by Deb Cohen
Have you ever considered going to Newport, RI in the winter? Normally Newport conjures up images of sun, surf and sailing in Narragansett Bay. However, there is something to be said for visiting a major summer tourist destination in the off-season.
For the last two years we have visited Newport shortly after Christmas. The first time we weren’t sure what to expect, but after a wonderful day decided to make it an annual tradition.
1 – No bumper to bumper traffic! No throngs of people! From being able to easily cross the Claiborne Pell Bridge into Newport without getting stuck at the exit ramp to cruising down America’s Cup Avenue at the regular speed limit, it’s a treat to be in Newport without the thousands of other people that come in the summer.
2 – Although clam chowder is delicious in the summer, I can assure you it’s even more so in the winter! Nothing like a cup or bowl of steaming clam chowder at The Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf. While the outdoor seating and bar are bustling in the summer, it’s nice and cozy inside in the winter.
3 – There’s nothing quite like traditional colonial homes decked out for the holidays. Garlands and wreaths of fresh greenery highlighted by fruit, ribbons and other accents create a festive ambiance and are something special to see as you walk the narrow Newport streets.
4 – Lights, lights and more lights. Adorning storefronts, homes, trees and even the occasional boat in the harbor. As the sun goes down Newport starts to twinkle in the crisp, cold air. The entire city uses white lights instead of colored lights to create a uniform look throughout all of downtown.
5 – The sea. It may sound strange to go see the sea (see what I did there?) in winter, but the New England coastline is different in every season. A favorite thing to do is cruise along Ocean Drive with its views of the beaches, surf and of course a number of large estates. Hop out along the way and listen to the crashing surf.
6 – Everyone has heard of Newport’s gilded age mansions lining Bellevue Avenue. In recent years, visiting them in the warm summer months has become increasingly difficult. The crowds are massive, and the only tours available are of the headphone variety. Take advantage of the slow winter months for a guide-led tour which is a much more satisfying way to see these incredible homes.
7 – Off-season hotel rates and other prices are cheaper. What better reason to spend a night or a weekend away in the winter? For those of us who don’t ski or snowboard, it’s still nice to have a change of scenery. Is there a traditional summer place near you that you like to visit in the winter? Would love to hear about your favorite spot.
– Deb Cohen runs the popular website TheFrontDoorProject