My family was short on vacation time this year, so we needed a quick weekend getaway. We went to Newport, Rhode Island and had a blast.
Our main attraction to Newport were the mansions. Last summer, our family visited Biltmore in North Carolina, and the kids loved it. They wanted to visit something similar, but we needed to stick closer to Vermont due to time constraints. We chose to visit Newport, Rhode Island because it had some mansions also built by the Vanderbilt family. As a nice bonus, Newport is also located right on the ocean. My kids had only visited the ocean once, so they wanted to go back this year. Here is what we recommend for a fun family vacation to Newport, RI.
Be prepared for traffic.
On our way to Newport on a Thursday afternoon, we hit traffic as we skirted around Boston. There was also a fair amount of traffic heading out to the coast. Be sure to pack plenty of toys to keep your children entertained. My kids and I have been reading a library book together over the summer, so that was also a nice distraction for all of us. We managed to leave for home at the end of our trip at 7:30 am on Sunday, so there was very little traffic. We cut directly through Boston and made it home to Vermont in four hours.
The Newport Cliff Walk is a great way to start the day.
My children wake up at the crack of dawn, when nothing is open yet. This has been a major issue on most vacations. Luckily, the Cliff Walk is a public walkway that is always open. It leads you past beautiful mansions right along the coastline. We visited at 8 am. One advantage of walking this early in the morning is that the weather is still nice and cool.
Our main attraction to the area were the Newport Mansions.
These are 11 different properties that are all run by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Definitely help yourself out and pick up a map. The properties are spread out over Newport, but luckily they all have free parking available. This is necessary when you are accompanied by children who are tired of walking. Also, if you are a member of the Shelburne Museum, be sure to bring along your membership card. Since both institutions belong to the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, you will receive free entry to the Newport Mansions.
Four of the mansions have self-guided audio tours. I highly recommend these tours for children. It means that there is no waiting around for tours to start. Also, my kids enjoyed being in charge of their own tours. You wear a device the size of a cell phone around your neck and a set of headphones. The tour directs you around each mansion room by room and you simply push the “next” button to move forward. My seven and nine year old children happily navigated these devices on their own. I particularly recommend visiting the largest property, the Breakers, because they have an adorable audio tour geared specifically for children and families.
Some of the other properties have guided tours. These are all on different schedules, which made things a little trickier for our impatient children who don’t like to wait around. We only went on one guided tour and my children weren’t very impressed. They strongly preferred the audio tours. The Green Animals Topiary Garden is located just outside of Newport in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. My children enjoyed the gardens because they could wander around at their own pace.
Visit the Newport Creamery for a treat.
There are several locations of this restaurant in the Newport area. They serve food, but the main attraction for us was the ice cream. My kids were overjoyed to eat ice cream at 9:30 in the morning while we were waiting for things to open at 10 am. Both my my children recommend the clown sundaes, which use a pointy cone as the clown’s hat. They were both cute and delicious.
If it’s too hot to walk around outside, check out the Newport Car Museum.
Despite the name, this museum is actually located just outside of Newport in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. My son loves old cars, so he really enjoyed this museum. My daughter is not very interested in cars, but she also liked it. She was more interested in the unique chairs to sit in. The highlight of this museum for both my children was the driving simulator. One ride is included with the admission price. My children had fun trying out driving the car of their choice despite hitting multiple cones, walls, and other cars.
Leave plenty of time to play in the ocean.
There are many beaches to choose from in the Newport area. If you want to do more than just the beach, Fort Adams State Park may be a good option. Some beaches have many amenities, such as lifeguards, restrooms, and snack bars. However, the parking can be expensive at these beaches. Our family chose a free beach in nearby Portsmouth without any amenities. In the end, I’m glad we chose that option because my kids didn’t want to stay very long. They preferred the pool at our Airbnb rental.
Finally, if you’re in Newport, and want a jaunt to the city, Providence is a great place to visit. Check out our sister site, Providence Moms Blog to get some ideas about what you and your family could do for a day!