The City-by-the-Sea may be known as a yatching capital and a summer playground for the wealthy, but there are also plenty of things to do in Newport RI in winter. In fact, Christmas in Newport is a month-long celebration of the non-commercial traditions of the holiday season. From the white lights that illuminate the buildings, representing candlelight from bygone days; to a series of holiday events; and especially Christmas at the Newport Mansions, winter can be a lovely time to visit Newport.

Even though we live only 45 minutes away, winter can be so busy or so cold that we rarely make the drive down to Newport, Rhode Island. But this year, with December weather being downright balmy, we finally took the time to satisfy my wish of visiting the Newport Mansions at Christmas.

Newport Mansions at Christmas

Things to do in Newport RI in Winter

  1. Ice skating at Newport Skating Center — we started our day with some outdoor ice skating at the Newport Skating Center. It was cold enough to put us in the mood for skating, but not cold enough to freeze our toes. The most enjoyable part about ice skating in Newport was that it wasn’t crowded. I can’t think of when I’ve been to an outdoor rink when I haven’t had to deal with lines and crowds that make my lack of skating ability even more apparent. Things to do in Newport RI in winter: ice skating at the Newport Skating CenterThe Newport Skating Center is located at 4 Commercial Wharf (where the summer concerts are held) in downtown Newport. They are open Monday-Thursday from 5-9pm, Saturday 10am-9pm, and Sunday 12-5pm. During Christmas vacation and holiday weekends, they are open Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm and Sunday 12-5pm. Skate admission is valid for up to three hours. Tickets are $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for children 3-11. Skate rentals are available for $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for children. Cones are also available to help support beginner skaters. I’d always check the website for current information.Things to do in Newport Rhode Island in winter: ice skating at the Newport Skating Center
  2. Newport Mansions at Christmas — Three of the Newport Mansions are decorated for Christmas — The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House. Each of these National Historic Landmarks are filled with thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers and evergreens from Saturday, November 21, 2015 through Sunday, January 3, 2016 (check the website for future schedules.) A total of 24 decorated Christmas trees are placed throughout the homes and dining tables are set with period silver and china as if waiting for Christmas dinner. In the Breakers, you can find a working garden scale model of the Vanderbilt family’s New York Central Railroad, which travels through a village of gingerbread Newport Mansion replicas. The Elms hosts a Victorian streetscape scene in the ballroom, complete with sleighs and mannequins dressed in period costumes. Christmas at the Newport Mansions -- Marble House staircaseSince we have been to The Breakers many times, we decided to tour Marble House, which was hosting a local garden club competition, in which eight garden clubs created mantelpiece decorations on the second floor fireplaces, based on each room’s decor.  Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, Marble House is simply stunning, utilizing over 500,000 cubic feet of marble costing $7 million back in 1888 when construction started. The summer house was built for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the  family’s fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad.When touring, you have the option of using an included audio tour, which takes about 45 minutes to complete. Christmas at the Newport Mansions -- Marble House staircaseI was disappointed that we weren’t able to photograph anything inside except the tree in the main hall, but I enjoyed the fact that you were able to tour the kitchen. Ever since the introduction of Downton Abbey, I have a greater fascination with how things look and operate “downstairs.” The Breakers and The Elms open daily at 9 am, Marble House opens at 10 am. The last tour admission at all three houses is at 4 pm, and the houses & grounds close at 5 pm.  There are also a number of evening events at the mansions, with live holiday music and light refreshments, so check the schedule for current details.
  3. Newport Winter Festival — From February 12-21, 2016, the Newport Winter Festival offers 10 days of music, food and fun. Touted as “New England’s Largest Winter Extravaganza,” the theme of the 28th Annual Newport Winter Festival is “May the Frost be with you” (how appropriate!) The Festival features over 150 events, combining food, festivities, music, and fun for all ages including the Children’s Fair, Chili Cook-Off, Princess Party and concerts by the Jimmy Buffett tribute band, Changes in Latitude. Tickets for Winterfest are available for $10 per person.
  4. Lantern Tour of Colonial Newport — The Newport Historical Society offers group walking tours, including a lantern-lit tour of the exquisitely preserved neighborhoods of Newport’s Historic Hill, transporting visitors back in time. Each tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and are offered year-round. Tours are by reservation only and can be booked by calling 401-841-8770. Special tours will also be offered during the Winter Festival and are available for $15 a person, $12 with a Newport Winter Festival button, $10 with button for repeat tour guests and $10 for Newport Historical Society members.Christmas in Newport RI
  5. Visit Museums — It can get very windy down in Newport, so if you need to get in out of the cold, there are two museums to visit on your way to explore the mansions. The Audrain Automobile Museum is fairly new, and houses 112 of the rarest and most remarkable vehicles in history, featuring fully restored vehicles ranging from the beginning of the 20th Century to modern day. The Museum is located at 222 Bellevue Avenue and is open daily from 10am-4pm. Just next door at 194 Bellevue Avenue is the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum was renovated in 2015 to feature more of the collection and to be highly interactive, including a tennis culture touch table, video highlights of great matches, a tennis globe featuring news and updates from around the world and a hologram of 17-time major champion Roger Federer. The Museum is open from 10am-5pm and tickets are $15 for adults, and kids 16 and under are free.Christmas in Newport RI
  6. Save the Bay Seal Watch Tours — On weekends and public school holidays from November 14, 2015- April 24, 2016, Save the Bay operates Seal Watch Tours, departing from Bowen’s Wharf. They motor through historic Newport Harbor for excellent views of seals resting on Citing Rock off of Rose Island and the Newport Bridge. One-hour seal tours are entirely boat-based, while two-hour tours include a tour of Rose Island Lighthouse. One-hour tours are $22 for adults, $17 for children 3-12; two-hour tours are $42 for adults and $32 for children 3-12.
  7. Christmas in Newport Events — For the month of December, Christmas in Newport hosts daily events including tree lightings, Polar Express train rides, historical tours, shopping strolls, concerts and dances, Victorian-era Christmas festivities, culinary fêtes, arts and cultural celebrations and more. Plus, you can stop into the Newport Visitors’ Center for a photo opportunity with a 16 foot working lighthouse made out of gingerbread! Be sure to check the website for current events.Newport gingerbread lighthouse

After all that exploring of Newport RI in winter, you are bound to work up an appetite and want to warm up inside. Here are two of my favorite winter warm-up stops in Newport:

The Black Pearl — The Black Pearl is good for all seasons. In the summer you can sit outside on the wharf and enjoy seafood with a view. But in the winter, you can step inside the cozy tavern for a piping hot bowl of, what some say is the best, New England Clam Chowder. You can’t miss The Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf in Newport.Where to eat in Newport RI in winter : Black Pearl clam chowder

The White Horse Tavern — Serving hungry Newporters since 1673, this historic tavern is claimed to be America’s Oldest Restaurant. I love The White Horse Tavern in winter because of its wood-burning fireplace and cozy setting. They serve up classic fare, like Beef Wellington and Scotch Eggs wrapped in duck sausage. The White Horse Tavern is located at 26 Marlborough St in Newport. Reservations are recommended (request the room with the fireplace) and country club or business casual attire is expected.Where to eat in Newport RI in winter: Beef wellington Whitehorse tavern

For more ideas, you can always check the Discover Newport website.


Things to do in Newport RI in winter

Do you have any suggestions to add on things to do in Newport Rhode Island in winter?

Note: My tickets to the Newport Skating Center and Marble House were hosted by Discover Newport, all opinions are my own.