Rhode Island Activities
175 Memorial Blvd., Easton Bay
This is one of Newport’s most popular beaches (which means you’ll be braving the crowds) but it’s a worthwhile stop if you’re traveling with kids for its playground, old-school merry-go-round, dime-size aquarium, Del’s Lemonade (an RI classic), and lobster rolls at the snack bar. There are better swimming holes, but Newport’s only ocean beach boasts the most attractions.
Green Animals Topiary Garden
380 Cory’s Lane, Downtown
The name pretty much explains why this is an ideal daytrip for kids. Take a picnic (stop by Le Petit Gourmet enroute) and head 20 minutes out of town to Portsmouth. There’s a mansion on the property with an antique toy collection, but the real attraction is the multitude of topiary animals, geometric shapes, and manicured flower gardens outdoors.
Newport Folk & Jazz Festivals
Fort Adams State Park, Rams Head
Each year, Fort Adams State Park, with its 360° views of the harbor and Naragansett Bay, hosts two long-standing music festivals (among the first of their kind): The Newport Folk Festival from July 25th to 27th, and The Newport Jazz Festival, August 1st through 3rd. While the folk festival veers toward indie musicians like Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst and Band of Horses, the jazz festival, has stuck with traditional big-name headliners like Wynton Marsalis, Lee Konitz, and Ravi Coltrane.
Norman Bird Sanctuary
583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown
There are no kites, joggers, or bike riders allowed in this 375-acre nature reserve on Aquidneck island—it’s for serious birders only. The number of species you’ll run across on any day is pretty impressive (#normanbirdsanctuary), and so are the seven, well-maintained miles of trails. They hold free guided bird walks every other Sunday.
50 Bellevue Ave., Downtown
Founded in 1747, this is the oldest lending library in America. Its history is pronounced: There’s a wide selection of rare and first-edition hardcover books on the shelves, while portraits of prominent leaders hang above. It’s a great place to think and read, especially in the large Terry Reading Room. There’s also their version of a bookstore in the back: At the 1747 Store, anything from an old design hardcover to an esoteric history book can be bought for as little as 50 cents.
Second Beach, Middletown
While pro surfers head to Newport to catch ten and 15 foot swells at Ruggles break point, there are gentler beaches like Second where the waves are more appropriate for beginners. It’s here that Rhody’s instructors teach one hour private and group lessons (they also provide all the necessary equipment). Kids can also join their week-long morning surf camps—sign up online, as they fill up quickly.
769 Sachuest Point Rd., Middletown
Despite Newport's serious yacht culture, the gorgeous scenery can still be enjoyed with both feet on solid ground.
The Newport Sailing School and Tours
Goat Island Marina, Marina Plaza
Newport is basically mecca in the sailing community. It hosts several big-name regattas, including the Americas Cup (The Newport Regatta was June 9th-12th). If you’re new to the sport, there are plenty of spots offering lessons, though this family-run business on Goat Island—in operation since the ‘60s—is one of the classics. They offer courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced sailors in two to four class packages, ideal if you’re staying in Newport for a short stint. If you’re only in town for the weekend and looking to get out on the water, you can also book an hour’s tour of the harbor and Naragansett Bay.
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