Visiting Newport Rhode Island

 
Newport, Rhode Island is located a mile east of Jamestown, across the spectacular Newport (Pell) Bridge.  The city has a history going back to colonial times, when it was an early center for shipbuilding and trading and the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Newport was a center for trade with China and the whaling industry in the early 1800's.  The city became a summer home for many of the most wealthy families in the United States beginning in the mid-1800's; and that "Gilded Age" continued until World War I.

Now a contemporary city with a rich heritage, Newport has something for almost everyone - from mansion tours, to tennis history, lovely beaches, sailing (no city is more closely linked to the America's Cup competitions), the world-famous "Cliff Walk", interesting shops and restaurants, museums, and art and jazz festivals.  

 

Newport's Mansions and Historic Homes:

Would you like to tour some of the famous Newport mansions? The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains a total of eleven properties that represent more than 250 years of Newport social and architectural history, including The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer, Hunter House and Chepstow. You may tour individual properties or take advantage of several multiple-site passes and tours.


Astors' Beechwood is a marvelous ocean front mansion located at 580 Bellevue Avenue.
Built in 1851 and purchased by the Astors in 1881, it became Newport's social center during the Guilded Age. The privately-owned mansion features Living History tours with costumed members of the Beechwood Theatre Company. The Beechwood website offers a virtual preview tour of the Receiving Room, Foyer, Morning Room, Music Room, Ballroom, Dining Room and Veranda employing very versatile imaging technology. (401) 846-3772
 
Belcourt Castle is the only Newport mansion open to the public as a museum in which the owners live in residence. The original section was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Sample the splendor of the house, its furnishings and courtyard via the internet.
657 Bellevue Avenue, (401) 846-0669.
 
The Newport Restoration Foundation, owns a total of 83 historic structures in and around Newport. Rough Point, Doris Duke's home in Newport and Whitehorne are open to the public, with advance internet tickets available. Many restored historic homes are identified on NRF maps.

Other Historic Sites:

The Newport Historical Society, formed in 1854 and located at 82 Touro Street in the heart of downtown Newport, is home to one of the finest local historical society collections in New England. Holdings include Fine and Decorative Arts, Furniture, Musical Instruments, Textiles and Clothing and Artifacts of Everyday Life. The graphics collections contains more than 200,000 photographs, postcards, prints, architectural plans and drawings and maps. The Society Library includes approximately 12,000 volumes and has microfilm, files and catalogs that reflect the settlement and development of Newport County.

The Society offers walking tours of its buildings, and you can preview several sites on the internet. Learn about the Museum of Newport History; The Newport Colony House (statehouse for the colony that was built between 1736 and 1739); the Great Friends Meeting House (built in 1699); the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House (the oldest surviving house in Newport, built in the 1670s); and The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House (built in 1730). Call (401) 846-0813.

You can sample some of the sites of historic Newport in a collection of postcards assembled by Susan White Pieroth and in the collection of the Newport Postcard Museum.

The Touro Synagogue, designed by Peter Harrison and built in 1763, is a beautiful Georgian-style building with much symbolism in its construction. It was visited twice by George Washington, in 1781 and 1790.

Following his 1790 visit, Washington wrote a letter to the congregation. His words, "The Government of the United States ...gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" were quoted on a 1982 postage stamp.

 
The Old Stone Mill or Tower is a prominient landmark in Newport's Touro Park. Surprisingly, this structure has been the subject of centuries of debate over its origins. The two most popualr theories are that it was constructed by Benedict Arnold in the 1600s as a windmill similar to one in his birthplace, Chesterton, England; or that it was constructed by ancient Norse visitors.
 
The Redwood Library and Athenĉum , opened in 1750, is the oldest lending library in America, and the oldest library building in continuous use in the country. The intention of architect Peter Harrison was to symbolically bring light and order to the emerging culture of the New World through the use of classical design. It was the first public building in the colonies to do so. The Redwood was noticed by Thomas Jefferson when he accompanied President George Washington to Newport in 1790. Following his visit, Jefferson became a vocal champion of classical architecture as the model for public buildings in the United States; making the Redwood Library one of the most architecturally influential buildings in America.
 
