City Cheat Sheet: Newport, Rhode Island
With its glittering harbors and Gilded Age estates, Newport, Rhode Island has long been a favorite New England destination for those looking for a stylish yet low-key summer getaway. The Scout Guide co-founder Susie Matheson and her family have been making annual trips to the seaside town for years (her husband’s grandmother, who restored a gorgeous retreat there, has been summering in Newport for more than four decades). While there, they take advantage of the stunning surf, catch up with family and friends, and immerse themselves in the local culture. Here, Matheson shares her personal recommendations for enjoying Newport like an insider:
WHEN TO VISIT // The best time to visit is July and August. “It’s the perfect summer getaway because there’s always a breeze coming off the water, and plenty to do for kids and adults.”
WHERE TO STAY // The Castle Hill Inn (590 Ocean Drive), built in 1875, is a storied waterfront hotel that deserves all the hype. The Hotel Viking (1 Bellevue Avenue), which opened in 1926 and has since hosted presidents and luminaries in their luxurious rooms, is another great option.
COFFEE // Matheson recommends getting your caffeine fix at Empire Tea & Coffee (112 William Street), a spacious shop located right off the historic mansion-lined Bellevue Avenue.
WORK OUT // An avid exerciser, Matheson sticks to her routine while vacationing at Newport Power Yoga (112 William Street, conveniently located next to Empire Tea & Coffee) and Bellevue Barre (94 William Street).
MANSIONS TO TOUR // Marble House (596 Bellevue Avenue), the “cottage” built by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, tops Matheson’s must-visit list. “The tea house is beautiful,” she says. Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Avenue), which was inspired by the Grand Trianon at Versailles, is also a must-tour. If you have time, Matheson recommends taking a walk on the Cliff Walk to see them all.
BEST BEACH // “I love Reject’s Beach,” Matheson says. “It has small waves, it’s easy to swim, and it’s a beautiful setting.”
DINNER // The top floor of the Clarke Cooke House (26 Bannister’s Wharf) is a favorite of Matheson’s where, she says, “Coat and tie and a reservation are a must.” Seafood fans will appreciate the ocean-inspired menu, though Matheson also likes to go and just get dessert. “The Snowball in Hell is the best dessert in town,” she says of the specialty that combines chocolate, vanilla ice cream, and toasted coconut in a chocolate-coated goblet. Post-dessert, enjoy a little dancing.
Another classic seafood spot is The Black Pearl (1 Bannister’s Wharf). Matheson recommends ordering the clam chowder at this Newport institution.
MOVIE NIGHT // For a stimulating evening in a beautiful setting, Matheson recommends catching a documentary through newportFILM, an organization that brings works by acclaimed and emerging filmmakers to some of Newport’s most high-profile locales. “Andrea van Beuren, a good friend of mine, started newportFILM. It’s so fun to go see a movie at one of their stunning venues—Rosecliff, The Elms, Marble House, Goat Island, and more,” Matheson says. You can find a list of their upcoming events here.
FAMILY ACTIVITIES // The International Tennis Hall of Fame, housed in the Newport Casino, is a historic landmark that even someone who has never picked up a racquet will appreciate. For those who do play, “The Kids’ Summer Tennis Camp is worth the trip alone,” Matheson says, adding that you should sign up early.
The International Yacht Restoration School offers a unique opportunity to see how the impressive yachts filling Newport’s harbor are made. Visitors are allowed to take self-guided tours the facility, where students learn everything there is to know about boat building, maintenance, and restoration.
SHOPPING // If you’re looking for clothing that embodies breezy Newport style, Mandarine (16 Bannister’s Wharf) is “The best,” Mathesons says. For contemporary women’s apparel, stop in Kristina Richards (108 William Street). Royal Male (18 Bannister’s Wharf) has a beautiful collection of high-end pieces for men and women. For jeans and chic casual attire, visit Laura Jean Denim (198 Bellevue Avenue). Hooley/Re-Sails (33 America’s Cup Avenue) has everything you’ll need for the beach—recycled sailcloth bags, hats, shorts, bathing suits, bicycles, and more. Last but not least, Matheson offers an insider’s tip for those who love linens (and a good deal): the Matouk Factory Store (925 Airport Road, Fall River, MA) is a 40-minute drive from Newport and, she says, “Always worth the drive. I stock up on bed covers and white cotton blankets.”
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