Top 10 Things to do in Newport, RI

Written by Jocelyn Nace

We’ve officially entered summer, and to start the season off right, we have listed our ten things to do in the classic coastal city of Newport, Rhode Island.


1. Cliff Walk

Photo by Jocelyn Nace

As one of the most popular things to do in Newport, the Cliff Walk should definitely be on your itinerary. The 3.5-mile trail boasts extraordinary views of the ocean on one side and the iconic Gilded Age mansions, such as The Breakers, on the other. There are varying levels of difficulty along the Cliff Walk and multiple entrances, with parking in two locations (Memorial Boulevard at Easton’s Beach and Narragansett Avenue at 40 Steps). Take a moment to stop and explore the Forty Steps, originally built in the 1800s. These granite steps were once a meeting and recreation area for the servants of the nearby Mansions.

2. Newport Helicopter Tours

Photo by Jocelyn Nace

Soar above it all with a ride with Newport Helicopter Tours. Get a birds-eye view of the Mansions or observe the Beavertail Lighthouse from above on the Lighthouse Tour. For a real thrill, book their Doors-Off Flight for an unforgettable experience of seeing the beautiful coastline from the sky. With over 23 years of flying know-how, Newport Helicopter Tours is a unique and exciting way to see the city.

3. Newport Mansions

Take a step back in time and visit the “summer cottages” built for America’s nineteenth-century industrial and financial wealthy families. You can tour any of the eleven properties maintained by The Preservation Society of Newport, including the Vanderbilt family’s The Breakers, the most popular and the grandest of the mansions. With a variety of ticketing options, you can spend an hour or the entire day visiting some or all of the magnificent homes. Be sure to check the website before going, as some mansions are closed on certain days.

4. Green Animals Topiary Garden

While you are visiting the grand mansions of Newport, take a stroll through the Green Animals Topiary Garden. The garden has more than 80 topiary animals, plus over 35 flowerbeds, pathways, arbors, fruit trees, and vegetable/herb gardens. The oldest topiary garden in the country, it is also one of just 28 official Daffodil Display Gardens in the United States, with more than 22,000 daffodils in 70 varieties.

This summer, you can also experience “Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects” exhibition running now through September 10. The award-winning exhibition features 14 LEGO sculptures displayed throughout the grounds.

5. Umbrella Sky

Photo Courtesy of Umbrella Sky Project

Visit Brick Market, a charming area of 25 shops and eateries in the heart of Newport, to see the stunning outdoor art installation of the Umbrella Sky. Originally inspired by the fictional nanny, Mary Poppins, The Umbrella Sky Project was created in Águeda, Portugal, over ten years ago and has been displayed in different varieties in more than 170 locations across the globe. The installation of more than 500 colorful umbrellas suspended above the market area creates the perfect place to catch some shade and take in the vibrant magic. The display will run from mid-June until early October, so check it out while you can!

6. Newport Jazz Festival

The grand dame of Jazz fests, the Newport Jazz Festival is an annual three-day music festival that will be held this year on August 4-6 at Fort Adams State Park. Established in 1954, the festival has attracted some of the biggest talents in music. Everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie to Dave Brubeck, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Miles Davis have performed there. Make sure to get your tickets soon, as only Friday tickets are currently available. If you can’t find a spot for this summer, make sure to buy ahead for next year: this is a great way to enjoy world-class musicians with great food and amazing views.

7. Bowen’s Wharf

Photo by Jocelyn Nace

Bowen’s Wharf is called the anchor of Newport for a reason. Filled with shops, restaurants, nightlife, tours, art galleries, and the eponymous marina itself, it is the perfect spot to spend a day or early evening. Grab a bite to eat at 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille, or visit the Pilot House for select tours and souvenirs. Check out the many festivals throughout the year, such as the 32nd Annual Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival in October.

8. Newport Vineyards

After a day of strolling and shopping, retreat to Newport Vineyards for a refreshing beverage. The 100-acre vineyard offers award-winning wine and craft beer with tasting tours and farm-to-table dining experiences at the Taproot Kitchen.

9. The Lawn for Brunch

Photo by Jocelyn Nace

On nice summer days, enjoy alfresco dining at the Lawn at Castle Hill with remarkable views of the Narragansett Bay. Whether it’s lunch, dinner, or brunch on Sundays, the a la carte menu is always a hit with locals and visitors. And who doesn’t love a meal with a view?

10. Ocean Drive

Discover the coastline with a scenic cruise of the stunning Ocean Drive. This ten-mile journey is the perfect route to see not only the Newport Mansions but the breathtaking views of the beaches and Rhode Island State Parks. Roll your windows down and let the sun, wind, and waves surround you as you drive down this iconic road.

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