15 Most Festive Things to Do in Newport RI in the Winter

Newport in the winter is magical. That’s because you’ll enjoy so many festive things to do in Newport RI in the winter. You might think of it as a summer destination (and it is), but today we are reframing this fabulous coastal destination in New England to share the best Newport activities for winter. Here are 15 of our favorites, below.

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn how wonderful it is to visit Newport in winter. Plus, discover 15 of the most fun and festive things to do in Newport RI this winter, including:

Why You Should Visit Newport RI in the Winter

Newport, Rhode Island, is a beautiful coastal city in New England, rich with history, culture, and charm.

At any time of year, you’ll find a variety of restaurants to please foodies, unique shops, and thriving boutique hotels. In addition, Newport RI offers a stunning yacht port and it’s famous mansions from the Gilded Age. 

Newport is one of New England’s best beach towns,s o you may think of it as a summer destination. It is, and millions of tourists each year attest to this. You’ll find fewer tourists in the winter, which is a benefit of visiting at that time of year.

But if you’re looking forward to a much-needed winter getaway, then Newport is a perfect place for that, too — especially during the holidays. This is a winter destination that goes all-in on the festivities.

Once you visit this beautiful coastline, you can bet you’ll be returning. That’s true if you’re planning to visit in winter too.

So, we’ve broken down the best places to visit in Newport, Rhode Island to help you make the most of your winter trip.

You’ll discover some significant places that you shouldn’t miss along with some lesser-known places to add to your winter itinerary. Make sure you read it to the end before planning your winter visit to Newport RI.

Best Things to Do in Newport RI in the Winter

Newport RI in December is a magical place. Here are 15 reasons why.

1. The Newport Mansions in Winter

The opulent mansions of Newport were originally called “cottages.” Built by wealthy tycoons in Philadelphia and New York in the 1850s and 1900, these magnificent showcases include Marble House, Rosecliff, The Breakers, Rough Point, The Elms, and more. 

These stunning Victorian summer homes of the wealthy are open to public tours, and are splendidly decorated for the holidays. The guided and self-guided tours are intriguing and informative. 

You can also attend holiday parties, formal balls, concerts and performances during the Christmas season at the Newport mansions for an extra special experience.

These winter festivities at the mansions in Newport are sure to get you into the holiday spirit!

Related article: 5 Festive Events to Celebrate Christmas at the Newport Mansions

2. Christmas in Newport Event

Christmas in Newport is a festival celebrating the holidays almost every day of the month in December. It began in 1971 to honour non-commercial traditions, so it’s in its 51st year!

Among the activities featured at the Christmas in Newport festival, you’ll find:

  • Tree lightings
  • Classical and holiday music played by an orchestra
  • Nutcracker ballet performance at Rosecliff mansion
  • Kids holiday gift making
  • Jazz ensemble at Salve Regina college
  • Art Exhibits
  • History Tours
  • Illuminated boat parades
  • And more

A non-profit organization in Newport with about 1500 members raises funds for charity every year during Christmas. So no matter when you are visiting Newport during the holidays, you’ll want to check out the schedule of events

Many of these activities are free!

3. Igloos & Ice Skating at Gurney’s Resorts

As though the location of this posh hotel overlooking the bay is not incentive enough to visit, you’ll want to experience the igloos at Gurney’s Resorts when you’re visiting Newport RI in wintertime.

These are distinctively designed heated igloos offering a multisensory experience through music, activities, and signature drinks. And yes, they overlook the waterfront, making this one of the romantic things to do in Newport ri, too.  

Imagine enjoying the company of someone special in your private, cozy igloo on the Lounge & Firepit Deck overlooking the bay. 

You’ve got the igloo to yourselves for up to two hours, where you can enjoy tasty drinks and creative menu options, like: 

  • Shrimp and Grits
  • House Made Venison Chili
  • Caribbean Hot Chocolate

Not only will you savor the snacks, but also the scenic views of Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge.

Plus, The property also has a skating rink. So, bring another couple if you want – a private igloo fits up to 4 people. 

All igloos feature specialty cocktails, an après skate menu, vintage games, a roaring fire pit, and more. Just be sure to reserve ahead as this experience is in demand over the holidays. (The good news is, the igloos are open through March.)

Make it all the better by staying over at Gurney’s. Click here for their current rates.

4. Newport Winter Festival

The Newport Winter Festival is a fun and nostalgic experience in its 33rd year. While it doesn’t take place until after the new year, it’s worth noting. During this event, you’ll enjoy great food and music, and celebrate timeless traditions such as:

  • Ice skating
  • Bonfires
  • Sledding
  • Snow bowling

Plus, festival bracelets provide you with free or significantly discounted admission to events, as well as discounts and specials at over 50 local businesses.

