View of Audrain Auto Museum’s Antique Cars
ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's something timeless about the rumble of a classic car's engine or the sleek lines of a vintage roadster.

Being a resident here, I make it a point to regularly visit one of our city's gems, the Audrain Auto Museum.

Nestled in a grand Gilded Age building, it's a treasure trove for car enthusiasts, like an old friend, always offering something new and exciting to discover.

My recent visit to the museum was quite an experience.

This time, they had a theme centered around wood.

The uniqueness of the theme sparked my curiosity as I walked in through the doors.

As a car lover, I found this to be a refreshing detour from the usual chrome and metal.

The staff, always a friendly bunch, informed me that they keep changing the themes every so often.

It’s definitely more of a showroom than a museum, so you can easily explore it in under an hour.

The museum also offers excellent accessibility features, including easy access, ample parking, and clean bathrooms.

They also have a swag "gift shop" space with various literature of their events, proving to be a perfect pit stop before wrapping up the visit.

Stroll Through History at Rough Point

Daytime view of Rough Point
Pi3.124, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I meander around the grandeur of Rough Point, I can't help but to imagine the fascinating life of Doris Duke that once echoed through this mansion.

The mansion, which can be explored at Newport Restoration, is a beautiful relic from the late 1800s, that once belonged to the Duke heiress.

Each visit, I take delight in the self-guided tour, leisurely soaking in the history at my own pace.

The seasonal tours are rich in tales and lore of the Duke family, each room narrating a different chapter of their lives.

Undeniably, the mansion is breathtaking.

Yet it's the lush, verdant gardens that truly capture my heart; they're a vibrant display of nature's artistry.

With each visit, I find myself drawn to the serene nooks, marvelling at the meticulously nurtured flowers and plants that adorns the grounds of Rough Point.

Inside the mansion, the art exhibits are a visual feast.

Each piece is a testament to Doris Duke's impeccable taste and love for art.

The displays change periodically, giving me a reason to visit time and again.

Visit the Newport Art Museum

Exterior of the Newport Art Museum
Yingna Cai / Shutterstock.com

I've often passed by the Newport Art Museum on my morning walks, a beautiful multi-building campus just brimming with creative inspiration.

The place has a unique charm that takes me back to the 19th century while simultaneously immersing me in contemporary artistry.

The museum itself consists of two distinct buildings.

The elder of the two has an interior that's a trip down memory lane.

The intricate woodwork, the grand staircase, and the picturesque paintings, it's like stepping into a different era altogether.

It feels almost like time travel, an experience that leaves me astounded every single time.

I've also had the pleasure to witness some stunning art exhibits in the gallery.

The Joseph Norman showcase, in particular, left a lasting impression on me.

The showcase of various Newport artists never disappoints, serving as a testament to the thriving artistic culture of our city.

But one cannot talk about the Newport Art Museum without mentioning the grounds.

Every corner of the museum is a photographer's dream, with beautiful views at every turn.

The museum's establishment as a home turned into a gallery is evident in its aesthetic appeal.

The grounds, as well as the interiors, are meticulously designed and truly do justice to the art that they house.

Unravel the Mystery of Newport Tower

Exterior of the Newport Tower
ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's something intriguing about the Newport Tower.

Tucked away in a quaint park between the grand mansions and the beautiful waterfront, it's a symbol of mystique that catches you off guard.

Summer can make parking a challenge, but it's worth the extra effort to get a closer look at this enigmatic structure.

Legend whispers that it was built by the Vikings, a claim that leaves you questioning while adding a fun element to the tale.

The surrounding area is dotted with peculiar rune stones, like Dighton Rock, that lend some credence to these stories.

Of course, this might just be a run-of-the-mill grist mill, but the true identity of the tower remains shrouded in mystery.

Adding to the enigma is the Tower's unique solar phenomenon.

Every winter solstice at around 9:00 AM, the sun rays peek through the tower's window, casting an ethereal glow on the egg stone.

It's a sight that leaves you in awe, a visual testament to the thought that Columbus might not have been the first European to step into this land.

In a place teeming with tourists, the Newport Tower stands as an alluring mystery in an otherwise predictable city.

Was it built by the Vikings? Templars, perhaps?

The mystery continues to baffle, and it's this intrigue that makes the tower more than just another tourist spot.

Discover the Charm of Rosecliff Mansion

Exterior of the Rosecliff Mansion
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

Let me tell you about my favorite weekend haunt, the iconic Rosecliff Mansion.

Nothing quite matches the old-world charm of this Gilded Age mansion, which you might recognize from the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby.

I often find myself wandering through the grand rooms imagining the extravagant parties that must have taken place there, even though the mansion lacks most of its original furniture.

