Gilded Age mansions, breathtaking views of the Atlantic, delectable eats, and small-town charm all combine to make Newport, Rhode Island, an idyllic travel destination. Though widely considered to be a luxury locale, there's so much to do in this New England town without breaking the bank.
What to Do & See
We can’t talk about Newport without mentioning the mansions. During the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the town was well-known as a summer playground for America’s wealthiest families, and a myriad of elite names had large vacation homes built on the cliffs of its Atlantic shores, from the Vanderbilt to the Astor families. To this day, these houses still stand in all their opulence and are open for year-round tours .
When visiting, avoid the pricey single-house tickets by purchasing a multi-mansion pass. In the winter, a special pass is offered, which allows access to all open homes for just $30 (a regular season ticket for one alone ranges from $17-$24). This includes sites such as The Breakers, The Elms, Rosecliff, and Marble House. Free parking is available at all mansions, and tours range from guided to audio, depending on visitor volume.
Another essential stop on any Newport trip is the Cliff Walk. This iconic pathway is free, but for the cost of metered parking (some residential areas can be parked at for free if you do some browsing), and is an absolute must-do. The 3.5-mile expanse begins at Easton’s Beach, but you can hop on or off from just about anywhere along the walk. Check out the mansions from their expansive backyards, snap a picture at the famous 40 Steps, and watch the ocean water splash over the Rhode Island rocks on this picturesque stroll.
For another scenic tour, head to Ocean Drive and admire the beautiful cliff-side (and currently lived-in) mansions, with some celebrity homeowners including Jay Leno. Doable by car or bike (rentals for the latter go for around $7), a tour through this National Historic Landmark District is low-cost if not free, and features stops along the way to get out and snap a photo.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame has a $15 admission price, but fans of the sport and newbies alike will enjoy its photogenic grass tennis court area and interesting history museum, which contains many artifacts as well as--yes, for real--a hologram of all-star Roger Federer.
The harbor area, located in central Newport, is also nice for a stroll. Enjoy some leisure shopping, or grab a drink and soak in the salty breeze.
What to Eat and Drink
Breakfast at the homey Corner Café is sure to be a great start to any Newport morning, where you can grab a heavenly Eggs Benedict or other classics for less than $10.
If you happen to be in town for the annual Burger Bender (just one of the many events Newport hosts year-round), prepare your appetite for some taste tasting. Every February, dozens of local restaurants put forth their best burger in the hopes of claiming first place – decided by a town vote.
While some restaurants pack on the luxe factor with creations like Surf n’ Turf lobster burgers, there are a slew of more affordable contestants that still blow the average sandwich out of the water. Stop by the Gas Lamp Grille and try their signature BBQ Burger ($14) which is a full 8 oz. Angus beef patty with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and onion rings. Pair that with a local Rhode Island beer and you’re set--for less.