The city of Newport lies just 30 miles (48km) south of Providence, accessible via two bridges crossing the blue Narragansett Bay. Typical of its Rhode Island identity, it exists as a New England summer resort populated with elegant Gilded Age mansions of the nation's elite.
Newport Harbour © WPPilot
A dozen of these extravagant summer homes in Newport are now open to the public. Famed for being the yacht racing capital of the USA, Newport encourages all visitors to enjoy leisurely trips along its beautiful beaches and varied attractions.
Newport is no longer just a destination for summer fun. Thanks to a full programme of events encompassing classical, folk, and jazz music, the region is hip and happening all year round. These include the Newport Winter Festival and a renowned Christmas celebration. The lively waterfront, shops, and cultural attractions are enough to keep visitors entertained outside the beaches.
Block Island © Timothy J. Quill
Block Island lies barely 12 miles (19km) from the shore of the modern east coast. A tiny treasure island, peaceful pleasure and laidback relaxation are favourite pastimes and it's virtually unspoiled by modern progress.
Time seems to have stopped on Block Island, settling comfortably into the Victorian era. This is particularly evident in its main urban concentration known as Old Harbor. Ferries from Rhode Island arrive several times a day.
Quaint architecture, spectacular views, and delicious native seafood abounds. Charming inns, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous bike trails make up the entire tourist infrastructure that lures holidaymakers in droves every summer. It's also perfect for long lazy days spent in the water beneath warm sunshine.
Winter brings some savage storms, making life fairly tough for the 800-odd permanent residents. Much of their living depends on warmly welcoming the annual influx of summer visitors, as well as a strong sense of close community.
Named after a Dutch navigator who chartered the island in 1614, Block Island is only seven miles (11km) long and three miles (5km) wide. It has a unique array of flora and fauna, varied terrain of hills and freshwater ponds, and the spectacular southern Mohegan Bluffs rising 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 Fame
The Tennis Hall of Fame Museum in Newport is an inspiration for fans of the sport. But even those who don't follow tennis will still enjoy visiting this historic establishment which served as a premier gathering place of Newport society at the turn of the 20th century.
Built around a large interior piazza for lawn games, turrets and verandas festoon the building commissioned by wealthy publisher James Gordon Bennett. Originally a private social and sports club, it became known as the Newport Casino. The venue now hosts professional tournaments, while also opening the courts to the public for play by reservation.
The Hall of Fame museum presents an exciting timeline of the sport's history, from its beginnings 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. Free for children under 16. Concessions available.
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 Newport Historical Society maintains the museum 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 onboard a reproduction of an 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.
National Museum of American Illustration © Erikb02809
National Museum of American Illustration
Established in 1998, the National Museum of American Illustration is devoted exclusively to American illustration artwork. The museum is housed in the beautiful mansion of Vernon Court, with its Gilded Age architectural style synonymous with the Golden Age of American illustration.
The museum's American Imagist Collection exhibits work by Normal Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, Maxfield Parrish, and more. 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. It was not only the primary medium through which members of the American public were exposed to images beyond their everyday lives, it also created a host of iconic characters.
These characters have formed an integral part of the American aesthetic ever since, such as the iconic Uncle Sam. 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: $20 adults, $14 students with ID, $10 children 5-12, children under 5 not permitted. Other concessions are available.
Marble House, the Bellevue Avenue Historical District © Daderot
The 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 and seven of the properties are now National Historic Landmarks.
Ranging in style and period, from Carpenter Gothic to Colonial, Victorian to 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: $35 adults, $12 children 6-17. Other tours are also available.
Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island © Swampyank
The 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 12 free of charge.