Escape to: Newport, Rhode Island
By The Editors of Farewell Travels
Mention Newport and many people automatically picture sailing…well, maybe tennis, or....mansions... jazz. There’s no question, bounded by water on three sides, this Rhode Island city does offer a slice of the good life.
It also makes for an ideal “Select Escape” weekend getaway and is easy to reach (about 1.5 hours from Boston; 3 hours from New York City).
Here’s what you need to know.
Everyone walks the walk. Open dawn to dusk, the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk hugs the coastline, dipping and twisting its way over cliffs, past some of Newport’s most beautiful mansions. It’s also a popular running, power-walking, and dog-walking route.
Celebs are in your midst. When wandering around town, keep your eyes open. Many well known actors visit Newport, often arriving by boat, including Nicholas Cage (his boat’s name is Ghost Rider after one of his films). Other bold-face names spotted in and around town: James Taylor, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Charlize Theron, Meryl Streep—just to name a few.
An exhibit for travel lovers. Throughout this season, you can see travel memorabilia that belonged to tobacco heiress Doris Duke (Duke University) at her former home Rough Point. "Passport to the World: Doris Duke the International Traveler" will be on display through November 3rd. To the right is one of her trunks, ca. 1930, made by Louis Vuitton, France.
Play tennis like the pros. When you visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame, bring your racquet. You can actually play on the grass courts there (need to book in advance). Or…try your hand at Court Tennis (also known as Real Tennis)—the original tennis game played by monks in 15th century France. Lessons are available.
The dish not to miss. Constantly on the quest for the perfect lobster roll, we found a winner at Flo’s Clam Shack in next-door Middletown. Order at the window, wait for your lobster-shaped beeper to light up, and pick up your roll. What sets Flo’s apart? It spills over with chunks of fresh lobster meat (no cheapskate filler here) and doesn’t disappear in two or three bites.
Shop Talk. Many New England towns popular with tourists offer samples of fudge or ice cream. But olive oil? Tucked between the clothing and souvenir shops (and yes, a fudge shop) on Thames Street, you’ll find Virgin & Aged where you can sample olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.
One mansion or more? While you may think you want to tour as many mansions as possible, each one takes time. Purchase tickets online at the Preservation Society of Newport County in advance just for The Breakers or choose a pass that allows admission to several others as well. You can also get tickets for events going on during your visit.
Fun way to get around. If you’re not driving a vintage Jaguar or some other vehicle that fits right in at The Elms, you’ll be just as happy cruising around in a three-wheeled Scoot Coupe, which are so small they make Smart Cars look like Hummers, and their top speed is only 35 MPH. They rent by the hour.
Where’s the Beach? Gooseberry Beach on Ocean Drive is a private club that’s actually open to the public. There are chair rentals, changing rooms and showers.
Reservations a Must: Clam Chowder, smoked lobster and Pan-Roasted Halibut were among the choices on the menu when we had dinner at Muse recently. Chef Jonathan Cartwright takes classic New England specialties and gives them a contemporary twist. This is the Newport meal you’ll remember most. Pictured here is pan-roasted cod with butternut squash.
Drink this. When in town, do as the locals. Try a Dark ‘n Stormy, made with Newport’s own Thomas Tew Rum. And if you’re going to really do it right, have it at the White Horse Tavern, America's oldest tavern dating back to 1673, which is on Farewell Street (no relation to this site's editor).
Hotel kids love. The red-brick Hotel Viking has a pool, a kids camp and Prince and Princess spa menu. Need we say more?
Toast the sunset. Summer sunsets from the rooftop bar at the Vanderbilt Grace are not to be missed. Have a glass of champagne or wine, some canapés and watch the sailboats coming and going. Open to the public, 6-9pm.
When to Go/When Not to Go: While many people go to Newport FOR events such as America’s Cup and the Newport Jazz Festival, visiting on a weekend in the spring or fall (when nothing big is taking place) allows you to see the city without the crowds. That said, December is also a great time to go, as white lights illuminate the city and all sorts of Victorian Christmas festivities take place.
Photos: Cliff Walk and Tennis Hall of Fame photographs courtesy of GoNewport.com; the Louis Vuitton trunk (circa 1930) courtesy of NewportRestoration.org; the food photo and rooftop photo are courtesy of the Vanderbilt Grace.