The 3 Best Spots For A Drink In Newport, Rhode Island

castle hill inn newport During summer, the city of Newport, Rhode Island, brings in millions of visitors who want to experience history, mansions, sailing, boutique shops, delicious restaurants and relaxing on the water. One facet of Newport worth exploring is the drink scene. To help you enjoy scenic views, historical cocktails and quality craft beer, here are three of the best spots for a drink in Newport.

Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Avenue

Located at the end of Ocean Drive, you’ll find a welcoming waterfront mansion with a rich history. While most people know of Castle Hill Inn as a luxurious hotel, many don’t realize it’s also Newport’s most scenic drinks spot. Once you have your car valeted, you can make your way to the hotel’s spacious backyard, which features a patio, bar and an award-winning restaurant, as well as a lawn littered with Adirondack chairs. While the drinks are a bit pricey – about $12 for a cocktail, $10 to $35 for a glass of wine and $5.50 to $14 for a beer – you won’t be spending much more than you would anywhere else in Newport, and you’ll have a great view. Relax with a cold drink while watching sail boats passing by, children giggling and playing tag and calming waves on the waterfront. If you’re hungry, you can order from the “lawn menu,” which has dishes like “Surf ‘N’ Turf Burger” ($24), “Native Fish Wrap” with chickpea salad ($16) and artisanal cheeses with jams, almonds, honey and grilled bread ($19).white horse tavern White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough

While this dimly lit bar may appear unassuming, it’s actually said to be the oldest tavern in America. White Horse Tavern was originally constructed in 1652 as a two-story residence. In 1673 when it was acquired by a new owner it was converted to a tavern. For the next 100 years, before the Colony House came about, it was a meeting place for the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council. With its clapboard walls, plain pediment doors and gambrel roof on the outside, and wide fireplaces, giant beams and tiny front hall on the inside it’s said no building in the town better resembles colonial Newport. The staff is extremely friendly, and will be happy to show you their international wine or quality bourbon lists. Additionally, this is one of the only places in Newport you can order a Long Trail IPA, a much-loved beer with a golden color, small white head, flowery nose and herbal notes.

pour judgement Pour Judgement Bar & Grill
32 Broadway

Beer nerds will love this brew-focused venue, which features one of the widest selection of craft beers in the city. Unlike many drink spots in Newport, Pour Judgement Bar & Grill is reasonably priced, with $2.50 Narragansetts, $4 Newport Storm Winter Ports and $4 Peak Organic Nut Brown Ales, as well as other local, domestic and international beers. Not only will you get to sip quality brews without breaking the bank, you’ll also be getting to experience local life, as this is a popular hangout for Newport residents. Moreover, staff are friendly and are more than happy to help you choose the perfect beer to pair with your burger, turkey chili or seafood curry.

Bringing My Love Of Backpacking Home

food “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” – Henry Miller

Every year, I spend months saving money for backpacking trips abroad and learning about the foreign cultures I’ll be visiting. The farther away from home and the more exotic the destination, the more value I put on the trip. It wasn’t that I didn’t think cities drivable from my home weren’t worthwhile; but I wanted to experience unknown local delicacies, mountainous landscapes, ecofriendly villages, rich history, interesting communities and just a place that was generally different from my home of Long Island, New York. How could I possibly do that without getting on a plane?

My friend Mike recently invited me to come visit him in Rhode Island. I agreed, expecting nothing more than a long weekend of photographing Newport mansions, going for drinks in Providence and just relaxing on the beach. Surprisingly, the jaunt turned into a mini road trip of New England, as well as an eye-opening experience about how to find culture in your own backyard.1673Rhode Island

“What’s a lobster roll? And Rhode Island has it’s own clam chowder?” I asked Mike as we perused the numerous cafe signs wandering the streets of Newport.

Apparently, a lobster roll has nothing to do with sushi, as I had assumed, but is fresh cooked lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise and served on a grilled hot dog bun. Additionally, Rhode Island clam chowder is a local favorite, with a clear broth, potatoes, onions, bacon and quahogs. Both were delicious, and I couldn’t believe I’d gone 25 years without sampling either.

