Why I Prefer Newport, Rhode Island in the Winter
By Kaelie Piscitello
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.