The Naval War College Museum is a resource for students and faculty at the Naval War College and the entire New England Naval community. Located at 686 Cushing Road, it is open to the public 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., Mondays through Fridays throughout the year, and 12 noon-4 P.M. on weekends, June through September. Museum themes are the history of naval warfare and the history of the Navy and Narragansett Bay; a relationship beginning in colonial days. (401- 841-4052)
 
The Salve Regina University campus, abutting the Atlantic Ocean just north of The Breakers, is comprised of 60 acres of historic landscape. Walking through the campus you will encounter 120 year old trees, gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and 18 architecturally significant 19th and early 20th Century buildings including several Gilded Age summer estates that have been adapted for educational use. Preview your stroll with a virtual tour of the campus, which includes a portion of the Cliff Walk.
 
Housed in the former Newport Casino, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the game of tennis and those who have contributed to its development. The Casino was built in 1880. The first United States Tennis Championship was held there in 1881. Exhibits include tennis greats who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, the birth of lawn tennis, Newport Casino social history from 1880 to 1920, and tennis through the decades from 1920.
194 Bellevue Avenue. (401) 849-3990

For more ideas on historical sites to visit, check out Captain Vic's list of 40 top historical sites. You can also join him for a virtual walk along Bellevue Avenue, the longest and widest street in Newport, and one filled with history.

Newport Art Museum:

Headquartered in Griswold House, 76 Bellevue Avenue, which was designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1862, and extending into adjacent exhibit and teaching spaces, the goal of the Newport Art Museum is to present the visual arts of Newport and Rhode Island - from colonial days to the present. The museum's collections include works by Winslow Homer, Fitz Hugh Lane, George Inness, John Frederick Kensett, William Trost Richards, Julia Overing Boit, Dale Chihuly, Fairfield Porter, and Sigmund Albeles. Special exhibitions complement the permanent collection. (401- 848-8200)

National Museum of American Illustration:

A reservoir of social and cultural history is represented in this collection of artworks from the ‘Golden Age of American Illustration’ (1870-1965). Artists include Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, JC Leyendecker, Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth, and many others. As most of these works were produced during ‘The Gilded Age’ of American architecture (1870-1929) the collection is fittingly displayed in the ‘Gilded Age’ architecture of Vernon Court (1898). 492 Bellevue Avenue. (401) 851-8949
Take a virtual tour of the museum.

Fort Adams:

Fort Adams is located at the mouth of the Newport Harbor, just across East Passage from Jamestown's Fort Wetherill Park. It was the largest coastal fortification in the United States. The State Park offers exceptional views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, soccer, rugby, and picnicking on the grounds. The fort is well known for its summer concerts when Jazz, Folk, and Blues Festivals draw thousands to enjoy the music and beautiful surroundings. The park also houses the Museum of Yachting, a 10,000 square foot collection of yachts, artifacts and exhibits, including the two-time America's Cup winner Courageous.

Walking Tours of Newport:

If you would like to stretch your legs while taking in some unique sites, the Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport, RI may be right for you. This world famous public access walk shows off the natural beauty of the Newport shore line and the architectural history of Newport's gilded age. The walk extends for 3.5 miles between historic Bellevue Avenue and Memorial Boulevard - at Easton's Beach (First Beach). Some portions of the trail are very easy to walk and others are more difficult. See the link for very detailed descriptions of access points, the condition of the trail and sights along each section.

There are other established walking tours of Newport. Harbor Walk North covers Newport's Point Section, the original colonial center of the city and waterfront. This area still has many colonial homes dating in the 1700s as well as several wonderful Victorians. Harbor Walk South covers Newport's active waterfront area with sailing, entertainment, history, and night-time action. You will find a variety of sites and activities: from T-shirt stores to trendy boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, tall ships and the International Yacht Restoration School - which can teach you how to pour brass marine fittings and bend oak ribs.

Sightseeing by Bus, Boat or Train:

Viking Tours (401-847-6921) offers several tour packages - the Newport Scenic Overview bus tour, Grand Mansion bus tour, combination "Deluxe" tour, or the Land and Sea combination including a harbor cruise on the Viking Queen.

Newport Harbor cruises are offered by several operators. You can see yachts, racing sailboats, warships, commercial fishing vessels and cargo ships from around the world as you cruise by historic buildings along Newport's waterfront, Goat Island, the Newport Bridge, Rose Island, Jamestown, the Clingstone, Hammersmith Farm, Fort Adams, John Nicholas Brown's Estate and Ida Lewis Yacht Club. All of the cruises last approximately one hour.