“Now we’ve got to get you some Coffee Milk,” said Mike, telling me about the state’s official drink. “It’s like chocolate milk, only with coffee syrup instead.”

Continuing our tour through Newport, I was able to sip a classic cocktail at America’s oldest tavern and learn about the history of the famous Newport Mansions, embodying 250 years of history and featuring among the highest number of surviving colonial buildings of any city in the country. Providence, the city I knew only for its bars, actually proved quite historical with a walk down Benefit Street. Immersing myself in 18th century architecture, it was hard to imagine that I was only three hours from home.

hiking New Hampshire

Next we were off to Franconia, New Hampshire. As we drove toward The Granite State, sea-level landscape transformed into mountain peaks reaching over 4,000 feet. The sense of adrenaline I only get while backpacking immediately washed over me, and I again I forgot I wasn’t all that far from home.

Mike and I spent three days hiking the Appalachian Trail, swimming in lakes and waterfalls and summiting Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the northeastern United States at 6,288 feet. I called my
mom excitedly about my newly discovered landmark, just as I had when hiking in the Andes in South America and the Blue Mountains in Australia.

The downtown area where Mike and I went for a nice dinner on our last night in town reminded me of some of the small towns I often visit abroad.

“This is the theater district,” Mike joked, pointing to a group of older men playing guitar at a one-stop pizza/ice cream/T-shirt shop, which was adjacent to an all-in-one dry cleaning/postal/Internet cafe/dog daycare. We walked across the street to the locally famous “Dutch Treat,” where I was once again introduced to a new meal, a burger topped with a flaky crab cake. While not authentic New Hampshire cuisine per say, it still made me feel like I do on backpacking trips when I’m able to find a cozy local restaurant selling a never-before-tasted food.

windham hill inn Vermont

In Vermont, I experienced a degree of culture shock. It began at the Windham Hill Inn in West Townsend, a beautiful hotel in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the rolling hills of the Green Mountains, peaceful meadows and colorful gardens. The inside smelled of fresh-roasted granola, and locally made teddy bears adorned each room. I thought the emphasis on local products and country living was unique to the hotel; however, journeying into the nearby towns showed me southern Vermont was passionate about going local and community closeness. In fact, I didn’t see one chain establishment during the five days I was there.

In Brattleboro, almost every shop had a sign advising people to “go local.” Remnants of the town’s rich hippie culture from the 1970s are still visible, as you weave in and out of the many bead stores, eclectic galleries and laid-back cafes and bars. Colorful signs advertising events like poetry slams, indie film screenings, farmers markets, environmental workshops and fiddle contests abound, and it isn’t surprising to find locals fighting for moral cause.

Venturing off to the small village of Chester, I was transported to a time when Late Victorian, Colonial Revival and Federal-style architecture was the norm. In Chester, it still is. I was astounded by the depth of warmth conveyed by the city. Wandering down Lovers Lane as well as nibbling on scones at Inn Victoria‘s high tea and playing with the 10,000 plus teddy bears at Hugging Bear Inn and Toy Shoppe helped me experience an unusual culture.

Before heading home, we stopped in Grafton, and sampled some of Vermont’s local cheeses made with raw milk from nearby farmers as well as Vermont maple syrup candies at Grafton Village Cheese. Here I purchased souvenirs from the trip, Pure Maple Butter for my mom and Palmer Lane Maple Jelly Beans for my dad. I felt like such a tourist, but in a good way.

Going Home

For me, the trip wasn’t a “staycation,” “nearcation,” or any other “nearby getaway” term that implies escaping from reality to relax. Instead, it was a chance to experience cultures different from my own, learn about interesting pieces of history and sample foods I had never tried. I discovered new sites, sounds, flavors and lifestyles, but most importantly, I discovered a new way to travel by bringing my love of backpacking home.

Where (Not) To Go To Save Money This Summer

newport mansion chateau sur merI unintentionally chose one of most expensive weekends of the year (Memorial Day) to visit the country’s most expensive destination. Whoops.

