Newport is known as one of the top summer destinations in New England, but did you know that it also makes for an incredible winter getaway?
The City by the Sea really knows how to celebrate the very best parts of winter! Kicking off the season with some of the most exciting Christmas celebrations in the region, it continues to embrace the chilly months ahead with endless activities, events and ways to stay cozy. This post is all about the very best things to do in Newport, RI in the winter season, so let’s begin!
This post is in partnership with Discover Newport. As always, all opinions are my own.
Is Newport, RI Worth Visiting In The Winter?
Absolutely! In fact, winter has quickly become one of my favorite seasons to visit.
It perfectly balances a rejuvenating visit to the ocean with so many opportunities to cozy up by a fire and relax. Between the festive holiday events, igloo dining opportunities, ice skating with a view, amazing museums to tour, and of course, far fewer crowds, this may be the perfect season for your next visit.
Best Things To Do In Newport, RI In December
Since Newport pulls out all the stops for a festive holiday season, I wanted to dedicate an entire section that will help you celebrate your best Christmas yet. Here are all the most wonderful things to do in Newport, RI in December.
1. Experience Christmas In Newport’s Festivities
Of course, one of the best things to do in Newport this time of the year is to experience the Christmas in Newport celebrations.
The original intention behind the Christmas in Newport events was to remind everyone about the true meaning of Christmas, and also to bring together the community. Since 1971 when Christmas in Newport began, it was declared that all events were free for everyone to attend, and each event must benefit a non-profit charity. If that doesn’t ignite your Christmas sprit, I’m not sure what will.
During Christmas in Newport, you’ll be able to enjoy thousands of twinkle lights hung all over downtown to recreate the warm glow of candlelight, doorway decorating contests, house tours by candlelight, craft fairs, concerts and tons more. It’ll be a challenge to not find a festive event going on throughout December.
2. Attend The Annual Tree Lighting At Bowen’s Wharf
One of the most beautiful trees in downtown Newport is at Bowen’s Wharf, and everyone is welcome to attend the annual tree lighting, typically held on the first Saturday in December.
During this tree lighting tradition, the day will start off in the best possible way – with a visit from Santa, of course! As the rest of the day unfolds, you’ll enjoy concerts and choir performances before the main event at 6 p.m.
Since everyone’s in such a festive mood on tree lighting day, many of the businesses and restaurants will stay open, offering seasonal flavors and goodies that are the perfect accompaniment for this magical evening.
3. Be Dazzled By The Illuminated Boat Parade
Okay, so this event is often in November, but since it takes place after Thanksgiving, that’s technically December, right? 🙂
A great way to make the transition from Turkey Day to Christmas is to head down to the water and enjoy the Illuminated Boat Parade. During the event, boats glowing with twinkle lights will make their way around the harbor for a very festive display along Bannister and Bowen’s Wharves.
Pro Tip: Since this event is part of Christmas in Newport, it’s completely free for all to attend. Organizers encourage everyone who enjoys the parade to bring some non-perishable food items to donate to the local community center, which are collected at the Newport Yacht Club. This is such a great way to celebrate the season, and give back to the local community!
4. Enjoy The Gorgeous & Festive Decorations Downtown
Newport truly transforms into a beautiful Christmas wonderland at Christmas, and not only will you find everything illuminated with lights, you’ll see garlands and wreaths strung along storefront windows, and houses showcasing their holiday best.
While visiting Newport in the winter, I highly suggest you carve out some time to simply wander and marvel at all the beautiful decorations. I especially love the historic parts of Newport (which, honestly, is most of the city), but if you walk along Spring Street, which runs parallel to the water, all those side streets are packed with historic homes that are perfectly decorated at Christmas.
But really, anywhere you choose to wander around Newport in December will be gorgeous.
5. See The Mansions In Their Holiday Best
The Gilded Age mansions in Newport are one of the best things to do year-round, but at Christmas? Well, they become simply magical.
