Newport Rhode Island is best known for its ornate mansions and its prolific sailing heritage. Thousands of visitors flood into the "City by the Sea" every year to get an up close look at opulent homes and to get out on the Narragansett Bay or the Atlantic Ocean in some kind of watercraft. You'll find the city of Newport on Aquidneck Island, which is connected to the Rhode Island mainland by a ferry and three bridges. The city's island location has everything to do with its sailing heritage, and you might be surprised to know that Newport rivaled both Boston and New York as a harbor city during the Colonial days. In the 1800s, wealthy industrialists and tycoons of all kinds took a liking to Newport Rhode Island, and these well-to-do citizens built the city's renowned mansions. Newport still maintains a relatively upscale appeal, though that doesn't mean that it isn't approachable if you are tight on funds. The Newport travel costs are essentially moderate, though you can splurge and enjoy the finer side of things if you please.
Few coastal cities in New England can rival Newport Rhode Island when it comes to being an attractive vacation destination. The downtown Newport waterfront is an invigorating place to hang out, and walking tours of the city reward visitors with a number of great sights to take in. Guided tours of Newport's downtown historic district are offered during the peak Rhode Island travel season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October, and you can also enjoy tours of the city's mansions during this peak period. Bus tours of the city and its mansions are offered throughout the year, with more frequency in the summer months, and you can also consider booking a vintage train tour that takes you around Narragansett Bay. For those who are looking to get out on the water when enjoying Newport vacations, various sailing and cruising tours are offered daily during the warmer months.
It was after the Civil War that the wealthy elite started building the stately mansions that today figure among the top Newport tourist attractions. These mansions, which were inaccurately referred to by their owners as summer cottages, are about as impressive as mansions get. Many were inspired by the palaces of Europe, and it is interesting to note that these extravagant residences were built before the days of income taxes. Driving or bicycling along the "Cottage District" is recommended, unless you can handle a good amount of walking, and you are certainly encouraged to enjoy a tour of one or more of the mansions. The Breakers is the most renowned mansion in Newport Rhode Island, and it was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Cornelius was the grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt, who made the bulk of his fortune in the railroad industry. The Marble House is another mansion that you will want to consider adding to your Newport travel itinerary. It was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who also designed the Breakers.
Only nine of the mansions in Newport are open for public tours, as many are still privately owned. It is best to enjoy tours of them on less crowded weekdays. One of the best places to view the summer cottages from in Newport is the Cliff Walk trail, which also overlooks the sea below. The Cliff Walk trail runs for more than three miles, and round trip hikes on it will likely take a few hours. Not far from Cliff Walk is Easton's Beach, which is the most popular swimming beach in Newport. Eaton's Beach features picnic areas, food concessions, lifeguards, a bathhouse, and a carousel, and it's also here that you will find the Newport Aquarium. Over at Brenton Point State Park, scuba diving, fishing, and kite flying are among the more popular activities due to the rather rocky beach. Gooseberry Beach is another beach that you might add to your Newport travel agenda, though since it is privately owned, you will have to pay a relatively hefty fee for parking. As for those who want to do a bit of sailing while enjoying Newport vacations, the Fort Adams State Park is a good place to head. You can also go swimming and fishing at Fort Adams State Park, and you might also stop by the Museum of Yachting for a look. Tours of the 1820s fort for which the park is named are offered during the peak Newport travel season.
Finding things to do in Newport won't be hard, and you just might need more time here than originally anticipated to truly take it all in. Some of the top festivals and annual events in Rhode Island take place in Newport, and you can always plan Newport vacations around them. The featured events here include the renowned Newport Jazz Festival and the savory Taste of Rhode Island. The former takes place in mid-August, while the latter is held in early October. You can bet that rooms fill up quickly in the Newport hotels during the city's main events and festivals, and booking ahead is always a good idea, regardless of when you visit.