This was a most unusual year and summer. When we had the opportunity to visit Newport, Rhode Island with friends, we decided to visit with quarantine in mind and enjoy the beauty that Newport offers. Rhode Island seemed to be doing very well during this pandemic, with low numbers and strict enforcements. With strict rules at every establishment we were able to have a fun-filled week despite Covid. We opted to skip the beaches and pools which were more populated than our comfort level. Instead we focused on seeing Newport, a magnificent city set on the Narragansett Bay. Our hotel was right on the bay and gave us a breathtaking view of the boats and the bay from sunrise to sunset. We did not feel the excruciating heat because of the cool breezes from the water.
In my phone notes from over three years ago, I made sure to remember to visit the White Horse Tavern, the oldest tavern in America. It was so beautifully, well-kept with furniture and flooring depicting the time it was built. We enjoyed a delicious brunch served in an antique setting.
We found so many places to visit that were still open with limitations while going on our tours. We opted to try a trolley tour (we were staggered every other row and seat) and enjoyed the sites of Newport as our guide relished us with the history and sites that Newport has to offer.
One day we decided to walk along Bellevue Avenue and visit the shops. We enjoyed visiting the Audrain Automobile Museum. The cars were spectacular, to say the least, and our visit was focused on headlights from original cars to present.
We spent many hours visiting the shops on Thames Street and a few restaurants as well, such as Smokehouse and Brick Alley Pub. We read all the customer reviews and tried to diversity our choices within the amount of time we were there. There are so many to choose from that I actually put notes in my phone for a future visit. We enjoyed the lobster specials at the Red Parrot, including the lobster quesadillas, which I normally would be afraid to order. But when in Newport, you think differently about lobster. I was delighted when I saw the huge chunks of lobster in the quesadillas. Just the right amount of cheese was in them so you could enjoy the decadence of the lobster meat.
While on Thames Street ,we also visited the Newport History Museum which took you back in time when Newport was first discovered and became a colony. As a history buff, I enjoyed visiting the museum and even watching the retrospective videos.
During our trolley ride, we were able to see all the beautiful mansions that are part of Newport’s history and appeal. We were seated very carefully in alternate seats and rows because of the pandemic. Personally, I was disappointed that the mansion where the Great Gatsby was filmed was not open for visitors There were only two open for viewing, and we actually only toured one – The Breakers. Supposedly, the Breakers is the grandest of the mansions, and I will say, the most ostentatious. It was considered a “summer cottage” by the Vanderbilt family. The family fortune was established by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt in the steamship business and the New York Central Railroad. When he became president of the railroad, he purchased a wooden house called the Breakers in Newport in 1893.
The Vanderbilt’s had seven children. You could see the amount of wealth when touring the mansion, with gold details everywhere and marble walls and staircases. For me the best part of the tour was the view of the outside back porch which overlooked the water. The grounds were immense and beautifully manicured. The house was immense but decorated in 1900 gaudy décor. It was interesting to see the servants’ quarters where 32 out of 40 of their servants lived. Their kitchen alone was a dream for anyone who loves extensive cooking. A definite point of interest on your trip to Newport. And hopefully when we get back to normal you can visit some of the others. We drove by mansions owned by many famous families including Judge Judy, Jay Leno and the owners of Alex and Ani.
One day we were lucky to take a ferry ride to ports in Fort Adams and Jamestown. We visited Fort Adams which was a historic park located in the harbor. In Newport, the fort was active from 1841 through World War II. It was certainly authentic as we found areas to be completely unkept and unattended to.
Another stop on our ferry tour was the town of Jamestown, with its New England style mansions and docks for fishing, kayaking and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We ate lobster rolls at Spinnakers Café, right on the dock, enjoying the beautiful Jamestown community and bay in front. I must say that I did try lobster in many places we visited, including lobster quesadillas at the Red Parrot, lobster roll at the Wharf Pub, and seafood chowder along the way. A great breakfast place right near our hotel was Gary’s Handy Lunch Diner – a little retro and with many daily specials to choose from.
If you decide to do a local vacation this summer, Rhode Island is a good choice and Newport is the place to go. We were very impressed with the restrictions placed on touring and even eating in restaurants that we felt safe being out and about and enjoying the sites. Newport is a fun place to explore, full of history and just beautiful and serene. While New Yorkers were suffering with humidity, we could feel the breeze from the water throughout our stay. A beautiful getaway that I want to visit again.