Billed as America's 'First Resort', the fabled city of Newport lies just 30 miles (48km) south of Providence, Rhode Island's capital, accessed by two bridges that cross the blue Narragansett Bay.
Newport Harbour © WPPilot
Newport is famed for being America's yacht racing Mecca, and for boasting dozens of magnificent mansions built during the so-called 'gilded age' at the turn of the 20th century when one needed a distinctive pedigree and hefty bank account to holiday here with America's elite. Nearly a dozen of these extravagant 'summer homes' of America's wealthiest families are now open to the public, and Newport itself today welcomes all and sundry to enjoy a leisurely visit to this lively city with its beautiful beaches and varied attractions.
Newport is no longer just a summer fun destination, but it is hip and happening all year round thanks to a full programme of festivals and events that encompass classical, folk and jazz music festivals in the summer; the 'Harvest-by-the-Sea' fest in October; a renowned Christmas celebration in December; and the Newport Winter Festival in February. In between events the lively waterfront, shops and cultural attractions are enough to keep visitors entertained even when the weather makes beach going or sailing not too desirable.
Block Island © Timothy J. Quill
Block IslandBarely 12 miles (19km) from the shore of modern east coast America lies a tiny 'treasure island' virtually unspoiled by progress, where the main past time offered to visitors is peaceful pleasure and kicked-back relaxation. Time seems to have stopped on Block Island in the Victorian era, particularly in its main, and only, urban concentration, known as Old Harbor, where ferries from Rhode Island arrive several times a day. The island abounds with quaint architecture, spectacular views and delicious native seafood. Charming inns, beautiful beaches and bike trails make up the entire tourist infrastructure required to lure holidaymakers here in droves every summer to spend long indolent days splashing and sunning themselves. Winter brings some savage storms and life is fairly tough for the 800-odd permanent residents who depend not only on each other, but also annually warmly welcome the summer visitors, for their survival. Block island, named for a Dutch navigator who found it in 1614, is only seven miles (11km) long and three miles (5km) wide, but boasts a unique array of flora and fauna, a varied terrain of hills and freshwater ponds, and the spectacular southern Mohegan Bluffs that rise 200 feet (61m) above the sea.
Website: www.blockislandinfo.com; Telephone: (800) 383-2474; Transport: Accessible by ferry, departing from Judith's Point.
International Tennis Hall of Fame © John Phelan
International Tennis Hall of FameTennis fans are inspired by Newport's Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, but even those who do not follow the game will enjoy visiting this historic sporting venue, which was a premier gathering place of Newport society at the turn of the 20th century. The building, built around a large interior piazza for lawn games, is festooned with turrets and verandas and was commissioned by wealthy publisher James Gordon Bennett as a private social and sports club that became known as the Newport Casino. Professional tennis tournaments are now hosted at the venue, and the courts are open to the public for play by reservation. The Hall of Fame museum presents an exciting chronology of the sport's history, from its origins to today's superstars. The collection contains more than 7,000 objects, including historic tennis equipment, period clothing and a tennis library.
Address: 194 Bellevue Avenue; Website: www.tennisfame.com; Telephone: (401) 849 3990; Opening time: Daily 10am-5pm; closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.; Admission: $15 adults, plus $3 for an audio tour, $3 grounds pass. Free for children under 16.
Museum of Newport History © Daniel Case
Museum of Newport HistoryVisitors interested in history will find the Museum of Newport History an excellent place to begin a sojourn in the city. The museum offers a comprehensive overview utilising the decorative arts, artefacts of everyday life, graphics, old photographs and audio-visual programmes to bring the past to life. The museum is maintained by the Newport Historical Society and is housed in a restored 1772 building in Thames Street (off Touro Street). Highlights are an interactive computer tour of Newport's historic district and a video tour of historic Bellevue Avenue presented on board a reproduction 1890s omnibus.
Address: 127 Thames Street; Website: www.newporthistorical.org; Telephone: (401) 841-8770; Opening time: Daily 10am-5pm.; Admission: Suggested donation: $4 adults and $2 children over the age of 5.
