How to Spend a Fabulous Holiday Weekend in Newport, Rhode Island

Boston’s little sister to the south is defining festive this season.

The exterior of an elegant mansion and the lawn in front of it are illuminated in strings of different colored Christmas lights.

The Breakers, a Newport mansion, is illuminated for the holiday season. / Photo by Dave Hansen/The Preservation Society of Newport County

You can enjoy the best parts of the holidays this month without the urban chaos. Escape the Hub with a quick jaunt to Newport, Rhode Island, where its classic coast will soothe you.  A 90-minute drive lands you in the City by the Sea with all its seasonal splendor—think twinkly lights, holiday gallery nights, Santa sightings, hot toddies by the fire pit, and charming boutiques offering shopping specials so you can tackle everyone on your list.

Read on for recommendations on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do on a quick holiday-season getaway, whether you’re looking for a luxe experience or something a little more casual.

This guide was published on December 8, 2022; watch for updates for future holiday seasons.

Where to stay

Lodging options abound in Newport and neighboring Middletown and Portsmouth, including hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnb/VRBO options. While rooms fill quickly year round, you can find a last-minute deal this season if you’re on the hunt.

Book a luxe suite at the Vanderbilt, the historic downtown mansion that channels Gatsby in his heyday. With velvet lounges that invite you to enjoy a cocktail or an indulgent fireside feast, the space oozes with modern elegance around every corner. If you find its subterranean spa downstairs, you may be tempted to never leave the building.

The less expensive but no less lavish Francis Malbone House is a quaint downtown mansion inn that is a stone’s throw from Newport Harbor and the city’s nightlife. The innkeepers can spin local tales and then direct your day’s escapades while serving a delicious house-made breakfast or afternoon tea. Four-poster beds and fireplaces keep you comfy at night.

An elegant music room in a fancy mansion is decorated for Christmas and features a grand piano.

Holiday decorations in the music room at the Breakers, a Newport mansion. / Photo by Dave Hansen/The Preservation Society of Newport County

Where to play

You will be rewarded when you venture out. Walk if you’re able; parking can be hard to find. But once you do find it, it’s free November through April.

Wander to Bowen’s Wharf and gaze at the 40-plus-foot Christmas tree while shopping for treats and letting your kids (if you have them) climb up the gigantic anchor. Learn the history of early American holiday traditions on a Newport Historical Society holiday lantern tour. Then stop by the Newport Marriott lobby to see the city’s largest gingerbread house: a 16-foot working lighthouse and 7-foot keeper’s cottage (don’t forget to bring a can of non-perishable food for donation!).

Explore three 19th-century Newport Mansions bedecked in garlands, poinsettias, and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, including a half-mile-long path through the Breakers’ gardens that are illuminated in thousands of colored lights.

Head to Aquidneck Island’s two wineries for a dose of Christmas cheer. Wear your ugly sweater for a chance to win prizes at Newport Vineyards’ Holiday Extravaganza on December 9 while enjoying live music, festive food stations, and a hot cocoa bar near the fire pits. Santa will visit too! Pastoral Greenvale Vineyards hosts its “Deck the Halls” Gallery Night on December 16, where you can sip its wine and nibble charcuterie while enjoying live music, fire pits, and local artists’ work.

Where to shop

The holiday spirit has overtaken the Kiel James Patrick boutique, where sparkling trees and holiday gear enchant every customer. The “ugly sweater” has no place here—only its Cozy Cabin sweaters, winter flannels, and socks.

You could spend all afternoon strolling Bellevue Avenue and its charming shops. Try X&O Boutique or Michael Hayes to find a little luxe for your New Year’s Eve party, or Kristen Coates Gallery for a piece of local art for your wall.

Two coffee drinks in plastic to-go cups sit on a counter with yellow flowers in the background.

A peppermint mocha latte and a gingerbread latte, each made with nitro cold brew, at the Nitro Bar. / Photo by Makena Gera

Where to eat

Broadway is replete with dining options, so start there if you plan to eat your way around Newport. The Pond Avenue location of the Nitro Bar is just a block from the main Broadway drag; its cold brew (ask for it “Nitro style”) and breakfast sammie will give you a much-needed jumpstart. Or grab a sunny window seat at Corner Café to relish in its omelet, eggs Benny, or Fritzy’s Irish Fry Up.

If the weather is fine, grab an al fresco table at Caleb & Broad, where propane heaters fend off the December chill. Come for Saturday dinner, where bar snacks like pretzel sticks and fried green beans in a zesty remoulade tempt your palate, but we all know it’s the sushi burrito that will stick to your ribs. Next door, order a whiskey from the vast selection at Malt Irish pub. The fish and chips aren’t served in paper, but they’re so authentic they should be. Across the street, grab a bar seat at the Fifth Element, which is bedecked in ornaments and cheer. Order lamb poutine and spinach balls as appetizers, plus the pizza of the moment and the beloved sticky toffee pudding. Sunday brunch is great here, too.

Brick Alley Pub is a classic for a reason. The two-story restaurant is in a building with myriad skeletons in the closet, and its walls and ceilings are covered in memorabilia from decades of community events. Its menu is eight pages of pub-style comfort food, and you can’t go wrong with the half-pound burger or heaping nachos.

A romantic dinner for two is also within reach. Visit Restaurant Bouchard for fine French cuisine, including filet de boeuf “en tranche,” and when they ask if you’d like to order the Grand Marnier souffle in advance, say yes. Or take a sunset drive with your honey along the famed Ocean Drive before your lavishly comforting meal at OceanCliff’s Safari Room restaurant.

A bonus day

If you have two nights, arrive Friday afternoon and stop in Portsmouth on your way into town for some shopping and sustenance. (You might miss this town if you blink, so we recommend not blinking!) Visit the darling Cory Farms Past & Presents for curated gifts from here and abroad that add a touch of stylish whimsy to your home and table, or head to Stalise Boutique for a new holiday outfit. Then savor a pint of farm-brewed beer at Ragged Island Brewing, and catch one of the rotating food trucks.

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