The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are the three most popular mansions to experience, and each of them are dressed up in their holiday best throughout December. If you can only do one, I would suggest The Breakers. Not only will you feel like you’ve stepped back into time with the gorgeous decorations, The Breakers also has stunning light displays throughout their grounds.
During your tour inside The Breakers, each room will be decorated with trees and garlands, and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back into the most perfect Victorian Christmas. Afterward, you’re treated to the festive light displays through the grounds with holiday music, light tunnels, an illumined selfie station and places to buy festive drinks and comforting snacks to enjoy while you stroll under the lights.
Pro Tip: The mansions are typically decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving, and continue with holiday tours until the New Year. There are also certain weekdays that the Sparkling Lights display at The Breakers does not operate, so be sure to check the calendar here before buying your tickets.
6. Take In A Newport Nutcracker At Rosecliff Mansion
For an extra special performance of this time-honored ballet, you’ll want to snatch up tickets to A Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff Mansion. Featuring dancers from the Island Movement Company, this won’t be like any other Nutcracker performance you’ve ever seen.
Not only will the iconic music instantly put you in the Christmas spirit, scenes from the ballet take place in different rooms of the Victorian mansion, including at the bottom of the grand staircase. It truly feels like you’re looking in on the story as it unfolds on Christmas Eve night.
7. Have A Festive Winter Afternoon Tea At Blithewold
For a truly scrumptious way to celebrate the holidays, one of the best things to do in Newport, RI in December is to enjoy afternoon tea service at Blithewold. This beautiful estate hosts a traditional afternoon tea service in their dining room and porch, and features delicious offerings such as freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, trays of bite-sized goodies, and of course – tea.
This is a popular experience to have in Newport, so I recommend you book as early as possible.
Pro Tip: Afternoon tea at Blithewold runs from Thanksgiving weekend through December 31. Tickets include admission to the mansion, as well as the grounds, so be sure to plan extra time to experience both.
8. Learn The Local History On A Holiday Lantern Walking Tour
One of the coolest ways to imagine what the holidays were like throughout the city’s fascinating history is by a Holiday Lantern Walking Tour.
Led by an expert guide and lantern light, the tour begins at dusk at the Museum of Newport History and tells stories of how the early settlers of Newport celebrated Christmas, including holiday traditions, and maybe even how some didn’t celebrate Christmas. This is an especially wonderful experience for history buffs, but appeals to everyone of all ages.
Pro Tip: Holiday Lantern Tours are held from mid-November through the end of December. Be sure to check their schedule by clicking here!
Bonus Holiday Suggestion: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas History
Clement Clarke Moore, writer of the celebrated holiday poem, Twas The Night Before Christmas, has history right here in Newport! While it’s said that he wrote this poem while living in New York City, he purchased a house in Newport after retiring from teaching. This desk belonged to him, and is now on display at the Newport Historical Society.
While visiting the Newport Historical Society during the holidays, be sure to look out for this amazing little book, which makes for a wonderful Christmas gift. Canadian writer Pamela McColl, dives into the history of the poem in her book, Twas The Night. For anyone who loves Christmas and history, this is such a treasured piece of art that’s a joy to read.
Pro Tip: There’s a suggested donation of $5 per person to tour the Newport Historical Society Museum, which can be found above the gift shop. I highly encourage donating whatever you can to keep history alive in Newport.
Best Things To Do In Newport, RI In The Winter
Now that you’re filled in on all the festive happenings of the holiday season, let’s jump into all the wonderful activities that Newport has in store for you once New Year’s is over. Here’s a list of all the best things to do in Newport, RI in the winter.
9. Dine In A Cozy Igloo
Just because you’re visiting Newport in the winter doesn’t mean that dining al fresco has come to an end. Through the chilly months, reserve your own private outdoor (but heated!) igloo, where you can settle in for a cozy lunch or dinner. These are offered both through the month of December, and into the winter.
