Newport, Rhode Island is one of those New England cities that if you have visited, you’ll find a way to visit again. Located on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, this seaside resort town is popular for so many reasons. Apart from its views of the bay and Atlantic Ocean, it has an incredibly charming and historical downtown, filled with cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, a picturesque harbor, and a plethora of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s very lively and bustling, making you want to stroll around for hours. Newport is also home to the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, and for years it hosted America’s Cup; there is a lot going on in this “city-by-the sea”. And then of course there are the famous Gilded Age Newport mansions on Bellevue Avenue, the Cliff Walk and the beaches, and more. Newport breathes history and allure, and transports you back to an era long ago, all the while feeling modern and happening at the same time. It’s this combination that makes you want to go back and visit again and again. There simply is no other place like Newport.
Below are my Top 10 Things To See and Do With Kids in Newport. Of course activities always differ according to age, so what might be ideal for an 8 year old may not be for a toddler. The Cliff Walk, for example, can be hard to navigate in parts with a stroller. The list is to serve as a general guideline. Please note there are links to most of the activities with all the info. you need to know, such as hours, location, and admission.
#1: Thames Street and the Harbor. Walk around Newport’s cobblestoned historic district and admire the beautiful colonial architecture as well as dip into as many shops your kids will allow – it is quaintness at its best; then make your way over to the harbor to view all the sailboats and yachts. The kids will love all the action and watching the boats. Which leads me to number 2.
#2: Go for a Sail/Cruise. Newport is the sailing capital of the nation, what with its ideal sailing conditions in Narragansett Bay, and for years was home of America’s Cup. Go for a cruise or sail! There’s various charters, but one that comes highly recommended by a friend who recently took a sunset cruise with her kids there is called Gansett Cruises. Other popular ones include Amazing Grace Harbor Tours and Classic Cruises of Newport.
#3: Take a stroll along the Cliff Walk. This 3.5 mile pathway takes you along the coastal bluffs as well as the backyards of the mansions, and is a must-see. Beautiful and dramatic views of the sea await as you curve around the path. Don’t expect to fully see the mansions, though – they’re mainly fenced or hedged off, and rightfully so. Though I have walked the entire path before, with my girls we just walked a part of it. Remember you have to walk back! Note it can be narrow in parts, as well as rocky and rugged, and not great for strollers.
#4: Newport Mansions with kids? Obviously it depends on the child, but yes! The Breakers has an audio tour for children, so if I had to recommend one I would say to head there. Plus this Italian style Renaissance palazzo built for the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800’s is the grandest of them all, and not to be missed. If you have more time during your stay and your kids can withstand it, also head to the Marble House, Rosewood, The Elms, among others. These Gilded Age mansions, or “summer cottages” as they were known back then, are 50-70 room estates with stables and manicured gardens, and represent the turn of the century Newport, with all its wealth and grandeur. They’re fascinating to walk through and are National Historic Landmarks. They’re located on famed Bellevue Avenue – even if you only see one or two of them, take a drive through the beautiful Bellevue district.
#5: Newport beaches. Newport has several beaches, and while I don’t think they’re spectacular, they’re still nice – some prettier than others – and kids always love a beach. Easton Beach, or “First Beach” among the locals, is probably the most popular for families. Located on Memorial Boulevard near the start of Cliff Walk, Easton is a surf beach with boardwalk, 1950’s carousel and Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium. It’s perfect for kids. Another one and my personal favorite is Second Beach, or Sachuest Beach, technically located in nearby Middletown, a serene spot away from it all and with pretty views. There is also Third Beach in Middletown as well, and last but not least there is Gooseberry Beach off of Ocean Drive. Set back in a cove, it’s ideal for families and in a beautiful location. We love Ocean Drive, up next. (Note there are other beaches in Newport, but they are private).
#6: Ocean Drive. The name says it all. Take a scenic drive on this 10-mile stretch along the coast and through the neighborhood of Newport’s wealthy summer retreaters and go back in time. There are public parks and public entryways, making it accessible for anyone to enjoy the scenery and views. I love doing this drive – it’s especially nice at the end of the day when everyone’s exhausted and the kids want to conk out. Let them sleep while you enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
#7: Fort Adams State Park. This is where the Jazz and Folk festivals take place, but it’s also a fun place for kids to roam around. Located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, it has panoramic views of Narragansett Bay, including the Newport Bridge. Fort Adams is an old coastal fortification, active until the first half of the 20th century. They offer a 1 hour guided tour, which is super cool for kids – go to the tops of the walls and down into the underground tunnels – what’s not to love!
#8: International Tennis Hall of Fame. I’m an avid tennis player and my girls love it too, so I’m biased, but even if you don’t play the sport it’s pretty awesome to see where the first U.S. Open was played, as well as view memorabilia and artifacts in its museum. See old photographs, racquets, trophies, outfits, etc. that make up the history of tennis. Located on Bellevue Avenue.
#9: Ryan’s Newport Arcade. Located on Thames Street, this is a fun choice for the kids if you’re looking for some diversion, or if the weather’s not cooperating. My girls are obsessed with arcades and every time we’re near one we have to go. This one is old school fun and has been around for a long time.
#10: Restaurants. Newport has fabulous dining, some excellent fine dining, and some more casual and pub-style places that are good to take the kids. Some places not to be missed include:
The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar. This harborside restaurant has wonderful views. It’s upscale, but has a great kids menu. The Black Pearl. Another waterside restaurant, with a tavern as well, it is a Newport institution. Corner Café. People RAVE about this little gem of a restaurant, especially for their insanely delicious breakfasts. Be forewarned there is always a wait – a 30-45 minute wait is likely, but as everyone says, completely worth it. Brick Alley Pub. Over 30 years old, this restaurant has been around forever and is a classic. Great menu for families, and with one of the best lobster rolls around.
No visit to Newport is complete without a trip to the Newport Creamery! This no frills diner has food all kids love. Make sure to get their Awful Awful, their version of a milkshake, and you will never have a better shake again.
This article was originally published on fifi + hop (Travel and Adventure, with Kids). Republished by permission.