It’s about to be that time of year; the north part of our state is on the cusp of turning into a steamy, empty wasteland dotted with internationally acclaimed events while the south welcomes millions of visitors who treat the place like the Vegas of the east. Before these phenomena, colloquially known as “summer,” we get to enjoy an exceptional season to take in the Ocean State and its natural treasures.
You might not think of Newport for your spring outdoor adventure, but it is a magical place between April and June. It’s just warm enough to sit water-side and enjoy the views; the streets are still fairly empty of both motorized and pedestrian traffic, and yet exploding with colorful flower gardens and plantings; fellow Newportians start to emerge from winter hibernation looking fabulous and refreshed, ice coffee’s in hand. Why are they looking so happy, you ask?
The reality is that Newport was designed to accommodate horses and buggies at best. The good news? Everything interesting is concentrated within an area easily traversed by foot (long day) or wheel (short day). In other words, find some long-term parking and ditch the horseless carriage. That’s what the locals are doing, so join us. On your bike yet? Good, let’s go.
The Nature Loop: Newport East
BYOBike and launch off from the BikeNewport Bike n’ Ride site at the Newport County YMCA for a day-long, 8-mile seaside adventure packed with natural scenery. Purgatory Road is the other Ocean Drive — part mansions, part dunes. If it’s a Saturday you’re bound to hit some local garage sales along this road, so bring a backpack and stop for goodness sake. Check out Purgatory Chasm before sweeping down the hill toward Second Beach and heading out to Sachuest Point where you’re welcome to take a hike (literally).
Make a pit stop at Third Beach before heading up the hill to the Norman Bird Sanctuary where there is more hiking and the opportunity to chill on Hanging Rock. It’s the perfect place to dig into your grub and ponder the appropriate naming of Paradise Valley. If you’re still feeling peckish you can stop in at Sweet Berry Farm for a healthy treat, head back beach side to Flo’s Clam Shack for a well-deserved mound of fried seafood (it’s an institution and it’s good), or come into town for the evening. What to do in town? Keep reading!
For info on Park n’ Ride locations in Newport, go to bikenewportri.org/park-n-bike/
The Destination Bike Loop: Newport South
If you’re starting off in town, there is no shortage of things to do. Between April and June there are outdoor movies, star-gazing opportunities and even opportunities to pet some animals. What are you into?
Heading south on you bike you’re likely to come across many parks and spots to stop. The Cliff Walk is a classic for a long walk; on bike you can access some of the southern entrance points where the walk gets a bit more challenging and, therefore, less frequented. Take a ride around Ocean Drive, stop at the parking-less beaches, and do some laser tag at Fort Adams on your way back to town (starting back up this spring).
Are you into heirloom seeds and farm animals? The Swiss Village Foundation has an open house on June 11th and this is your chance to learn more then you thought you could about rare livestock. In years past there were opportunities to help shear sheep and there’s always the sciencey part of conservation (sperm galore) if you’re looking to get schooled.
If you stay for the evening check out NewportFilm’s lineup; they offer excellent independent movies at some remarkable sites ranging from gilded mansion to fort to beach side — all by donation. Ballard Park is another spot where there are free movies, jazz performances and other events, as well as hiking trails.
Laser Tag: fortadams.org/bVisitbFortAdams/LaserTagatFortAdams.aspx
Swiss Village Foundation: svffoundation.org/
Ballard Park: ballardpark.org/12_EVENTS.html
Walking the Town-Center
Park your car at the Newport Visitor’s Center or at the Bike n’ Ride on Broadway for a town based bike-ride or walk. You have plenty to choose between to keep active. There are daily historical tours presented by the Newport Historical Society, as well as monthly gallery nights (every 2nd Thursday of the month), not to mention restaurants with outdoor seating and just the joys of cruising the old side-streets of town. If you’re in Newport on a weekend there are garage sales everywhere. The best way to do this is to grab an iced coffee on Broadway and see where your feet lead you.
If you’re into quiet residential activities, try the Secret Garden Tour; a semi-annual event enjoyed by DIYers, architectural-geeks and garden-nuts alike. The Spring Garden Tours run from June 26 through June 28 and offer a glimpse at the “back sides” of the historic buildings of Newport done up by some serious green thumbs. Ranging from formal garden designs, whimsically creative ones, to my personal favorite; the edible garden, it makes for a great bike ride as you self-guide yourself from one home to the next.
Gallery Night: newportgallerynight.com
Newport Historical Society: newporthistory.org/calendar
Secret Garden Tour: secretgardentours.org
Outdoors in Newport? Have to Mention Sailing
We’re talking outdoors and we’re talking Newport, so we have to talk sailing. There are loads of ways to get on the water, from renting your own sailboat at SailNewport, to getting on a day-sail, to hopping on the ferry for a simple round trip from Bannisters Wharf. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options, but some boats don’t start going until Memorial Day, so make sure to double-check!
Stay a While
You might as well stay the evening if you’re already here. There is plenty to eat, see and hear in Newport during the shoulder season. Local millennials are doing an excellent job organizing local and national musical acts at bars and restaurants (check out broadwayallstar.com and Tweed Leisure on Facebook to see what’s happening). The Broadway area is experiencing a renaissance and there is music available pretty much every night of the week. If you find yourself hungering for gallery openings, opportunities to make art and other events, go to the Newport Art House website for a calendar of events by month; you’re bound to find something unexpectedly fun to do!
Spring is in the air and Newport is a good place to experience it; hope to see you out there!