Your choice of vessel and departure point includes the Viking Queen, departing from Goat Island Marina (adults $8) (401-847-6921; the Motor Vessel Amazing Grace leaving from Oldport Marine on Sayer's Wharf at The Newport Yachting Center (401-847-9109); the Rum Runner, a restored 49 passenger motoryacht built in 1929, operating out of Bannister's Wharf (401) 847-0299 ($17 for the narrated cruise or $22 including complimentary rum beverages); and the Spirit of Newport, boarded at Bowen's Wharf ($9 for adults) (401-849-3575). Each tour covers the Newport Harbor area and a portion of Narragansett Bay.

Another way to see the area from the Bay is from a passenger ferry. The Jamestown & Newport Ferry, (401-423-9900) operates between Newport and Jamestown, leaving every 60 to 90 minutes in the summer. The ferry makes additional stops at Rose Island, Fort Adams and Goat Island. A $15 all-day pass allows the passenger to get on and off, as often as desired. One way fares are also available. Alternatively, you can take the Providence/ Newport ferry operated by RIPTA, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. The ferry leaves from Perrotti Park, which is just a short walk from the Gateway Information Center (adjacent to the Marriott Hotel). There are five round trips on Fridays and Saturdays, four the other five days of the week. The trip takes about an hour and a half each way. The regular adult fare is $4 each way, with discounts available for seniors and children.

If you would like to tour the harbor in a gorgeous 78-foot classically designed schooner accommodating up to 60 passengers, the Adirondack II is available. This vessel was built in 1999 specifically to provide day sailing for individuals and private charter groups. There are four scheduled departures per day with cruises lasting 1 1/2 to two hours. Reservations required. Call 401-846-3018 or email from the web site. Six departures per day - $23 per person.

Another sailing vessel tour option is the Madeleine. Five cruises per day are offered in the summer at a cost of $25 per person. The vessel is 72 feet long, with a 16 foot beam and can hold 49 passengers. Her two 69 foot high masts can hold 2000 square feet of sail. (401) 847-0298.

Sightseeing trains are operated by the Old Colony and Scenic Railroad (401-624-6951). They leave from the Depot at 19 America's Cup Ave, across from the Newport Convention and Visitors Bureau & Bus Station.

Enjoy the Bay breeze while you travel along the west shore of Aquidneck Island. First Class passengers enjoy a private parlor car built in 1884 equipped with 30 individual wicker chairs, all facing the Bay. Coach passengers travel in an open platform coach built in 1904 while sitting in one of 72 seats heated by a pot belly stove. The route takes you through the Newport Naval Base and along Narragansett Bay; offering views of ships, rocky beaches and wildlife. If you would like a train ride and a great meal too, consider lunch or dinner on the Newport Dinner Train.
     
Dinner Train reservations: 1-800-398-7427


More About Newport Entertainment, Events, Accommodations:

Looking for more information on things to do in Newport? Do you need to know more about restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and current entertainment offerings? Try any or all of the following sites that focus on Newport and its environs: The Newport County Convention & Visitor's Bureau, the Newport Best Read Guide, ThinkNptNewportRocks, Captain Vic's Guide or Newport This Week.

Check out the Newport County Convention & Visitor's Bureau Calendar of Events and/or the Calendar compiled by OnAquidneck.com to get advance notice of special events - click on any month and find out what is scheduled. Thinknpt.com has handy monthly and weekend calendars updated through Thursday at 6 pm to help you plan the weekend or find something interesting at the last minute.

For current news and information, see the Newport Daily News.

For more perspective on the community, try the aptly-named Newport Life Magazine.

Things to Do Beyond Newport:

Jamestown is on the other side of the scenic Newport (Pell) Bridge - only ten minutes away but a significant change in pace. Shop and eat in the East Ferry area or tour the island stopping to see Beavertail lighthouse, the old Jamestown Windmill, or enjoy nature and history at Watson Farm.

There are many more things to see and do in South County, Providence and other nearby areas. If you wish, you can leave your car in Newport and take a ferry to Jamestown, Providence or even scenic and sandy Block Island.

Ocean State Online can help you learn about restaurants, night clubs, interesting places to visit and special events throughout Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.

Area Maps:

This map is provided for general orientation. To see a more details of any part of the Newport area (and get driving directions, if needed) use MSN MapPoint's interactive map. After the interactive map window opens, zoom out to see more of the city (and beyond); then click on the part of the map that most interests you to re-center the detailed map around your chosen point. (Hint: As you zoom in, more streets, street names and landmarks will appear).


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