Rhode Island might be the smallest of the states, but big things come in small packages. We only had one day to see what we could of this great state, and the consensus seemed to be to head for Newport. On top of the excitement of exploring new territory, Rhode Island marked the culmination of Glinda’s quest to visit all 50 states; that’s a huge milestone. I used to joke with my friend all the time that if you blinked you could miss her home state altogether that would not turn out to be the case at all.
Newport has character; from classic homes with sidewalks shaded by grand trees to ocean views. Wanting to make the most of our time, we headed straight for the neighborhood known for its lavish mansions. Entering the area was like pulling onto a movie set, so park the car at your first opportunity and truly enjoy it on foot. There is a cliff walk that will dazzle you with ocean views and take you past many of the mansions. Knowing we were only going to be able to fit two of the mansions into our schedule we went for the grandest and the most romantic. The Preservation Society of Newport County looks after 10 properties in the town of Newport. There is a wide range of styles and decoration on display and each one is unique. You should give yourself enough time to enjoy each property and explore all they have to offer. The audio tours at both sites each took an hour to complete, and we used additional time to walk the grounds afterwards. You can view the societies website here. Private and group tours are available, but prior arrangements must be made.
The Breakers: Of the Newport Mansions maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County, The Breakers is the grandest. It was the Vanderbilt’s premier summer cottage built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II and the word lavish doesn’t quite say enough. Construction started for the house in 1893 and completed in 1895 and was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The mansion is truly a sight to behold and you are allowed to tour it at your own pace, with the aide of an audio guide. Photography is prohibited inside the home, but is allowed throughout the 13 acre grounds. Tickets are available at the gate, but can also be purchased online allowing you to skip the line, which can be beneficial. If you plan on seeing more than one of the mansions, consider one of the packages offered on the website as they are discounted. Hours, Directions and Tickets are available here.
Rosecliff Mansion: Rosecliff is the second mansion we choose to visit and although it is not as exuberant as the Breakers, it had enough class to go around. This mansion came to be in 1899 when it was commissioned by Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada and was known as “The Party House” of Newport. Although it wasn’t fully completed until 1902, it was occupied for much of that time. When touring this French influenced mansion you might recognize some of its rooms from True Lies and 1974’s The Great Gatsby. Much like The Breakers you are afforded to explore Rosecliff at your own pace and have the option of using an audio guide. Hours, Directions and Tickets are available here.
The White Horse Tavern: the White Horse is more than just a place to stop for a meal or a drink. The tavern is a piece of American history. It is considered to be the oldest continuously running tavern in the U.S., having been constructed in 1673. We stopped by from some drinks and were greeted with a friendly staff. Glinda ordered a cup of their clam chowder and gave me the thumbs up. The dark wood and layout has all the tells of old world craftsmanship. The diner menu looked to be a little on the pricey side and reservations are suggested. Check their website for more info.
Mission: This could quite possible be the home of the best burger I have ever had. Plunked in the center of a non-descript strip mall is an unassuming burger joint called “Mission”. Inside you will find a simple menu consisting of burgers, dogs, falafels and fries. If there is one thing I won’t let slide by, it’s a chance to have a burger or some schnitzel. I couldn’t have been happier with my choice; the cheeseburger they handed me was cooked to perfection and bursting with flavor. I contend that the Mission serves one of the best burgers I have ever had anywhere. Glinda tried one of their dogs and was pretty happy with her choice too. Naturally a place like this has a secret sauce, my advice just sit back and enjoy. More info can be found here.
We finished the day with a drive over to Beavertail Point to catch a glimpse of the lighthouse in the fading light. The lighthouse and park sit at the southern end of Jamestown Island in Narragansett Bay. The lighthouse is a museum now with limited hours of operation; check their website for more info.
Recommendable: A resounding YES!!! The Mansions are beautiful, the town is classic and the history is undeniable. More than any of that go for beer in the oldest pub in the U.S. and then walk across the street for its best burger.
Have you been to Newport? Tell us about your experience. Interested in visiting, ask us a question.