According to a new survey from Cheap Hotels, Newport, Rhode Island, is the United States’ most expensive destination in terms of hotel costs (one of the famed mansions is shown at right).

The survey compared hotel rates for all destinations in the U.S. for the period of June through August 2012. The rankings were determined based on the cost of each location’s cheapest available double room (only hotels above two-star ratings were considered). As such, it reflects the minimum amount travelers will have to spend to stay at a certain destination.

I learned this the hard way – even tiny bed and breakfasts that looked, in my mind, decent, were $300 or more per night. In fact, the exact average is $319 and the high-end hotels were running closer to $1,000 per night.

At this price tag, the Rhode Island resort scene is living up to its nickname, “Queen of the Summer Resorts,” coming in significantly higher than the runners up: coastal California’s Santa Monica and Napa Valley’s Calistoga. In comparison, visitors to these second- and third-place finishers will have to pay at least $287 and $285 respectively for a double room this summer.
Martha’s Vineyard, the affluent Massachusetts island located south of Cape Cod, ranks as the fourth most expensive U.S. destination, with an average overnight price of $275. The Massachusetts cities of Cambridge, Boston and Provincetown also landed prominently in the Top 10.

On the bright side, we had fun? If you’re visiting one of these destinations this summer, here are five money saving tips you might not have considered:

1. Pick a place with at least one meal included. Our hotel in Newport had a rather hefty breakfast spread each morning.
2. Opt for somewhere central. Sure, it’s less expensive to stay a bit outside of town, but if you’re constantly schlepping back and forth and looking for a place to park, your cab fees or parking costs may negate your thrifty hotel purchase.
3. Book early. Yes, hotels are sometimes known to drop rates at the last minute or place discounted rooms on sites like Hotel Tonight, but just as many offer early-purchase promotions of 15 to 30 percent off the average daily rate.
4. Consider a suite. You’ll not only have more living space, but many offer pull-out beds, which can save those traveling with kids or a group from buying an extra room.
5. Know where to splurge. This may sound counter intuitive, but planning out where you want to spend your money pre-trip can actually save you. Want to visit the aquarium or that fancy steak place? Great – now you know not to blow $15 on coffee and muffins each morning. Factor that in times two, for four days and you have your steak dinner.

Exploring Newport, Rhode Island’s Famed Mansions


Image by Patrick O'Connor - Image Courtesy of the Newport Preservation Society.


A recent visit to Newport, Rhode Island, allowed ample time to tour the city’s famed Gilded Age mansions, palatial summer “cottages” once owned by robber barons and business titans with names like Astor and Vanderbilt.

I couldn’t get enough of the historic homes – perhaps the product of one too many childhood Saturday mornings spent watching “America’s Castles” and dreaming of what it would be like to live there.

That said, the homes were both a joy and a disappointment to visit. Although grand and beautiful from the outside, the stories of decay and disrepair after these homes stopped being used as primary summer residences was quite sad to see. A number of the homes, like The Elms and Rosecliff, were abandoned entirely, the contents either sold at auction or left to decay. It was only after the Preservation Society acquired these homes that many were restored to their original splendor. Only The Breakers truly remains a testament to the past, featuring most of the original furnishings and very few signs of disrepair. That said, even non-museum lovers will enjoy marveling at the sheer wealth and splendor as they imagine the homes as they must have been during the Gilded Age of Newport in the 1920s and 1930s.

Planning a visit? Here are my top tips:How to Purchase Tickets:
The quaint New England town makes touring these famed homes exceptionally simple, offering a variety of visitor’s pass options both online and at any of the mansions themselves. Passes are not timed, good for a year from date of purchase, and include access to a mansion of your choosing for around $13, two mansions (usually The Breakers and one other) for $20 and five of your choosing for $30 per person.

Entry is simple – walk in, scan your pass, grab an audio headset (available at select properties) and start walking. A well-narrated audio tour offers a half-hour tromp through some of the more famous homes – The Breakers, The Elms, Rosecliff and Marble House – and special “exhibits” on the audio tour add additional insight about life in the Gilded Age, the architects and interior designers behind the homes’ developments, or about the artifacts themselves, some of which are native to the homes and others of which have been brought in, museum-style, as rotating exhibits or indicators of traditional period pieces.