There are two wonderful places that offer igloo dining in Newport:
- Newport Harbor Island Resort
- The Reef
Both locations offer decorated igloos and beautiful views of Narragansett Bay. During your dining experience, you’ll have an array of food and drink options to choose from, including seasonal cocktails.
Pro Tip: Reservations for both igloo locations can be made online via OpenTable, and reservations are required for both. For an extra special experience, time your visit just right with sunset for the perfect view, and then enjoy post-dinner cocktails under the glow of the twinkle lights.
10. Enjoy The Best Of Newport Without The Crowds
One of the best things about visiting Newport in the winter season is that you’ll hardly experience any crowds, making some of the top sites in the city very peaceful.
Walk through Bowen’s Wharf and along the harbor, pop into the shops on Thames Street, cruise along Ocean Drive, see Castle Hill Lighthouse, and feel rejuvenated by a relaxing walk on the beach. While all these things are amazing year-round, the winter season is a unique experience because you’ll likely only run into locals.
11. Take A Brisk Stroll Along Cliff Walk
My personal favorite thing to do in Newport is Cliff Walk, and it’s equally as wonderful in the winter season. It’s such a great feeling to feel invigorated by the smell of salty air on the short days of winter, and the Cliff Walk is my favorite place in Newport to recharge on a chilly day.
If you’ve never been to Newport before, and aren’t familiar with Cliff Walk, it’s a stunning 3.5-mile paved pedestrian path that follow’s the ocean’s edge, and offers some of the most stunning coastline views in Newport. You’ll also sneak glimpses of some of the mansions along the way, too.
Pro Tip: Exploring Cliff Walk with a hot chocolate in hand is always a good idea. Scroll down to No. 14 on this list to see how you can make that happen.
12. Ice Skate With The Best View
One of the absolute best places to lace up your skates in New England is the ice rink at the Newport Harbor Island Resort. The resort turns its lawn into a scene from a snow globe in the winter, and while skating on the ice, you’ll get to take in stunning views of the Newport Bridge, Goat Island Lighthouse and a gorgeous sunset. This is another activity that’s also open in December, but continues through winter.
Don’t have your own skates? No problem! Rentals are available at the rink!
Pro Tip: The Harbor Island Resort is also one of the destinations for igloo dining mentioned above, so during your visit, be sure to allow some extra time for a scenic skate around the rink. The rink opens around Thanksgiving each year, and closes at the end of February.
13. Experience The Newport Winter Festival
If you’re planning a winter trip to Newport, you may want to plan it around the Newport Winter Festival, which happens every year in mid-February. Regarded as one of the biggest winter festivals in New England, there are so many ways to celebrate what winter is all about during this event.
Wintery things like ice sculptures and comfort food cook-off’s are, of course, front and center at this festival. But there are plenty of events happening indoors, too, to take your mind off the chilly weather. Comedy shows, children’s events and concerts are all part of the fun.
14. Sip On Hot Cocoa Creations At The Chanler At Cliff Walk
One of the best parts of winter is sipping on hot cocoa, am I right? Well, at The Chanler at Cliff Walk, you can pay a visit to their Hot Chocolate Bar for specialty creations.
But these aren’t your average cups of hot chocolate. They’re made using only the finest milk and dark chocolates available, and are topped with a pile of marshmallows and crunchy chocolates for the ultimate tasting experience. And since The Chanler is a gorgeous mansion-turned-upscale hotel, the atmosphere is the perfect cure for a cold day.
For those over 21, there are also alcohol add-on’s to make an even extra special cup of cocoa.
Pro Tip: The Hot Chocolate Bar is open on weekends only starting after Thanksgiving through mid-late December. After a quick break, it resumes again mid-February just in time for Valentine’s Day, and ends around mid-April. Hot cocoa is available to-go, and I highly suggest grabbing one for your brisk stroll along Cliff Walk to savor the flavors of winter. The Chanler is located right at the start of Cliff Walk, so there’s no reason to pass it up.
