Destination: Newport

A native’s guide to everything cool happening in the Ocean State’s summertime playground

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Morning light casts its quiet magic over Newport’s rocky coast, where the Cliff Walk’s winding footpath weaves through some of the City’s mansion-dotted skyline. Beachgoers arise and prepare provisions for a salt-soaked day ahead; restaurateurs set up their patios for the lunch rush; museum and mansion dwellers arrive to consume Gilded Age opulence; shopkeepers unlock the doors and arrange their wares just so; and deckhands inspect the bowlines in advance of the day’s harbor cruises. By all accounts, it feels like the start to any other Newport day of summers past, only, it’s as different as it is familiar.

A banner hangs between popular Bowen’s and Bannister’s wharves that simply says the word “Please” flanked by a pair of face masks. It’s a reminder that America’s First Resort joins its global neighbors in working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Waterfront bars that would typically have patrons shoulder to shoulder are demonstrably more subdued and social distancing markers are de rigueur. But the Newport you know and love is still here, welcoming day-trippers and overnight travelers to experience old favorites and new discoveries alike. So, let’s take a native’s tour, shall we?

 

Play

Sailing in the crisp sea air is back, including themed cruises aboard Schooner Aurora. Sundays and Wednesdays are the popular lobster boil and sunset sails, Monday evenings welcome the wine and cheese sail, the “Friday Night Live” sail offers live music and cocktails, and Sunday mornings are dedicated to mimosas and Bloody Marys.

It’ll be a while before you’re back “up in the club”, but you can sweeten your moves every Saturday evening through August 22 at outdoor Cuban-style salsa lessons taught by Jose Losada, a dancer from Newport’s resident contemporary ballet company, Island Moving Company. Open to anyone, the free classes are from 7pm to 8pm in the parking lot at 136 Broadway (next to Salvation Café), conveniently nestled between half a dozen fabulous restaurants for liquid courage beforehand or an aprés class refresher.

Hiking trails at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge afford some of the island’s most captivating views while two-seater scoot coupes, rented by the hour, might be the most enthralling way to zip around the city and trace Ocean Drive's craggy coastline. A few minutes from downtown, Newport Polo remains an enduring Saturday favorite and Rail Explorers, pedal-powered vehicles that ride on railroad tracks parallel to Narragansett Bay, are intrinsically socially distanced with tandem and quad options.

 

Taste

What to do with a long-dormant gas station property in the heart of Broadway’s Restaurant Row during a pandemic? Turn it into a beer garden-style restaurant of course! The new Outer Element neighbors its parent restaurant, The Fifth Element, and features “Fifth” classics like the mussels in spicy red tomato sauce and balsamic drizzled spinach balls in addition to new savories like fried calamari lettuce wraps and Burrata ravioli with sundried tomato tossed in a lemon arugula pesto. Anchored by a Rhode Island-inspired “Hope” mural by artist Philip Easton, there are serious positive vibes here.

Locals have followed Stoneacre’s growth from humble neighborhood nook to Washington Square wonder. Just last month, the team behind the successful Brasserie introduced its newest venture: Stoneacre Garden. Located at Brick Market Place where Thames Street meets America’s Cup Avenue, dining spaces include the Side Show Courtyard (under a circus tent-style awning), the Greenhouse, the Terrace Bar and finally, the Rooftop. The menu merges innovative farm-to-table fare with the spirit of New England, and daily specials are often simply the day’s catch.

There’s no shortage of Insta-envy picnic spots in Newport so grab some clean eats at the newly opened Drift Café. Breakfast sammies, wraps, bowls, and smoothies are the specialties at this whimsical little Thames Street eatery owned and loved already by locals. Fort Adams, Brenton Point, King Park, or neighborhood favorite Battery Park near the Van Zandt Pier, are picnic perfect!

