This post is sponsored by Visit Rhode Island, but all recommendations and opinions are my own.
Ahhh Newport. Whether the name conjures images of a yacht-filled harbor and the America’s Cup, or the Gilded Age mansions lining Bellevue Avenue there is something for everyone here. David and I have been several times for summer getaways, but there’s something extra cozy about visiting in the low season when you can grab dinner next to the fireplace at the White Horse Tavern (America’s oldest restaurant) or have the rocky cliffs around Castle Hill Inn all to yourself.
Last week we had the pleasure of visiting for 3 days and 3 nights at the invitation of Visit Rhode Island, to share some of our old favorites and new discoveries with you. Many of Rhode Island’s best hotels are offering amazing rates on their rooms now through the end of January for the state’s inaugural Hotel Week (all details here!) and it’s the prefect excuse to get away and explore this charming coastal town.
Read on for our 3 day, 3 night itinerary.
- Travel to Newport – We flew from Newark to Providence (it’s a 38 minute flight!) then rented a car to give us maximum flexibility while exploring, but you can also easily walk or uber to most places in town.
- Check into Hotel Viking – Perched atop Newport’s Historic Hill neighborhood, Hotel Viking is within easy walking distance of all the best places in town. The hotel opened in 1926 and has lots of original Wes Anderson-esque details like a massive key cabinet at reception and the original 1926 brass letter box in the lobby. Our room was beautifully updated and had the most COMFORTABLE bed. We slept perfectly every night.
- Lunch at The Vanderbilt Grill – A short 4 minute walk from the hotel, the Grace Vanderbilt is the former residence of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and is now a member of the fabulous Auberge Hotels collection. We had skipped breakfast that morning and arrived to lunch very hungry, ordering both their burger and the “French toast for two”. Wow. We are still talking about that French toast a week later and would plan a return trip just for that one dish (or a cooking class on how to make it at home!) This was our most memorable meal of the trip and is an excellent place to start your Newport getaway.
- Tour The Breakers – No trip to Newport is complete without a visit to the Newport Mansions. The Breakers is the largest and most famous of the “summer cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in 19th century America. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century. The commodore’s grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt, bought and built the Breakers, completing construction of the 70 room mansion in 1895. The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book: The Gilded Age, A Tale of Today. It was not meant as a compliment. The name refers to the process of gilding an object with a superficial layer of gold – in this case gilding the gross materialism and political corruption of the day and is meant to make fun of ostentatious display while playing on the term “golden age”. The Breakers is not only gilded, some rooms have platinum leaf. Preservationists originally thought these walls were covered in silver leaf but marveled that it never tarnished. After extensive testing they discovered it was actually platinum – an outrageously expensive material even in the 1800s. Of the “cottage’s” 70 rooms, the Vanderbilt daughter, Gerturde’s, is my favorite. The pink rose wallpaper still looks chic today. A close runner-up was the fabulous servants’ kitchen with a double high ceiling and copper pot for every imaginable task.
- Dinner at 22 Bowen – 22 Bowen styles itself as a wine bar but I thought it had more of a steakhouse vibe between their menu and decor. The portions are huge and hearty so come hungry, and many items are served on beautiful blue and white china! They also have a reserve cocktail list featuring a perfectly balanced Manhattan.
- Walk around Castle Hill Lighthouse – We enjoyed gorgeous weather during our visit and took every opportunity to be outdoors, including a walk along the coast to the Castle Hill Lighthouse. The lighthouse has been guiding ships in and out of Narragansett Bay since 1898 and if you visit in low season you can have this beautiful spot all to yourself.
- Lunch at Bishop’s 4th Street Diner – This old-school diner has been serving customers for over 50 years. Bishop’s is famous for their crispy cornmeal johnnycakes, which are made from cornmeal ground with a local quarry stone in nearby Usquepaug. They’re a piece of Rhode Island history and add some coffee milk to your meal and you have a classic Rhode Island breakfast
- Tour Rosecliff – Commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. “Tessie”, as she was known to her friends, was born in Virginia City, Nevada. Her father was an Irish immigrant who made an enormous fortune from Nevada’s Comstock silver lode, one of the richest silver finds in history. During a summer in Newport, Tessie met Hermann Oelrichs playing tennis at the Newport Casino. They were married in 1890. A year later they purchased the property known as Rosecliff. After the house was completed in 1902, at a reported cost of $2.5 million, Mrs. Oelrichs began hosting fabulous parties, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini. As society moved on to more modest vacation homes in subsequent decades, many said that Tessie started to lose her mind. She was often seen wandering the halls talking to imaginary guests attending her invisible events, urging them to have another glass of champagne.
- Dinner at White Horse Tavern – This cozy spot is my ideal restaurant – yummy new American food and excellent service in historic surroundings. (WHT has been serving guests since 1672!) It didn’t hurt that the walls were painted the same deep green as our living room and the dining space was warmed by a massive fireplace. We loved the “I Cannot Tell a Rye” cocktail.
- Drinks at Perro Salado – A bunch of you recommended this place but we unfortunately didn’t get to try it because they closed early the night we stopped by but it’s on my list for next time!
- Coffee at Coffee Grinder – Grab a coffee and piece of banana bread at this tiny sliver of a coffee shop at the end of Barrister’s Wharf. (Little blog post on Coffee Grinder here.)
- Shopping Bowen’s Wharf – There are lots of great shops in downtown Newport but Bowen’s Wharf has some of my favorites. Be sure to stop by the KJP flagship store and pick up toffee from Anchor Toffee as well.
- Lunch at Stoneacre Brasserie – So many of you recommended this spot we had to add it to our itinerary! Fresh, seasonal ingredients come together on a menu that changes daily. I especially love that they have a biscuit menu featuring different spins on the classic bakery item from biscuits and honey to biscuits and gravy.
- Cliff Walk at Sunset – Walking the beautiful path that stretches between The Chanler to 4O Steps and beyond at sunset is an absolute must and a good way to work up an appetite before dinner. (It’s 3.5 miles each way!)
- Dinner at Clarke Cooke House – I loved ending our weekend at this iconic spot known for their oysters and lively ambiance. The decor is what you’ve dreamed Newport would look like, and I even ran into a reader ( Hi Nicole!) in the bathroom!
- Ice Skating at Gurneys – We drove out to Gurney’s which has a beautiful ice rink right next to the water but ultimately couldn’t skate because the warm days had melted the ice. Instead of skating we went right back to Clarke’s Cooke House for a martini – as it’s one of the few places in town open late. (Until 1am every night!)
Rhode Island’s first ever Hotel Week invites you to experience the Ocean State’s best properties for a fraction of their regular rate from January 18-31st, 2020. Hotel Viking, where we stayed, is only $100/night and a marvelous base for exploring Newport, or continue down the coast and stay at the iconic Ocean House or Weekapaug Inn. Find all details about hotel week and participating properties here!
Three full days and there’s still so much more I want to do from sailing to antiquing. Until next time! xx, SF