15. Dive Into The Incredible Culinary Scene With A Newport Winter Foodies Stroll
Newport is actually one of the best cities in New England for foodies year-round, but in the winter, you can dive in even more during the Newport Winter Foodies Stroll.
On Friday and Saturday nights starting in early February, Newport Foodies Stroll creates a special winter version of their food tour through the city that highlights the flavors of the season. During your evening on the tour, you’ll enjoy gourmet courses at three of Newport’s best restaurants, each with a special wine pairing. Let by an expert guide, every tour is small to ensure a cozy atmosphere, and you’ll get stories of Newport’s history along the way.
16. Get Pampered At The Bodhi Spa
Let’s face it, winter is often times all about settling in for some self care, and Newport is home to one of New England’s best hydrotherapy spas.
Never tried hydrotherapy? Then you’re in for a treat. This form of therapy uses water in varying temperatures (yes, including cold!) to stimulate your circulatory system and detoxify your body. And since Bodhi designed its hydrotherapy spa to quiet the mind, this is also a wonderful opportunity to rest your brain.
Even if hydrotherapy isn’t your thing, Bodhi Spa also offers traditional services like massage and facials for the ultimate day of pampering and relaxation. After your treatment, sweat out even more toxins in their eucalyptus steam room before heading back into the world feeling re-centered and rejuvenated.
17. Tour The Local Museums (Including The Mansions!)
Newport is simply packed with incredible history and art, and if the weather is a bit too chilly for your liking, one of the best things to do in the winter is spend the day indoors learning about the city’s past.
Of course, the top historical sites to see would be the mansions that have been mentioned throughout this post. While seeing the mansions in their holiday decorations is definitely a unique experience, it’s just as exciting to see them year-round.
The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are the best ones for first-time visitors to experience, and once you’re inside, your jaw will drop when you take in the fact that these were considered “summer cottages” for the original owners. And since The Breakers and Marble House were once owned by the Vanderbilt family, they come with a fascinating history.
Some other wonderful museums to tour in and around Newport are:
- International Tennis Hall of Fame
- Newport Art Museum
- The Sailing Museum
- Bristol Art Museum
- Newport Car Museum
Bonus Suggestion: Visit The Redwood Library
For lovers of all things literary (and being a bookworm myself, this is one of my personal favorites in Newport), you have to visit the Redwood Library. This library dates back to the 1740’s, and is the oldest lending library in the entire country. Famed writers Edith Wharton and Henry James were once members.
Admiring Redwood Library’s stunning Grecian architecture is worth a stop along Bellevue Avenue, but I highly encourage you to head inside to take in the antique artwork, sculptures and rare books.
Pro Tip: Before your visit, be sure to download the self-guided audio tour so you don’t miss key highlights points about the library. Click here to download the audio tour!
18. Take A Seal Watch Tour With Save The Bay
While most boat tours around New England end once the holidays roll around, you still have a chance to get out onto the water in the winter season in Newport with a Seal Watch Tour! Hosted by Save The Bay, you’ll cruise over to Citing Rock, a known sun-bathing destination for the local seals. Often times, you’ll also spot them swimming in the water along the way.
Since you’ll also get pretty close to Newport Bridge and Rose Island, you’ll want to make sure you have your camera ready to snap some beautiful photos of the views.
This tour also provides binoculars for everyone aboard, so that’s one thing you won’t have to bring with you.
Pro Tip: This tour runs December through April, making it a wonderful winter activity. Be sure to bundle up, as it’s always chillier out on the water than it is on the mainland.
19. Take In A Show At The Jane Pickens Theater
Built in the 1830’s, and named after one of Rhode Island’s most famous entertainers and philanthropists, this theater will transport you back in time in the best possible way. While it shows new release movies, it also features old cinema classics, holiday favorites and hosts live performances throughout the year.