You’ll enjoy the winter wonderland weekend regardless of whether you participate in any activities or simply watch.

To finish the night, take in a stunning winter fireworks display at 7 pm with beautiful views from Prouty Beach’s waterfront.

Nothing beats the frostbite blues like spending some quality time with family and friends. Check for updates to the calendar of events TBD here. 

5. Hot Chocolate Bar at The Chanler

The Chanler Hotel, always known for its stunning waterfront location and gilded age splendor, is now also known for its hot chocolate bar.

This festive and fun activity includes three hot chocolate drinks made from the world’s finest chocolate. You can enjoy incredible flavors made with milk or water to order, such as:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Peruvian Magic 

You won’t need to make any reservations for this cafe, and the parking is free. That makes it a great impromptu addition to any winter Newport itinerary. 

The Chanler’s Chocolate Bar kicks off during the winter months and is open weekends from 12 to 5. You can have your decadent hot chocolate with a donut or upgrade it to an adult beverage. 

Besides hot chocolate, The Chanler also offers the splendid beauty of the sea and hotel itself. Plus, it’s conveniently located along the Cliff Walk. Click here to see their current rates.

6. Holiday Lantern Walking Tour (Historical Society)

The Newport Historical Society’s Holiday Lantern Tour has become an annual tradition for families. It’s an ideal way to get into the holiday spirit while learning some colonial American history.

This one-hour walking tour begins at dusk, and features early New England traditions and the way in which historic Newporters celebrated the holidays. It’s a rare opportunity to explore Newport’s history and charm at night, guided by an expert.

You’ll want to book this tour in advance, as the groups are limited in size so everyone has the best experience. In addition to the Holiday Lantern Tour, you’ll find other fascinating tours you can sign up for, like:

  • Discover Colonial Newport
  • Golden to Gilded
  • Creative Survival
  • Rogues & Scoundrels

One (or more) of them is bound to pique your interest!

7. Tennis Hall of Fame

The International Tennis Hall of Fame is located at the Newport Casino, a National Historic Landmark in Newport that opened on July 26, 1880. 

The location is not a gambling casino, but rather an athletic complex and recreation center for billiards, card games, and club rooms. This 7-acre property was the center of Newport’s social life during the Gilded Age.

The museum has 13 outdoor grass courts where the annual Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) Tour Hall of Fame is hosted. Each year in July, they award the prestigious Van Allen Cup.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame honors players and contributors who have made it in the sport of tennis. It has more than 2,000 artefacts on display, from racquets to trophies and attire. You’ll even find a hologram of hall-of-famer Roger Federer and a wide variety of interactive exhibits. 

Plus it’s a lovely building, inside and out. The old Newport casino complex has a museum, an indoor tennis facility, and a grass tennis court.

Also, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization that aims to preserve, inspire, and celebrate tennis all across the world. 

It’s presently closed for renovations over the holidays, but due to open up in Jan. 2022. Check for schedule updates here. This is a cool place to visit whenever you’re in Newport.

8. Newport Cliff Walk | Winter

Newport’s Cliff Walk is one of the most prominent Newport, RI attractions besides the Newport Mansion. Once you start walking down the cliff, you’ll understand the significance.

This National Recreation Trail was established in 1975 and goes for 3.5 miles along with some stunning coastlines. It’s made of paved and unpaved paths that navigate the scenic rocky coast so you’ll want to wear comfortable footwear. 

Most of it runs through the land on which the mansion was built, so to one side you have the ocean, and the other, the stunning landscapes and architecture of the Newport Mansions.

After Rough Point Bridge, the Walk loops around and officially ends at Bellevue Ave. The easiest stretch is a section between First Beach and 40 steps that paved and easy for about two-thirds of a mile. The trail gets more rugged as you go south. In fact, you have to be extremely cautious through some sections of the trail. In some spots the cliff has a drop of more than 70 feet. 

To walk the full length, estimate about two-and-a-half to three hours time. If you just want a taste of the experience, you can get off at any point since there are numerous exit points.

This is another of the romantic things to do in Newport ri, plus it’s free! Although you might have to pay for parking at either  on Memorial Boulevard at Easton’s Beach, or Forty Steps at the end of Narragansett Avenue. 

Remember to dress for the season, because winter in New England is cold! Expect to get your shoes a little dirty, and know that it is always breezy by the coast. Make a pit-stop at the public restrooms at Narragansett Ave before you go. Last but not least, don’t forget your camera!

9. Audrain Auto Museum

Just a few doors down from the Tennis Hall of Fame is Audrain Auto Museum. Don’t be fooled by the name: it’s an art museum showcasing collections from more than 200 of the most extraordinary and unique vehicles.

The automobiles are chosen and displayed expressly for exhibition themes, which change regularly.