Extras Worth Enjoying:
Try the special “Servant’s Life” tour at The Elms, which gives you an insider’s glimpse into life “below stairs” or take kids to The Breakers, the only mansion to offer a special kids tour.

Money Saving Tip:
If you really want to see the mansions but skip paying fees, you can stroll the famed Cliff Walk and get a glimpse into the grounds – you can walk into each of the lawns and around the gardens without paying admission.

Know Before You Go:

  • Strollers and carriages are not allowed.
  • Wheelchair access is limited to select properties.
  • As with any museum or exhibit, visit early on in the day or on weekdays to avoid a crowd.
  • Photography is not permitted inside any of the homes, but you can photograph the gardens and grounds all you’d like.
  • There are stairs inside each home, so bring comfortable shoes and be prepared for a lot of walking.
  • Parking is free, but it is possible to walk between many of the properties if you choose.
  • The homes are all open during the summer, but only select properties are available in the off-season.
  • Not all homes are available for viewing in the multi-pass packs.

Hotel News We Noted: July 13, 2012

nantucket hotelIt’s Friday the 13th! Let’s hope nothing too scary happens today. How the time has flown – it seems hard to believe that we’re nearly halfway through summer. While July is often a slow month, the hotel world has stayed hot, hot, hot with openings, trends and promotions. Here’s what we’ve got on tap for you this week in “Hotel News We Noted.”

Hotel Opening: The Nantucket Hotel & Resort
The quintessential summer town has a new resort; The Nantucket Hotel & Resort opened officially yesterday and has an equal emphasis on the luxe and family-friendly. Featuring both guestrooms and family suites, a casual eatery with a decadent lobster-stuffed burger and two heated swimming pools, this is a great option for families looking to escape for a week or two. The 60-room hotel starts at $395 for regular rooms and $660 for family suites, with a special opening promo of 20 percent off for three nights in a one-to-four bedroom suite.

Social Hotel News: Hotel Tonight Goes European (and Canadian)
One of our all-time favorite travel apps, Hotel Tonight, has expanded in the past few weeks with the launch of a London edition. The app-only product, which offers (as you would guess), discounted hotel rooms for “tonight” is now in more than 40 cities, including Toronto and Vancouver. I used the app to book a last-minute hotel room in Newport, Rhode Island, over Memorial Day, paying just $99 for a great suite at the adorable Architect’s Inn, when rates were well over $300 at most other places. Easy to use and usually a pretty good deal, this is one of our top app picks and great news for those looking for London hotel rooms in this admittedly very busy summer overseas.

Hotel Perk: Ride In Style
We’ve heard about gratis BMWs and the one-off Aston Martin rental, but Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have gotten some cool perks for transportation of late that are a bit more out-of-the-box. Fairmont properties around the world offer guests the use of BMW Cruise Bikes to hop on and explore, but Fairmont Miramar Hotels & Bungalows in Santa Monica offers Dregs 37 Ditch Surf skateboards. For guests staying in one of the 32 bungalow rooms, the skateboards (or long boards) are available to cruise around Venice beach, the pier, Third Street Promenade and anywhere else you’d want to go. Guests looking for a high-flying mode of transportation can head to The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver or The Fairmont Empress, Victoria. The hotels share a Helijet that is available to transport guests to and from each respective location in 35 minutes. Fairmont has also expanded its complimentary chauffeured car service with BMW to its hotels throughout the United States. Awesome perks!

Hot Hotel of the Week: Kura Hurlanda
It’s been a busy week and we just got around to watching “The Bachelorette” last night, where we got an insider’s look at Kura Hurlanda Lodge in Curacao. We’re planning a whole feature on hotels of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” but we couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this Caribbean gem. Did you see the tree house mansion used in her date with Jef? How romantic! If you want to live like Emily, they’re offering two different Bachelorette packages, starting at $1,696.