During the Christmas season, you can have a night at the theater with movies like Elf and The Santa Clause. During the rest of the winter season, you’ll want to check out the schedule to snatch up tickets to events like art exhibitions, concerts and theater productions.
Things To Do Near Newport In The Winter
20. Taste The Local Seasonal Brews
One of the best things to do near Newport, RI in the winter is to savor the flavors of the season, which also includes the locally-crafted beers.
Just a short drive from downtown Newport, and you’ll find quite a few amazing breweries to choose from to sample some of their winter beers. Here are a few of my favorites to checkout:
- Rejects Brewery in Middletown – They also have an outdoor area that’s open in the winter with fire pits.
- Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling right in Newport – They offer brewery tours and tastings of their beers and rum.
- Twelve Guns Brewing in Bristol – Great beers with an awesome outdoor section that opens in the winter (weather permitting).
- Tilted Barn Brewing in Exeter – One of my favorites in New England! They have an expansive outdoor area with fire pits in the winter, as well as a cozy indoor tasting room.
21. Hike With Goats At Simmons Farm
If you’re one to fall prey to the winter blues, I guarantee you that a hike with a goat at Simmons Farm is the cure. Located in Middletown, and only a quick 10-15 minute drive from downtown Newport, you can hike with a goat from the farm, and wonder why you never did it sooner.
Each participant gets a goat on a leash as their buddy while hiking through the gorgeous farmlands. Be sure to bring a camera, too, because the views from the farm are beautiful (you’ll even see Narragansett Bay from the highest point on the property).
Pro Tip: Simmons Farm also offers gift certificates, so if you’re looking for a unique and fun gift for someone, a gift certificate for a goat hike would be a great idea! This is also a great date night idea.
Bonus Suggestion: Take advantage of all the amazing things to see and do at Simmons Farm!
There’s actually so much more to do than goat hikes at Simmons Farm, and while that’s definitely a highlight, I encourage you to check out everything they have to offer in the winter season.
Some other really fun things in store for you at Simmons Farm in the winter season are mozzarella cheese-making classes, the petting zoo and s’more hayrides. On your way out, stop by their farm stand for their own foods like fresh eggs, cheeses and veggies. If you can, make a whole afternoon of visiting the farm – you won’t regret it.
22. Snack On S’mores By The Fire At Blithewold
For a cozy afternoon outdoors with incredible views of Narragansett Bay, you’ll want to make a reservation for the Cozy Fires and Tasty Treats event at Blithewold. This is the same estate that hosts holiday afternoon tea in December, and they’re back with another cozy experience to celebrate the winter season.
Blithewold sets up fire pits and chairs overlooking their Great Lawn, and provides you with all the fixin’s for s’mores, including marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. All you need to do is bundle up, bring the roasting sticks and your appetite, and prepare for a lovely winter afternoon outdoors.
After you’re all s’mored out, be sure to take advantage of the beautiful grounds at the estate. Since your reservation includes access to the grounds, you’ll want to budget time for a stroll to take in beautiful views of the water, and enjoy a peaceful atmosphere on the lawn.
Pro Tip: This event is held every other Saturday starting at the end of January, through early April. Click here for more info!
Cozy Places To Stay In Newport For A Winter Getaway
The best thing about visiting Newport in the winter? The prices at hotels! Not only can you find some amazing off-season rates, many of the Newport hotels are so cozy, there’s a chance you may never want to leave your room. Here are my picks for the best places to stay in Newport in the winter.
All-Around Best Cozy Stay In The Winter: The Chart House Inn
For the ultimate cozy, winter getaway in Newport, I highly recommend the Chart House Inn. Not only is the location in the historic district perfect and walkable to downtown, each room perfectly balances updated style and classic New England charm.
Amenities that are included with your stay at the Chart House Inn:
- Gourmet hot breakfast, which includes selections like house-baked biscuits, quiche, smoked salmon toast and yogurt parfaits.
- Private, off-street parking.
- Afternoon wine and tea offerings.