Over the holidays, you’ll enjoy the latest exhibit, Engineering + Design = Passion: The Nick Begovich Collection. Among this Fullerton, CA scientist’s collection are 1952 Jaguar XK120M Fixed Head Coupe, 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” 1974 Maserati Bora!

Other recent exhibits include:

  • Women Take the Wheel: Fashion, Modernity and the Automobile 1905 – 1945
  • Balance & Power: The World on Two Wheels, 1885 – 1995
  • Small Wonders: Micro, Mini, Pedal & Toy Cars
  • From the Racetrack to the Opera: Marques That Did It All
  • Porsche Then & Now: 70 Years of Excellence

The museum shows nearly 20 cars at a time in this intimate setting. It’s a fascinating curation of cars for any time of year. It’s worth a return visit to Audrain every time.

10. Scenic Ocean Drive

Don’t show up randomly on scenic Ocean Drive during the daytime. You might end up crawling along at 15 miles per hour behind the line of other visitors snapping photos. Instead, organize your trip a little ahead of time. 

The real magic and beauty can be seen on this stunning 10-mile coastal drive in the early morning when you’re more likely to have the entire road to yourself. That’s exactly what you want so you can capture this scenic beauty on camera. 

Locals recommend starting at Bellevue Avenue, working your way east, and finishing at Castle Hill for coffee and breakfast.

Along the way, you’ll pass:

  • The Newport Mansions
  • Hammersmith Farm (Jackie Kennedy childhood home) 
  • Brenton Point State Park
  • Fort Adams State Park
  • Gooseberry Beach

This is another scenic, free activity you can’t miss when you visit Newport in winter.

11. Newport Art Museum

Take in the rich cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary art scenes of Rhode Island at the Newport Art Museum. It’s the only museum that primarily focuses on talented artists and art of Rhode Island. 

The Griswold House, which has served as the museum’s home since 1916, is an official project to save America’s treasures and is a national historic landmark. The house itself is a stunning work of art.

It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1862 and was finished in 1864 for John NA Griswold, who was a china trade entrepreneur. 

Hunt later designed several grand cottages of Newport’s gilded age, including Marble House, Ochre Court, and the Breakers.

The Newport Art Museum is closed on Christmas, but an exceptional experience otherwise through the holidays. 

If you time it right, you’ll catch the Newport Art Museum Holiday Marketplace (Dec. 12-14). which features work from emerging and established artists, including:

  • Ceramics
  • Paintings
  • Ornaments
  • Wearable arts
  • Other finds for the art-lover(s) on your holiday shopping list 

12. Seal Watch Tour (by Save the Bay)

Save the Bay offers nature tours and seal watching in Newport (and Westerly) from October to April. That way, you’ll get a close-up educational view of migratory seals from expert guides. (Did you know seals are Rhode Island’s state mammal?)

You’ll motor through historic Newport Harbor and observe the seals resting Citing Rock. If you choose a one-hour tour, you’ll stay on the boat. But if you opt for the 1.75-hour tour, you’ll also visit the Rose Island grounds to see more seals on the shore.

Tours leave daily from Bowen’s Ferry Landing — and gift certificates also make a great holiday gift!

13. Thames Street – The Best Shopping in Newport RI

Newport’s famed Thames Street is located just steps away from the waterfront. It has been the main commercial centre of Newport since the 18th century.

You’ll easily locate some local shops and unique offerings, such as Thames Glass and Newport Fudgery. You can shop conventional stores as well, including Banana Republic and Express.

Part of the beauty of Thames stress is excellent dining options from seafood to upscale restaurants. Popular choices include Bouchard’s Restaurant and Brick Alley Pub.

Parking can be tricky here (in all of Newport, really), but if you stay over on Thames Street, you’ll have a place to park your car and be in the heart of the shopping district. We recommend staying at The Admiral Fitzroy Inn, one of the last captain’s houses.

14. The Bodhi Spa

The Bodhi Spa in Newport RI is one of New England’s leading hydrotherapy day spa. It provides a calming full-body experience through the ancient art of water therapy. And let’s face it, we could all use a stress-free holiday!

At The Bodhi Spa, you can enjoy:

  • Mineral-infused hot tubs
  • A classic sauna
  • An exhilarating cold plunge pool
  • The calming relaxation area
  • An aromatherapy steam room
  • A Zen garden

They also provide a deluxe menu of facials and body treatments. Doesn’t that sound like just what you need over the holidays?

15. Rhode Island Reds Food Tour (Newport Neighborhood)

Rhode Island Reds Food Tours provide an unforgettable half-day food tasting experience in Newport RI.

This Newport cuisine tour includes strolling through historic neighborhoods in Newport as well as other fun activities that make for a delightful excursion.

