If you’re stuck in preppy, affluent Newport, RI for say, a conference or a visit with an old friend, you may feel like your only option is to embrace the preppy affluence and just tour mansions in your khakis, and then board a yacht for some chardonnay at sunset. There are a few things to do that are slightly more interesting than this in Newport, but all-in-all, the best way to see Newport is drink in hand, embracing the ridiculous boat-shoe-wearing, 8-hr-workweek life you’ll never live yourself.
1. Start the first day with lunch at the clam shack Flo’s, near Easton beach, then walk to the start of the Cliff Walk at the other end of the beach, following the full 3+ miles of coastline and mansions, past the 40 steps and Salve Regina (which has to be the most gorgeous college campus in the world). If beachside cocktails are more your style, head to the Atlantic Beach Club’s beach bar across from Flo’s. If you’re lucky, a beach volleyball game will be in process.
2. Drive Bellevue and Ocean Drive (pit stops at the Breakers or Rosecliff for tours), then, to imagine the lifestyle you’ve just glimpsed, head to Castle Hill Resort for cocktails on white adirondac chairs outdoors on a plush green lawn that slopes to the boat-filled ocean. Now its time to tick off Mansions from the mandatory Newport to-do list…
6. Browse all the Island named establishments: Island Books is great, as is Island Cinema…then head to the Wharves (Bowens, etc) for some nautical shopping or to pick up some fresh fish at the market on the dock (another great spot for a boat-side cocktail – keep ’em coming).
8. If you head back to Newport for something like the folk festival at Fort Adams (I highly recommend this, albeit a dry event…you can still float nearby in your boat), then be sure to avoid the accidental $8 crossing of the Pell bridge…google maps will trick you every time.
7. In the historic district you’ll find independent coffee shops, Schmear bagels, an art house cinema, many well maintained historic houses, and the oldest pub in the USA, The White Horse Tavern. By far the most interesting part of Newport.
3. Dinner is a must at Talulah on Thames, or the newest farm-to-table spot TSK (Thames Street Kitchen), both of which serve fresh, seasonal, inventive and endlessly tasty cuisine. TSK is BYO, which can be a plus with all the nice wine stores in town.
4. For a more casual dinner, head to the hip block of Thames St to Firehouse, followed by cocktails and dessert at next door Asterisk (which bottles it’s own flavored vodkas). Then head down the road to ultra-mod cocktail house Christie’s, where you can imbibe outdoors or in a swing-chair. Cold-fusion gelato is nearby, too, if you need it.
5. What NOT to do? I was very excited that Newport had its own rhumerie (Tew), but when we arrived 10min before closing we were turned away rum-less. Later, barkeeps told us the rum wasn’t worth a taste anyway. So there.