- Gorgeous common areas for winter snuggling
- Options to arrange in-room massages.
- Reservation privileges at their sister Stoneacre restaurants.
Pro Tip: Each room at the Chart House Inn is named after inspiring women throughout Rhode Island’s history, so be sure to get to know the name behind your room during your stay.
Best Luxury Splurge: Castle Hill Inn
Castle Hill Inn in Newport is famous for having one of the best waterfront locations in the city. During your stay at the luxurious hotel in the winter, you’ll find these amazing amenities:
- One of the best waterfront views just steps from your door.
- Luxuriously-appointed rooms and bedding.
- On-site dining options.
- In the winter, enjoy s’mores by the fire on their famous lawn.
- On-site spa.
- A short walk to Castle Hill Lighthouse.
Best Winter Resort: The Newport Harbor Island Resort
Remember those awesome igloos I mentioned earlier? Well, you can book a stay right at the hotel where the igloos are located! Just steps from your room, you’ll enjoy access to some of the best winter amenities on Goat Island, including the cozy igloos for lunch or dinner, and the outdoor skating rink.
Other amenities here include:
- Sleek and modern rooms, many of which come with water views.
- An on-site spa.
- The best views of Goat Island Lighthouse and Newport Bridge just outside your door.
- An indoor restaurant for a more traditional dining experience.
Best Winter Budget Option: Serenity Inn Newport
A very cozy and traditionally New England-style inn, Serenity Inn offers everything you need for a winter getaway on a budget, including walkability to downtown and complimentary breakfast.
Other amenities include:
- Charming rooms.
- Complimentary parking.
- Options for in-room massages.
Best Places To Eat In Newport In The Winter
In addition to the festive igloo dining options and afternoon tea service at Blithewold, there are some other great options that are especially cozy in the winter season in Newport.
Annie’s – A charming little diner that serves breakfast all day. But the best part? During the holiday season, they string hundreds of ornaments from their ceiling for an instagram-worthy experience. Decorations aside, you’ll find delicious comfort-food favorites here for the perfect breakfast or lunch on a cold winter’s day. They actually serve one of my all-time favorite soups I’ve ever had – their lobster chowder bisque.
White Horse Tavern – America’s oldest tavern is right here in Newport, and you’ll feel the history as soon as you step foot inside.
To me, there’s no better place to eat on a chilly winter’s night than in a warm, inviting and historic tavern. The food here is amazing, and the menu features incredible offerings of traditional New England-style seafood dishes, and other hearty favorites like Beef Wellington. If you’re lucky, you may even get seated by the fireplace.
Clarke Cook House – Located downtown at Bannister’s Wharf, this place feel more like dining at a friend’s cozy house than at an actual restaurant. In the winter, be sure to get their Snowball in Hell dessert (a house specialty), and consider ordering from their special winter sushi menu. But don’t worry, you’ll find all the traditional New England favorites here, too.
Sardella’s – For the perfect night of Italian favorites, you’ll want to head to Sardella’s. Not only do they have a fireplace in their dining room, the restaurant just feels especially homey on a cold winter’s night. And nothing warms you up quite like pizza, pasta and wine, right?
You may also enjoy reading:
- Best New England Winter Getaways (Even For Non-Skiers!)
- Newport, RI Day Trip Travel Guide
- Things To Do On Cape Cod In The Winter
- Things To Do In Vermont In The Winter
- Things To Do In New Hampshire In The Winter
- Things To Do In Maine In The Winter
- Things To Do In Portland, Maine In The Winter
That’s A Wrap On Things To Do In Newport, RI In The Winter
After reading about all the amazing things to do in Newport, RI in the winter, I’m hoping you’ve added a cozy getaway to the City by the Sea to your plans for the chilly months ahead. Whether you’re excited to celebrate the holidays in style, tour the stunning mansions, or just have a peaceful retreat in a historic inn, one thing’s for sure – it’ll be a getaway you won’t soon forget.