Yachting © David Blaikie
Museum of YachtingProud of its heritage as a top sailing destination, Newport is equally proud of its museum dedicated to the sport, which has been acclaimed as one of the best sailing museums in the nation. The Museum boasts a variety of artefacts and exhibits such as a vast collection of classic power and sail yachts, a gallery devoted to chronicling the America's Cup competition held in Newport between 1851 and 2000; a single-handed sailor's hall of fame; and a glimpse into the sailing lifestyle of the Bellevue Avenue Mansions 'gilded age' brigade.
Address: 45 Washington Square, Fort Adams State Park, Newport; Website: www.maritimemuseums.net/RI.html; Telephone: (401) 848-5777; Opening time: Open 1 June through 1 October, Tuesday to Saturday 12pm-5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.; Admission: $5 adults, free for children under 18.
National Museum of American Illustration © Erikb02809
National Museum of American IllustrationEstablished in 1998, the National Museum of American Illustration is the nation's only museum devoted exclusively to American illustration artwork. Housed in the beautiful mansion of Vernon Court, whose Gilded Age architectural style is synonomous with the 'Golden Age of American Illustration', the museum's American Imagist collection exhibits works by Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg and Maxfield Parrish (among many, many others). The impact of these illustrators on subsequent American artists cannot be underestimated. Working in the days before television, their art, circulated in all major print publications, was not only the primary medium through which members of the American public were exposed to images beyond the ken of their everyday lives, it also created a host of iconic characters (such as Uncle Sam) that have formed an integral part of the American aesthetic ever since. Don't miss out on this opportunity to appreciate some of the art that was essential to the birth of modern American culture as we know it.
Address: 492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport; Website: www.americanillustration.org; Telephone: (401) 851-8949; Opening time: Opening times vary, so call ahead or check the website for specific dates. ; Admission: $18 adults, $12 students with ID, $8 children 5-12, children under 5 not permitted. Other concessions are available.
Marble House, the Bellevue Avenue Historical District © Daderot
Newport MansionsThe Bellevue Avenue Historical District in Newport, Rhode Island, is home to some of the grandest, most ostentatious mansions in the American architectural canon. Eleven in total, including Kingscote, Marble House and The Breakers, these enormous residences are important milestones in tracing the development of America's social history (seven of the properties are now National Historic Landmarks). Ranging in style and period - from Carpenter Gothic to Colonial, Victorian and Gilded Age - visitors to Rhode Island have the Preservation Society of Newport County to thank for their tireless work in preserving and protecting these cultural treasures. The Society runs expert guided tours of the mansions, during which visitors are educated about each property's architecture, interior, landscape and social history. Consistently voted as one of the Ocean State's 'must-see' attractions, visitors to Newport should not pass up the opportunity to experience these majestic mansions first-hand.
Address: Bellevue Avenue Historic District, Newport; Website: www.newportmansions.org; Telephone: Visitor Centre: (401) 847-1000; Opening time: The tour schedules vary: visitors are advised to call the visitor centre to obtain up-to-date information.; Admission: Five-mansion tour: $32.99 adults, $11 children 6-17. Other tours are also available.
Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island © Swampyank
Touro SynagogueThe oldest Synagogue still standing in the United States, the Touro Street building, was designed by Peter Harrison and dedicated in 1763. The synagogue has, in its time, been used as a venue for town meetings and for sessions of the state supreme court. George Washington, who visited Newport in 1781, attended a meeting in the synagogue and afterwards sent a letter to the congregation, which has become regarded as a classical expression of religious liberty in America; a copy of the letter is displayed on the wall of the synagogue, which has been designated as a National Historical Site.
Address: 85 Touro Street; Website: www.tourosynagogue.org; Telephone: (401) 847-4794; Opening time: Open for guided tours, which run every half an hour from from 10am to 3:30pm in the summer and 12pm to 1:30pm in the winter, on Sundays only between 12pm and 2pm.; Admission: $12 adults, $8 students, children under 13 free of charge.
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