This fabled Rhode Island resort with a yacht-studded harbor was once the playground of the Vanderbilts and the Astors (their mansions along Bellevue Avenue can now be toured). Today, you’ll still find a well-heeled crowd, as well as beach-going families and music lovers who come for the annual folk and jazz festivals held each summer. Here are some of the top things to do in Newport — and yes, eating fresh New England seafood (clam chowder, anyone?) is definitely one of them.
1. Tour a Gilded Age Mansion
The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains numerous mansions, including the spectacularly ornate 70-room Breakers, built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt. Other "summer cottages" (as these grand estates were cheekily known), include The Elms, Marble House, and Rosecliff (the tango scene in True Lies was shot in the ballroom).
2. Take a Cruise on a Former Rum Running Boat
Learn about Newport's illicit history during a one-hour harbor cruise aboard the Rum Runner II. This handsome 1929-era wood-hulled boat was an actual "rum runner" used by bootleggers during Prohibition. Nowadays, it's used solely for sightseeing trips, and the rum punches served on board are perfectly legal.
3. Lunch on a Lobster Roll
If it's a lobster you're after, head to Newport Lobster Shack. This no-frills concession is in an out-of-the-way spot down by the docks, but it's well worth the trip. Order the lobster roll — super fresh chunks of meat in a light coating of mayo with bits of celery — along with a cup of lobster bisque, and sit at one of the outdoor picnic tables.
4. Watch the Sunset on a Rooftop Bar
Sip a glass of sparkling wine or a handcrafted cocktail (like the gin-based Rosecliff Gardens), and nosh on small plates on the Grace Vanderbilt hotel's Roof Deck, featuring jaw-dropping views of the boat-studded harbor, especially stunning at sunset. The secret is out on this rooftop bar, so get there early for a prime seat!
5. Dine in a Colonial-Era Restaurant
Located in Newport's historic district, the White Horse Tavern is housed in a building that dates back to 1673. With its beamed ceilings and stone fireplaces, you'll feel like you've stepped back to colonial times. Start out with Narragansett Bay clams, followed by the duck breast or the house specialty, Beef Wellington.