Enchanting Newport, Off Season

Ocean Drive's sunsets in Newport are always spectacular, no matter what time of year it is.
Ocean Drive’s sunsets in Newport are always spectacular, no matter what time of year it is.

Why I Prefer Newport, Rhode Island in the Winter

By Kaelie Piscitello

A view of The Cliff Walk.
A view of The Cliff Walk.

Newport, Rhode Island, boasts a mix of glamour and rustic seaside fun. Gilded Age mansions previously owned by big names, such as the Vanderbilts, line the spick and span coast, and a collection of quaint shops and old colonial houses line the downtown restaurant area.

Visitors from around the world enjoy seafood fresh from Newport’s upscale restaurants and frequent the glimmering cliff walk to take in opulent views of the American castles and the shining, impossibly blue ocean.

Though this all seems like a dream, the summer months fill the streets with many tourists, annoying many locals trying to drive a mile up the road in fewer than twenty minutes.

As a student of Salve Regina University, Newport’s college composed of sparkling Gilded Age mansions, I often enjoy Newport more in the winter than in the summer.

Visiting Newport in the winter gives you more time, space, and the ability to be a “dumb tourist” without locals scoffing.

The Oliver Hazard Perry at Fort Adams.
The Oliver Hazard Perry at Fort Adams.

More Space and Parking Spaces

When I first move into Salve for the start of the fall semester, I always enjoy the last few days on the beach. I love capturing the last bits of summer in Newport, but I often find myself going crazy trying to navigate my way through the crowds.

Streets empty during the school year are packed with unbearable traffic, and too many people stop my friends and me to ask if our academic buildings are the Breakers mansion.

In the winter months, the roads are clear, and I enjoy the luxury of free parking downtown after October 31. (Before then, I walk everywhere because parking is expensive, if available at all).

When I’m not downtown or in class, I explore the Newport Mansions in all their glory when no one else is around. Besides Christmas time when the castles are full of festive decorations, very few people tour the mansions in the winter, and I love having them all to myself.

No Reservations Needed

As a Salve student, I have the luxury of walking into any mansion for a free pass at any time during the school year. Though some only open in the summer months, the most famous estates, such as the Breakers, remain open all year.

Newport turned into Salem for the set of Hocus Pocus 2 in fall 2021.
Newport turned into Salem for the set of Hocus Pocus 2 in the fall of 2021.

In addition to this, I can enjoy popular restaurants downtown, such as Brick Alley Pub and Diego’s, without a reservation or long wait. I also love hitting eateries with heavier food in the winter month, such as Lucia, a delicious Italian place.

Though some fancier restaurants on the pier, like The Black Pearl, close for the winter season, I don’t mind because they’re out of my budget range as a college student.

As a newly minted member of the 21 Club,  I also love going to Newport bars like the Newport Blue’s Café and The Irish American Athletic Club downtown in winter. The club scene is vibrant year-round due to the influx of Salve students come September. However, I warn those younger than 21 that most bars have strict policies about letting in people underage due to the college population.

Downtown Newport's Christmas Tree Lighting in 2020 (hence the masks).
Downtown Newport’s Christmas Tree Lighting in 2020 (hence the masks).

Year-Round Festivities

Despite operating as a beach town, Newport has festive activities year-round, particularly around the holidays.

The Breakers and Elms mansions have fancy decorations out every year for festival holiday tours, and Salve puts on several community events each year, including a holiday choir concert and luminary experience.

Newport also hosts winter events, including a Christmas tree lighting on the wharf.

Out to dinner at Gas Lamp Grille in Downtown Newport.
Out to dinner at Gas Lamp Grille in Downtown Newport.

Irish people flood Newport St. Patrick’s Day weekend for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the many Irish pubs like Buskers and O’Brien’s are packed! Next to Boston, Newport is one of the best places in New England to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, as everyone dresses up and drinks all day.

Other Winter Activities

If you surf and don’t mind getting cold, you will not feel alone braving the waves in the winter. Die-hard locals and Salve students surf at the beaches and along the cliff walk all year. Just don’t forget your wet suit!

In addition to the beaches and most restaurants, the quaint boutiques downtown stay open year-round and even have Black Friday sales in November. If you’re looking for a girl’s day out, you and the girls can shop around and have a cocktail even in the cold!

The Breakers mansion in Newport, RI
A self-guided 45-minute audio tour of the 21st biggest mansion in the U.S. – “The Breakers.”

Newport is a hot spot for filming television shows and movies. During the fall of 2021, the cast of Hocus Pocus 2 arrived downtown to film the new Halloween movie. The Gilded Age is also filmed at several of the mansions! When a new crew turns up to film, my friends and I always take the opportunity to peek around the set.

Everyone can also explore a former military base, Fort Adams, and learn all about its history. And of course, as every Salve student knows, nothing beats a picnic on Ocean Drive to view the sunset as the water turns turquoise and the sky turns a magnificent orange.

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One thought on “Enchanting Newport, Off Season

  1. Kaelie, what a wonderfully refreshing perspective to read about on a late summer afternoon! I totally agree with you that visiting Newport “off peak” is the way to go. I’ve toured the various Mansion’s twice; they certainly are awe inspiring. Since I visited in early October and mid December, as you’ve indicated, I ran into crowded conditions. Based upon what you’ve written, I may just drive up to Newport in early November. That way, I can easily shoot video footage for my StressFreeNow podcast YouTube channel. Marble House and the authentic Japanese restaurant garden are my favorites so far. Thanks for the pleasant travel reminder! With Gratitude & Appreciation, Dr. Bob, The Stress & Pain Relief Doctor, StressFreeNow.info
    P.S. There is a little shop right across the street from a famous pub with super food called “Tourist Trap”. It’s a must visit if you want to buy gifts for others and not get ripped off by high prices!

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