Nicknamed “the city by the sea”, Newport, Rhode Island is just 75 miles outside Boston and just a few hours outside New York City. This charming coastal town offers gorgeous architecture, beautiful scenery and great nightlife that make it the perfect place to getaway.
Unlike most beach resort towns, Newport does not shut down during the off season, but remains an exceptional place to visit during winter. The University keeps a steady year round population and winter is welcomed and celebrated by this vibrant community. Many of the things that draw tourists in summer remain just as fun in winter, such as visiting the great summer “cottages” of the Gilded Age, Newport’s excellent museums and it’s famous Cliff Walk.
It also has a very rich history which can easily be explored as you walk its streets.
Founded in 1639 by a diverging sect of religious men from Massachusetts, political tensions were strong in Newport from the get go. However, eventually the settlers were able to overcome these and helped to develop Newport into one of Colonial America’s most important trade ports. It received so much trade that it easily rivaled New York and Boston.
In 1663 Rhode Island received its royal charter and Benedict Arnold was elected governor in Newport.
From 1776 – 79, during the American Revolution, the British occupied Newport and used it as a base to attack New York City. In 1778 Americans and French allies began the Battle of Rhode Island. However it was unsuccessful due to France’s reluctance to go through with the plan and the Americans were driven from the city. However, the following year the British abandoned the Newport in favor of New York City.
For the next year the city served as a base for Lieutenant General Rochambeau. Though he moved his base to Providence in 1781, Newport continued to serve as a base for French forces for the rest of the war. A monument to Rochambeau now stands in Kings Park in honor and thanks to his contributions to the war.
Newport is perhaps best known for its many Gilded Ages mansions, which began to be built during the Industrial Revolution. Robber barons and members of the social elite, drawn by the quiet charm of the city began building large summer “cottages” to spend the season.
Edith Wharton, one of Newport’s many famous residents, described this social scene in her novel The Age of Innocence, which she is believed to have written in her cottage Land’s End.
In more recent history Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower both had “Summer White Houses” in Newport.
During the mid 20th century Newport was home to a Naval base, which today houses the Naval War College.
While Newport may seem to be primarily a summer destination, it is actually a great place to visit in winter. Many of the same activities can be done, and there will be less crowds. The city looks especially charming covered in snow, which is certainly a view you won’t see in summer!
Newport is an easy drive from Boston or New York City. It’s also easily accessed by Providence Airport.Tags: Feature