26 Ooh-La-La Hours in Newport, Rhode Island

at Bannister's Wharf, with schooners and Clarke Cook House in background
at Bannister’s Wharf, with schooners and Clarke Cook House in background

Newport is renowned for historic, stunning architecture, scenic beauty and a plethora of good restaurants. Add to all that an almost endless list of ways to spend leisure time, and you have the recipe for a delightful special-occasion get-away. But all those choices can be overwhelming, You can’t do everything. You can’t even do half, or a quarter, of everything.
Here’s how I would choose to spend 26 Ooh-La-La hours in Newport: my goal is not to “see everything.” I’d rather relax and revel in Newport-style leisure.
at the GATEWAY VISITORS’ CENTER, at the top (north end) of America’s Cup Avenue. Put on your walking shoes and get out there and explore.
WALKING is the best way to get around Newport:

  • you don’t want negotiate all those one-way streets;
  • plus there are zoned-out pedestrians and sight-seeing-scooter-drivers everywhere and you wouldn’t want to run over a daydreamer;
  • the speed limit is turtle-y and traffic is frustratingly congested;
  • all of this makes driving incompatible with the reason you’re here (to relax!);
  • and besides, if you zip around in an automobile, you’ll miss the ambient food aromas, the wave-sloshy sounds and beautiful breezes that are Newport.

From the visitor’s center, cross Avenue of the Americas and walk up Marlborough Ave past the ball park to Thames. Turn right and look for the yellow awnings ahead on your left. Get there at opening time (11:30) so you won’t waste your precious Newport time standing in a long line. Brick Alley Pub is a perennial and crowded favorite because they’re reliably, consistently good. This is the place to get your lobster roll, or try this summer’s new menu item, their pork belly sandwich. Whatever you like to eat, you’ll find something to please your taste buds on their extensive menu (they also have a large selection of items for gluten-free-ers).
After lunch, stroll, shop, walk the waterfront and check out the yachts. Then head back to the parking lot to pick up your car.
2:30pm CHECK-IN
Your lovely room at the Francis Malbone House on Thames Street is waiting for you (weekend stays have a 2-night minimum). Guests park here for free. Unpack and enjoy a restorative cup of tea with sweet and savory snacks in your peaceful abode.
A narrated sail cruise is a sweet way to view Newport Harbor. Head over to Bannister’s Wharf to board the two-masted schooner Madeleine of Classic Cruises. You reserved your tickets online, plenty ahead (summer sailing time is 4:30; check schedule for spring & autumn sail times) so you don’t have to worry that the cruise is sold-out.
Pop into the Clarke Cooke House Candy Store Bar for a sip before dinner. The place is known to be Ground Zero for generations of Newport’s sailing crowd, and a former haunt of Ted Turner’s when he was an America’s Cup Contender.
7:00 pm FEET-UP
Now that the sail, the sip, and the slow pace of Newport have made you feel meltingly relaxed, head back to your room to put your feet up for a minute (you brought along the latest issue of The Robb Report or Town and Country to flip through, right?).  Then change into your swanky evening outfit.
If French dining is your favorite thing, you’ll be well-pleased with the meal Chef Albert Bouchard will serve you. Make your reservation a month ahead; and expect to linger for two hours, enjoying your lovely, multi-course meal. But, perhaps you would prefer a slightly more nautical and relaxed atmosphere, and you don’t want to sit at table for two hours. In that case, go to
for native oysters, a salad and a glass of wine followed by a nice comforting dish of bread pudding. People-watching here is great. (One time when we were there, Martha Stewart was dining in the corner near the fire place). Reservations are not accepted (although I imagine they’ll make an exception if you’re Martha Stewart).
After dinner, stroll along the harbor and watch the moonlight reflecting in the water, then retire to your dreamy room at your Inn.
2nd DAY–SUNRISE (or soon after)
is the best time to enjoy the legendary Cliff Walk. Park near Easton’s Beach on Memorial Ave (which is where the wide/paved north portion of the walk begins). Take in the ocean views while you walk or run in the cool morning without the daytime crowds. Since Hurricane Sandy, the center portion of the walk is closed due to damage (between Ruggles Ave. and Ledge Rd.). If you like to scrabble over more rustic terrain, then start at Ocean Ave. near Bailey’s beach for the south portion part of the walk.
8:30–FULL BREAKFAST AT FRANCIS MALBONE HOUSE (in the tranquil fountained courtyard, weather-permitting).
Followed by more strolling and shopping (there’s still SO much to see). Don’t forget to wander the side streets (for more tips on what to wander and shop, see my  post: 26 on-the-cheap hours in Newport).
11:00 am CHECK OUT
Before you leave town, see Bellevue Avenue–more shops! and the famous Newport mansions line this idyllic street. On foot is always my preferred way to gawk (in a completely classy, unobtrusive manner, of course).
1:00 pm LUNCH
Le Petit Gourmet, across from the Viking Hotel, is a pleasantly sunny place to grab a scrumptious nibble and a cup of coffee.  And now you’ll probably find yourself planning your next visit to Newport; I never depart without dreaming about when I’ll return.
So, what’s has been your special ooh-la-la getaway? And when are you going to get yourself to Newport?

15 thoughts on “26 Ooh-La-La Hours in Newport, Rhode Island”

  1. Tracy, this is terrific. You should create a series of “How To Spend 26 Wonderful Hours in ——-” and do this will every fun place you’ve ever been. It’s a great blend of events, eating, relaxing, and making the most of a day.

    1. Marylin–our minds think alike! (does that mean we have great minds?)
      Actually, I am working on a series of (X-adjective) “hours” in (new england destination). It’s a bit more work than I anticipated, because I have to research and make sure that the places I’ve been haven’t changed for the worse, but so far, it’s been a LOT of fun. I’m hoping to post a new one every 1-2 weeks.
      Also, the part two of “my book” (it’s described under the “my book” tab on my blog) covers 9 low-cost, leisurely itineraries (in prose) for lesser-known New England destinations.

    1. Thank you, Peri. If you ever get to Newport, give me a heads up. Maybe we can meet somewhere for tea…
      I used to live in the Dallas area. That’s where I was first introduced to Indian food, when my husband built a house for some people from Mumbai (they called it Bombay back then, and they took us to a number of amazing restaurants–but we haven’t found any here in Rhode Island that are as good as that one in Los Colinas)

      1. Oh how lovely, Tracy, that you used to be right here in Dallas and met someone from my native city of Mumbai (still Bombay when I was born too!)
        The Indian restaurants around Las Colinas have just exploded in numbers…there’s one at every corner. It’s a 30 minute drive down for us but well worth it! Do let me know if you’re around DFW…and I will sure touch base if I’m in your neck of the woods (fingers crossed for you that someone opens an Indian restaurant there soon!)

    1. You could always enjoy the cliff walk in the moonlight, after your late night on the town (it’s quieter then, too).
      When you’re my age, you, too, might be up with the birds, wondering what in the world happened. I don’t know what happened. I never thought I’d be an early-riser.

        1. I’m pretty sure there are owls and early birds, and it’s nearly impossible to change our internal clocks/biorhythms. I have two sons, one of each, were born their way, and have stayed their way. My owl picks up energy as the day progresses and peaks around midnight. Early bird wakes up sproinged and winds down–by 8 or 9, he’s got nothing left.

    1. I know you’ll enjoy Newport when you get here…. 😀
      In my next post I’ll mention where to go to get wildlife pictures (waterfowl, mostly–with all those people, the only animals around are mostly domestic. Although we do have one or two black bear up in the northwest corner of Rhode Island.)

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