PHOTOS: 5 things to do in Newport Rhode Island

Live the high life. Or just gawk at the super-rich!

Yachts, mansions and lobster dinners are just a few of the perks enjoyed by America’s moneyed class. You too can indulge in the lifestyle of the top 0.1% with a visit to Newport, Rhode Island– long home to coal magnates, train magnates and gawking tourists.

I just returned from a two-night stay in Newport and quickly adapted to the town’s relaxed vibe. With historic homes from the 19th century, mansions straight out of The Great Gatsby and what appears to be world’s highest concentration of fudge shops, there are plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for a weekend visit.

These are my top picks for Newport activities.

5. Eat Lobster at the Beach

Twin lobster rolls at Easton Beach Snack Shack in Newport RI
We take a road trip from New York to Maine nearly every summer, and about half of our time is spent trying to find the best lobster roll in New England. I think we finally discovered the perfect mix of taste and value in Newport, where the Easton’s Beach Snack Bar offers twin rolls and fries for only $12. This coastal town may be home to gilded-age mansions, but it is possible to find cheap and tasty eats within its borders! As a bonus, the lobster shack is located in the middle of a public beach. Try to arrive early to snag a free spot, or better yet walk or ride a bike from town. Otherwise, you’ll pay upwards of $20 on weekends for private parking.

4. Take the Cliff Walk

Taking in the mansions at Newport�s (free) Cliff Walk
This free, 3.5 mile walk hugs Newport’s rocky coast and brings you close to mansions (without paying an entrance fee). You don’t need any special gear, since the path is mostly paved and flat. It’s popular with families; kids clearly enjoy scampering across the rockier sections of the trail. Hurricane Sandy damage is still being repaired, so a portion of the path was closed when we visited in June 2014.

3. Gawk at Yachts

Yachts in Newport Rhode Island
Newport’s harbor is lined with boats of all sizes, but the most impressive vessels are the enormous private yachts. These are the 21st century equivalent of the town’s mansions– and even have bouncers manning the gates. The pier is packed with restaurants, making it easy to sip a cocktail, stare out at the sea, and imagine living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Make sure to head to the waterfront on your Newport visit.

2. Act Like a Kid in a Candy Store

fudge in Newport Rhode Island
There’s something about New England that makes me crave fudge. It’s not something I eat in New York City, but it’s impossible to resist when I’m walking past a candy shop like Kilwin’s. This Newport store serves every type of chocolate delicacy, from candied apples to dipped Oreos. The fudge is made right in the store and you can watch the entire process from the window. If you give in to temptation, make sure to try the chocolate and peanut butter flavors.

1. Visit the Mansions

The Elms mansion Servant Life Tour in Newport
Newport was the summer playground for the Vanderbilts and other uber-rich society families at the turn of the 20th century. Based in New York, they packed up their entire households (including servants and fine china) each summer for 8-week stays at these massive “cottages.” The Breakers is the most famous mansion in Newport, but we opted to visit The Elms– mainly because it was the shortest walk from our hotel. The interior is packed with marble, gold paint, tapestries and velvet furniture; the coal magnate who built it had the refined taste of a Kardashian. We splurged on the Servant’s Life Tour ($15 per adult), a new offering inspired by Downton Abbey. The docent took pains to explain how difficult it must have been to work at the Elms, shuttered out of view and forced to walk  82 steps to the upstairs servant’s quarters. Still, the life of a mansion servant was probably much more attractive to a 19th century immigrant than working in a Lower East Side sweatshop.

What’s your favorite Newport attraction?

Share your pick with other readers by leaving a comment below!


About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.