Did you know The Great Gatsby, True Lies, Amistad, Dan in Real Life, Evening and 27 Dresses are just some of the films shot locally in Newport, Rhode Island? Hollywood loves Newport, although there is no longer an annual Newport International Film Festival. A new uprising in the music scene is bustling with many events throughout the year and festivals. The Newport Folk Festival just concluded. Over 10,000 fans gathered at the Fort Adams State Park on the far end of the island this year.
What’s next? The Newport Jazz Festival August 3-5, 2013. The festival now features two full days of jazz on three unique stages at Fort Adams, one of the Park system’s national treasures situated at the mouth of Newport Harbor with panoramic views of the Newport Bridge and the East Passage. Founded in 1954, it was the first annual Jazz Festival in America, hosting legends, such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. Today, it hosts an eclectic mix of different genres of Jazz, kicking off with a concert on Friday, August 3rd at the Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. Dr. John & The Lower 911 featuring Jon Cleary, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, including guests Catherine Russell and Jonathan Batiste are on the bill.
On the same night, but not affiliated with the official Jazz Fest, Lyle Lovett and his acoustic group will host a concert at the Newport Yachting Center. Defined as the modern Texas singer-songwriter and a four-time Grammy winner, Lovett fuses elements of the blues, country, folk, gospel and jazz in his music. If you’re a Gala Go-er, save the date for the Newport Festivals Foundation Gala on Saturday night – August 4th. This benefit, held in celebration of the Newport Folk & Jazz Festival will be held at the Marble House with music and fine dining in one of the famed historic mansions.
While Newport is a quintessential playground of American aristocracy, it is also a very youthful, fun place to go, great for families and singles, with lovely B&B’s, beaches, ambitious restaurants and nightlife, albeit only until 1am. Get it together early, as the best pleasures of the island to offer can be seen in daylight. First timers should definitely plan to explore the Newport Mansions, owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Its 11 historic properties—seven of them National Historic Landmarks—span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development. For the physically fit, the best way to see them is by foot or bicycle. Traffic in the summer can be busy. Start at the Northwest end of the island at the Cliff Walk, designed as a recreational trail, combining 3.5 miles ocean views, mansions and wildlife.
Follow with lunch at Castle Hill, situation right next to the Castle Hill Lighthouse. Castle Hill is actually a Relaix & Chateau Inn but has an amazing brunch on Sunday’s with live Jazz. It is an ideal place to bring a group for lunch, with selections like raw Manutuck oysters, New England Clam Chowder, Eggs Benedict and Maine Lobster Hash. Enjoy a Bloody Mary cocktail on the lawn before being seated on the terrace. The view is spectacular. It is no wonder why so many special events and weddings are held here.
Head into town for dinner at the famed Clarke Cooke House Restaurant. The Clarke Cooke House is a multi-layered, 18th-century building on Bannister’s Wharf. One can dine in romantic elegance on The Porch, high above the assembled yachts, or casually relax at harbor level in The Candy Store. For the smart set there are intimate cocktails at The SkyBar. In season, sample the delights of Summer Sushi or marvel at symphonic sunsets from The Midway Bar. The room for all seasons is The Club Room, a favored spot for private dinner parties be they corporate or social. During the Summer, The Bistro opens its wall of windows and welcomes in the sights and sounds of Bannister’s Wharf. The temperature is always high on the dance floor of The Boom Boom Room beneath The Candy Store. Cooke House is the essence of Newport, where time seems to stand still and everyone knows everyone, but the cuisine continues to innovate.
On Christie’s Landing, Forty 1 North is a newcomer to the Newport inn & restaurant scene. Partners Dorrance Hamilton and George Moore opened this exquisitely chic waterfront property in 2012. Affectionately known as “Dodo,” Dorrance H. Hamilton is renowned for her philanthropic contributions throughout Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, who was raised in Manhattan and Newport. This explains why it is New England glam meets contemporary nautical – the design is stunning. This boutique hotel offers full-service facilities including a state-of-the-art marina, two unique restaurants, 28 beautifully appointed lodgings, tailored corporate and event packages and extraordinary service.
Central to town off Thames Street, there are dozens of B&B’s, complete with complimentary breakfast and really give you a feel of 1800’s New England. The Admiral Fitzroy, has 18 charming rooms and was formerly a convent for the sisters of St. Mary’s Church. The Yankee Peddler had been was originally a grand sea captain’s home, then transformed into a fine Newport hotel. This is a fine choice as well as the Inns on Bellevue nearby which have 4 properties to choose from.
Right around the corner you will want to hit a trio of 3 amazing gourmet shops. You will find artisanal cheeses and prepared salads at Le Petit Gourmet. I was obsessed with La Maison De CoCo, a women owned teashop and bakery, known for their chocolate truffles. After stopping in twice for their Bergamot infused tea, I learned that they host “Francophile Fridays” from 4 to 6pm, in which you can practice with French native speakers and those who love speaking French. Then head next door to the Newport Wine Cellar, which has weekend wine tastings on Friday and Saturday’s 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There are actually nine coastal towns within Newport and Bristol County. Which means, there are endless things to do. If you’re looking for a last minute deal, refer to the Discover Newport site.