Even in the snow, Newport remains one of the prettiest towns on the New England coastline. The historic destination remains a magnet for east coast travelers, with its oddball antique shops, stunning seaside parks, and top-notch restaurant scene. Here are a few of the town’s best options for an off-season visit.
Norman Bird Sanctuary
On the far east side of Aquidneck Island, there’s a 325-acre nature reserve opposite the beach with a small natural history exhibit housed in a barn. Best of all, its trails stay open year-round (note: a $7 trail fee applies, and no pets are allowed), and every other Sunday, there are 2-hour guided bird walks; be sure to check the website for nature programs and events throughout the winter.
Still after a nature fix? Veer off the famous Ocean Drive to discover this sleepy 13-acre quarry meadow, parts of which overlook the Atlantic Ocean. In February, the park will host its annual Illuminated Garden, a free event in which visitors can stroll the grounds at sunset and enjoy thousands of lights strung through trees. Now, how’s that for romantic?
The Bar at The Chanler
Sure, you could fork over $749 a night in the peak of summer to stay at The Chanler, a dramatic mansion hotel perched on the edge of a cliff. Or just cut to the chase and spend an afternoon next to a roaring fire in the richly decorated lobby bar. After a full day sightseeing, there’s nothing better than settling in for a hot toddy—one of the best in the state—and enjoying some old-world elegance while waves crash below.
Armory Antique Marketplace
Come summer, this town comes alive with merry-go-rounds on the beach and traveling oyster bars, but in the winter months antique-lovers can easily kill a few hours browsing the stalls at the Armory Antique Marketplace. The mammoth indoor market, occupying a handsome 19th-century military armory on Thames Street, overflows with vintage jewelry, novelty lamps, furniture, records, and plenty of nautical finds like scrimshaw and brass telescopes.
Cozy, seafood-focused pubs are a hallmark of any New England town, and Newport’s got plenty of them. At The Wharf, a few steps from the harbor, you can do anchovy-tossed tater tots or Angus beef burgers topped with fried oysters. Busker’s, a low-key Irish joint a few blocks over, honors its heritage with Welsh rarebit, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, plus traditional Irish “fry-up” breakfasts with black pudding and Irish baked beans. Meanwhile, the family-friendly Brick Alley Pub is practically a Newport institution, located right on the downtown strip, with 25 beers on tap and a full menu of nachos, wings, and something called a “lobstacado sandwich.” Yum.
A new day spa has opened on the south end of town, drawing visitors down the less touristy strip of Thames Street. Bodhi Spa features a 2,000-square-foot Zen garden, but this time of year, you’re better off in the heavenly 104º epsom salt pool, or detoxing in the infrared sauna and aromatherapy steam room. A full hydrotherapy package ($55) offers unlimited access to all the pools, saunas, relaxation rooms, and private showers—a full range of deep tissue massages (from $65), body scrubs, and Dead Sea mud wraps are available, too.
See How the Other Half Lives
For the first time ever, Newport’s three most famous mansions will remain open daily for tours throughout the winter months. This means getting up close and personal with The Breakers’ gold-paneled library, the gleaming Versailles-inspired staircase at The Marble House, and The Elms’ sunken gardens and exotic statues. Guides lead each of the tours, providing valuable insight into these spectacular houses; see the Newport Mansions website here for info on hours and tours.