 

See

The Newport Art Museum recently unveiled a selection of behind-the-scenes photographs by writer, photographer, and longtime friend and biographer of artist Andy Warhol in an exhibit entitled Private Moments: Photographs from Another Era by Bob Colacello. Take a trip to the bygone era of celebrity-studded parties and private clubs of the ‘70s (on display through September 27) and don’t miss the museum’s other exhibits while there.

Take in panoramic views of this 384-year-old city from a trio of luxe rooftop decks. The newest, the Roof Top at The Brenton Hotel, debuts this month with the hotel’s opening. Towering six stories above the harbor, the green roof garden space provides an oasis of calm with unobstructed views of Newport Harbor. The Roof Deck at Vanderbilt, a local’s favorite for rosé under the stars, is the ideal space to watch the sun dip below the horizon. Just up the hill, the newly renovated Top of Newport at the Hotel Viking offers plush seating, light bites, and craft cocktails like the refreshing “Whatta View,” made with Keel vodka, agave, watermelon, and elderflower.

As the US celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women's constitutional right to vote this year, the International Tennis Hall of Fame marks the occasion with a new exhibit. The Original 9 Tribute highlights the nine brave women who banded together 50 years ago to launch women’s professional tennis with the Virginia Slims Circuit, which became the basis for the WTA Tour. Learn more about these trailblazers Thursday to Sunday, from 10am to 3pm. Exit the Newport Casino and just a few steps away you’ll find the Audrain Automobile Museum, home to upwards of a dozen rare cars, from turn-of-the-century classics to today’s coveted luxury roadsters (think: Porsches, McLarens, Ferraris – even Ducati motorcycles).

newportFILM has been creative with venues for their drive-ins and on Thursday, August 6, will host a pop-up drive-in screening of the new documentary film, Jimmy Carter: Rock And Roll President at the Newport Grand Casino. Movies under the stars with the glowing pearls of the Newport Bridge in the background? Yes, please. newportFILM will continue their pop-up drive-in series throughout the summer as well as virtual streaming opportunities of new and archived documentary films. 

 

Shop

There’s much abuzz about the newly opened X & O Bellevue, “a boutique of everyday luxury.” The shop caters to a variety of ages and interests with clothing from Kyle X Shahida by Real Housewife Kyle Richards, Persifore, Good American (founded by Khloe Kardashian), Josie Bruno, and more curated designers, and accessories including jewelry, hats, handbags, and totes.

Marc Allen Fine Clothiers has made its home on Bellevue Avenue for five years but the outfitter recently joined forces with Kimberly Pucci Atelier, maker of Italian bespoke luxury handbags. The cozy shop, which always has one of the best dressed windows in town, is the go-to spot for pieces you plan to have for life.

Artist and curator Kristen Coates’ eponymous gallery boutique accentuates Bellevue Avenue with its visceral beauty both inside and out. While useful treasures including Turkish towels, beautiful coffee-table books and other, as she puts it, “objects for the curated home,” are abound, original art takes center stage in this creativity cozy space. The exterior wall mural with cascading colorful flowers competes for the most Instagramable spot in Newport. 

 

Stay

If coronavirus concerns canceled your vacation plans and a staycation sounds more your speed, three new hotels are ready to welcome you. The much-buzzed-about Hammetts Hotel, perched on the harbor, touts its “Newport for Ocean Staters” deal offering a 25 percent discount for Rhode Island residents for stays Sunday through Thursday (through December 31).

Located a stone’s throw from the Newport Bridge, The Wayfinder is the most affordable new digs and boasts an outdoor pool with cocktails, craft brews, and snacks, and generously sized guest rooms. The in-house restaurant, Nomi Park, is run by the same team behind the most talked about burger joint in town, Mission (also known for Winner Winner and TSK). The hotel is toasting its opening with a package that includes 20 percent off your stay plus two complementary specialty cocktails from Nomi Park for travel through the end of the month (book by August 25).

The Brenton Hotel opens this month and steps from the boutique property awaits Brenton One, the hotel’s private 36-foot Hinckley picnic boat, ready to whisk guests away for private escapes and intimate sunset sails around the bay.