You’ll visit at least six scrumptious local eateries that will provide you with wonderful culinary samples highly influenced by the regions.

If you want to go beyond Newport, you might also like Rhode Island Reds’ Downcity Providence tour. It will take you to the country’s best food scenes, which have been making all of the best lists in all major publications.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Newport RI in the Winter

Christmas is a perfect time to take a trip to Newport Rhode Island. You’ll find a month-long celebration of non-commercial traditions and all kinds of holiday fanfare to enjoy.

From white lights illuminating the buildings, seasonal festivities, New England charm accented by opulence, it may become an annual trip. 

Undoubtedly, winter is the most lovely time to visit Newport so make the most of it!

How would you like to spend time in Newport? Tell us in the comments section below!


Author Bio

Shristi Patni is a content writer and owner of F and B Recipes. She enjoys snacking on Paleo Bars or sharing information on fashion guest posts when not working. Formerly the Chief Content Officer at Raletta, she is currently working on her second cookbook. 

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

16 thoughts on “15 Most Festive Things to Do in Newport RI in the Winter

  • March 16, 2022 at 6:26 am
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    Lots of fun winter activities! I would start with ice skating by the lake, immediately followed by indulging in some hot chocolate, maybe warm up with a mansion tour, and then followed by visiting the spa. Sounds like a fantastic day to me in Newport!

    • March 17, 2022 at 7:46 am
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      That sounds like a perfect day in Newport to me, Renee! Enjoy!

  • March 10, 2022 at 9:44 am
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    Awww! I super love your post. Did not really know that there are so many things that we can do in Rhode Island. It would be really nice to spend Christmas there. The activities you mentioned sound amazing. It’s nice that they have a Nutcracker ballet performance, too!

    • March 11, 2022 at 7:53 pm
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      Yes! Loads to do in Newport. Hope you get there, Clarice! The Nutcracker in the mansion is spectacular.

  • March 7, 2022 at 4:32 pm
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    I just visited Newport last summer for the first time. It’s a short visit and I want to go back. But after reading your post, probably early December will be wonderful when it’s not too cold yet. You got me at The Newport Mansions and Holiday Lantern Walking Tour as I like history. And end the tour at Hot chocolate Bar at The Chanler. Mmm…

    • March 8, 2022 at 10:57 am
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      Early December is an ideal time to visit for the festivities and holiday fun. I hope you get back this year to experience a different view of Newport. I think you’ll love it!

  • March 6, 2022 at 11:37 pm
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    I’ve only seen the Newport Mansions in summer, but I can only imagine the Nutcracker ballet performed at the Rosecliff mansion. It must be spectacular. I love Rhode Island, but I’ve never visited the Newport Art Museum.

    • March 7, 2022 at 11:01 am
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      Anda, if you have the chance to make a winter trip to Newport, you’ll find the holidays truly are incredible! And The Newport Art Museum is a good take in any season. 🙂

  • March 6, 2022 at 11:34 pm
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    I have never been to Newport but it seems like there is a lot to see and do. I would love to visit the museums and definitely to see the seals. I am a huge fan of winter and Christmas so I found so many things on this list I would love. Ice skating is one of my favorites.

    • March 7, 2022 at 11:01 am
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      Glad to provide you with some inspiration when you get the chance to visit, Paula! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts here.

  • March 6, 2022 at 6:11 am
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    Great list of things to do in Newport RI in winter! I guess most people would plan a visit to Newport for summer or autumn. Winter must be a quite a different, less touristy, more local experience. First thing for me would be a visit to the Hot Chocolate Bar at the Chanler Hotel.

    • March 7, 2022 at 11:03 am
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      Thanks, Natascha! You are absolutely right about the seasonal differences. The Chanler is a class act and a great first stop!

  • March 6, 2022 at 12:05 am
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    You had me with the Newport mansions – I love these old merchant homes and we have a collection in India. They throw so much information about life back then. And then I would love to sign up for the heritage walk. Looks like there is a lot of history here to see and enjoy. And then of course, fun activities like ice skating.

    • March 7, 2022 at 11:05 am
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      Yes, exploring the mansions and the history surrounding them really is a visit to the past. Nice idea to mix the history and culture activities with some outdoor activities, too. (I would love to see the merchant homes in India!)

  • March 5, 2022 at 9:23 am
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    Oh wow, Caribbean I hot chocolate sounds amazing. I had no idea Newport RI had so much to do during the Christmas season, I’ll have to add this to my list for my eventual US 50 state road trip!

    • March 7, 2022 at 11:06 am
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      Yes! The holidays are a great time to visit Newport, Alice! Hope you pop Rhode Island up to the top 10 on your road trip list. For such a small state, it really does offer so much.

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