4 Ways to Get Your History On in Newport, RI

With more than 300 pre-Revolutionary War buildings still standing, Newport offers a glimpse into the early days of American history. We’ve put together 4 unforgettable outings that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the past.

  1.     Explore Colonial History

Considered the birthplace of religious tolerance, Newport provided refuge for groups not welcome elsewhere because of their beliefs. Take time to admire Touro Synagogue, the oldest standing synagogue in the U.S., built in 1673 by a congregation of Jews fleeing persecution in the Inquisition. Sit in the Great Friends Meeting House (built 1699) and stroll around the Point neighborhood to see where Quakers found a home, away from persecution by New England Puritans. Then visit the Colony House (1739) where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to the townspeople, and where British troops were barracked from 1776 to 1779. Learn more about Newport’s role in the Revolution during the “Road to Independence” walking tour, one of many provided by Newport History Tours.

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  1.     Step Into The Gilded Age

During the Gilded Age, many of America’s wealthiest families were escaping the summer heat in opulent mansions in Newport. Make-believe you are a Vanderbilt or an Astor on a tour of these extravagant “summer cottages” with names like “The Breakers,” “Chateau-sur-Mer,” and “Rosecliff.” The Preservation Society of Newport County offers tours at 11 different properties. To balance out this experience imagining lives of luxury led by socialite families, take a Servant Life Tour at “The Elms.” Take a load off your feet at the Hotel Viking, where all the rooms are decorated in the style of the Gilded Age (but with modern day luxuries like LCD TVs.)

  1.    Go Sailing!

Newport was built upon maritime trade, and today remains the “sailing capital of the world.” Let the ocean breeze blow you back through the years as you take in Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay from the deck of a schooner like those used along the coast in the 19th century. The Adirondack II departs from Bowen’s Wharf, and offers a variety of tours and charters. Look for historic landmarks on a mid-day sail or begin the evening with a romantic sunset sail. Alternatively, experienced sailors can venture out on their own, and adventurous novices can take sailing lessons.  The Victorian Chanler at Cliff Walk has breathtaking ocean views, so you can wake up to the smell of the sea.

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  1.     Drink up, me hearties! Yo-ho! 

What’s the dark side of life on the sea? Pirates! Around the turn of the 18th century, Newport was a notorious center of piracy, as well as the rum capital of the world, with 22 distilleries. Make a visit to Newport Distilling Company to sample Thomas Tew Rum, named after the city’s most infamous pirate. Tour the distillery to learn about the authentic blackstrap molasses and pot still methods used to recreate the world famous rum from 250 years ago. Afterwards, do a rum tasting or have a Dark and Stormy cocktail.

Even if prices for a Newport night are high, its definitely worth a visit this summer.

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