Spending time at the mansion isn't just about the interior though.

There's plenty of beauty to be found outside as well.

The grounds, though not immaculately kept, have a certain wild charm about them.

The marble benches scattered across the garden are my favorite spots to sit and lose myself in the breathtaking views.

If there's an event happening, like a wedding, the atmosphere turns truly magical.

Facade of the Rosecliff Mansion
Adwo / Shutterstock.com

I've seen videographers go wild capturing the drama of the grand staircase and the majestic backdrop it provides.

The mansion has free parking on site, which is a significant plus in my book.

And even if you don't fancy paying for a tour, you can still take a leisurely stroll around the exterior and take in the magnificent vistas.

And if you need a break, there's an accessible bathroom by the gift shop.

Speaking of the gift shop, it's a great place to pick up a souvenir or two to remember your visit.

Aerial view of the Rosecliff Mansion
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Rich History of White Horse Tavern

View of  Historic White Horse Tavern
Matthew Carreiro / Shutterstock.com

There's something extraordinary about dining in a place that has been serving patrons since 1673.

The White Horse Tavern, with a menu boasting upscale farm-to-table American cuisine and my personal favorite, their rum drinks, is a must-visit.

This place isn't just about the food, it's about the stories that are infused into the very walls of the tavern.

Each visit is an experience well worth the price.

But if you are there for the food, do try the chicken.

It's a hit in my family, and there's always room for their tasty desserts and wine.

Another thing to note is their online reservation system.

It often seems like they are packed, but in reality, there are usually a generous number of tables available.

Although, it's always prudent to reserve before you go, especially if you plan to dine there.

But if you're there for the simple pleasure of a drink at the bar, it's quite a delight watching the bartender work her magic.

The pork appetizer is my personal recommendation - it's tender, flavorful, and an absolute treat.

Step Back in Time at Chateau-sur-Mer

Exterior of Chateau-sur-Mer
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Walking through the grand doors of Chateau-sur-Mer, an opulent Victorian mansion nestled in Newport, feels like stepping into a time capsule.

This grand estate, with its stunning 3-story great hall and period furnishings, never fails to impress me each time I visit.

Every room in Chateau-sur-Mer tells a story.

It's not just another mansion; it's an emotional journey, a sensory experience.

As I roam through the property, I can't help but imagine the tales those old trees in the ground could tell.

The beauty of this place is not just skin-deep; it's rooted in its history.

The annual membership is a gem.

Not only does it offer different levels to fit different family situations, but it's also a way to save money.

The best part? It's a tax-deductible gift. And trust me, purchasing tickets or memberships online is a breeze.

Explore the Historic Charm of the Isaac Bell House

Exterior of the Isaac Bell House
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Oh, how I adore the historic charm of the Isaac Bell House.

It's one of those places in Newport, Rhode Island, that makes me feel like I've stepped back in time to the Gilded Age.

If you're at all interested in history or architecture, I highly recommend a visit.

Originally a summer retreat for Isaac Bell Jr, a successful cotton broker and investor, the Isaac Bell House is a testament to the wealth and opulence of the time.

It was designed by the renowned architectural firm, McKim Mead & White, celebrated for their Shingle Style Architecture.

The exterior is breathtaking, but the interior is where the true beauty lies.

The wooden wall paneling and floor show a keen attention to detail and a true love for craftsmanship.

Spend a Day at Easton's Beach

View of Easton’s Beach
KYPhua / Shutterstock.com

You wouldn't believe the beauty of Easton's Beach until you've seen it with your own eyes.

It's not just a beach, it's a slice of the quintessential Newport experience.

Morning often finds me strolling alongside the calm waves, savoring the stunning views of The Breakers in the distance.

The sight is especially mesmerizing when the far side of the water turns an astonishing shade of blood red.

It's a spectacle I've come to appreciate despite the peculiar odor it sometimes emits.

The beach is always kept pristine.

Spending a day here is convenient by the availability of clean, well-maintained facilities - the bathrooms, rental cabanas, and snack bars are all nearby.

View of Easton’s Beach
KYPhua / Shutterstock.com

Easton's Beach is a popular spot during the summer months.

The place buzzes with locals and tourists, giving it a vibrant, lively ambiance.

My favorite time to visit is in March.

Despite the chill, the beach has a certain beauty during this month. It's quieter, the daffodils are in full bloom, and you get a more local feel.

Final Thoughts

Having lived in Newport for many years, I can honestly say there's never a dull moment in this charming city.

Newport truly is a city that caters to every taste and preference, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that keeps me captivated every single day.

It is these experiences and countless others that make Newport such a special place to call home.

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