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.

Art On The Rhode: Take A Creative Vacation In Providence

New England is known for its captivating coastline and rural charm, but it is also a great retreat for artists and art lovers. Sure, big cities such as Boston have thriving art scenes, but there are several smaller-sized cities with artsy vibes throughout the region. One such place is Providence, Rhode Island, a city recently tagged “The Creative Capital” that has become a magnet for cultural action. Spend some time in Providence and you might agree the city could very well be the next Austin, Texas, or Portland, Oregon. Below are just a few of the ways you can immerse yourself in the arts while in the city.

Check Out A Gallery Show or Performance at AS220
Downtown Providence is home to AS220, a community arts center with multiple exhibitions spaces, a performance space and artist workshops spread throughout several buildings. The galleries are worth a peek, especially if you are interested in scoping out some up-and-coming talent. There is also an AS220-run bar and restaurant, Foo(d), that uses locally-sourced ingredients and has plenty of menu options for vegetarians and vegans. Adjacent to the restaurant, the organization runs a venue hosting live music most nights of the week. If you come early or a band isn’t scheduled, check out the locals-only jukebox in the restaurant for a true taste of Providence. In the summertime, AS220 puts on Foo Fest, a block party featuring music, performances, art installations and more – but year round anyone can check out great art in their public spaces or sign up for a workshop to create some art of their own.


Take a Peek Inside Nazo Lab
Crammed with sci-fi stage props, larger-than-life puppets and other bizarre creations, Nazo Lab is the workshop of a local performance art troop called Big Nazo. The lab has an “open door” policy, meaning passersby are welcome to pop in and check out what creatures the local visual artists and masked musicians, who call the lab home base, are working on. Past projects have include masks and body parts for Broadway shows and props for television commercials and Mardi Gras celebrations, while puppets made at Nazo Lab have been spotted on stage with the Flaming Lips, George Clinton and more.


Partake in a Workshop at the Steel Yard
If you’d like to pick up a new skill or hone a talent you already have, consider planning your trip around a weekend workshop at the Steel Yard. Once a contaminated industrial wasteland, the Steel Yard is now a fully functioning, community-based space focused on technical training in the industrial arts. Individuals, couples or even entire families can take classes that range from blacksmithing to jewelry making. No matter what you choose, it’s guaranteed you’ll always walk away with a unique reminder of your trip. Free public tours are also available at the site every Wednesday at noon.

Browse Art at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art
With more than 86,000 works of art that range from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces, the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design has a little something for everyone interested in the arts. Just a few of the famous names you’ll find hanging in the museum include Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Koons and Twombly. Don’t miss the enormous 12th-century Buddha, the largest historic Japanese sculpture in the United States. On Sundays, museum admission is pay-what-you-wish (normal admission is $10 for adults).

Watch WaterFire
What is WaterFire? Well, I guess it’s exactly what it sounds like. In 1994, artist Barnaby Evans began lighting bonfires that burn just above the surface of three rivers that converge in the middle of downtown providence on fire. Part performance art, part urban festival and part public art installation, the work forever transformed downtown Providence and has become known nationally and internationally. The event’s symbolism can be interpreted however you choose, but one thing is certain: with an average attendance of 40,000 people per night, everyone seems to love the spectacle. WaterFire can be seen on select Saturdays from May through October, plus some additional dates on special occasions.

Shop for Goods by Local Artists
With so many artists around, it’s natural that Providence would have a great collection of local shops, coffeehouses and restaurants. Take a stroll down Westminster Street and you’ll pass by several shops worth peeking into, including Craftland (pictured above) where you can purchase shirts, prints and jewelry by local artists. Across the street is Symposium Books, where you can check out zines made by locals (while also browsing through beautifully-bound art books, a great collection of comics and more). Near to Symposium you’ll also find Queen of Hearts, a locally owned fashion boutique where you can purchase pieces by the shop owner and designer, Karen Beebe.

Celebrate Locally Made Foods
You’ll probably be hungry after all that shopping, and what the heck – food is art, too. Take a break at Flan y Ajo (also on Westminster Street), a cute bohemian eatery with pictures of bullfighters on the walls and a pinball machine that serves up small bites in the form of tapas. As their website advertises, they only have four stools and do not take reservations, but the wait is worth it. If, instead, you’d like to talk a walk around the Rhode Island School of Art and Brown College campuses, consider first stopping at Duck and Bunny, a cozy “snuggery” with an unassuming pink facade. The white vinyl booths, lace window treatments and marble table tops will have you feeling like you stepped into Alice in Wonderland. Order afternoon tea and some finger sandwiches or go for dessert with a locally made cupcake or ice cream sundae. If the cafe sounds a little too ladylike, remember that the Duck and Bunny isn’t all soft – there’s also a beer and cigar menu. Ship Street Farmers Market (pictured at the top of the page) and other area markets also make for a great lunch option.

[All images by Libby Zay]

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.

Maxfield Parrish Retrospective At The National Museum Of American Illustration

Maxfield Parrish
He was one of the most popular illustrators of his day and his work remains immediately recognizable more than forty years after his death. Their rich, deep hues and fantastic imagery appeal to both children and adults.

Now Maxfield Parrish is being honored with a major retrospective at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. “Maxfield Parrish: The Retrospective” brings together works from his seventy-year career as an illustrator, from early illustrations of Mother Goose and Grimm’s fairy tales to his later advertising images.

One good example is this painting titled “The Dinky Bird” from 1904, seen here in this image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. It illustrated the Eugene Field poem of the same title in Field’s book “Poems of Childhood” and captures the joy, innocence and make-believe setting of that poem: “the land of Wonder-Wander, whither children love to go.” This major exhibition promises to be a land of Wonder-Wander itself.

“Maxfield Parrish: The Retrospective” runs until September 2.