1. First you may be wondering: “why Newport, RI?” It’s one of the best summer locations in the Northeast, especially during its best months of July and August. It’s convenient for people from New England because you can get there in less than two hours even if there’s a little traffic. It takes just over three hours from New York City and you’re better off leaving Thursday night or Friday morning to avoid the weekend traffic. (You can also take an Amtrak train to Kingston, RI and taxi to Newport if necessary, but that taxi is a little pricey.) It’s got three keys to any summer location: good bars, restaurants, and beaches. It’s got a better bar scene during the summer weekends than Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. It’s less stuffy than the Hamptons while still having a bit more class. It’s easier to get around than Cape Cod. It also (positively) lacks the stigma associated with the Jersey Shore. What’s not to like?
2. As with any trip, the first thing you need to figure out is where to stay. The best advice I can give you is don’t stay in the hotels or motels in neighboring Middletown. Make sure you stay in Newport proper. Getting a cab back to Middletown is a major pain in the ass when the bars close. Find something within walking distance to the bars because you can always drive to the beach. Hotel rooms aren’t easy to find, so your first move should be to use VRBO.com or another site that allows you to find a house or apartment to rent for the weekend. Summer shares up there are also a good idea if you can make the commitment. If for some reason you can’t lock down a house, look into a bed and breakfast in town. It may sound kind of romantic on the surface to stay one of those, but there aren’t many regular hotels in town and the prices of the B&Bs are decent. You’re just looking for a place to crash at the end of the night and you won’t be in your room much anyway.
3. It isn’t Las Vegas, but there is always a pretty fun daytime party at the Atlantic Beach Club (ABC) located on Easton’s Beach (aka First Beach). Technically it’s in neighboring Middletown, but it’s less than a five minute drive from the center of town and you can even walk there if you’re ambitious. Despite the name including the word “club,” the ABC is open to all. The party happens on a deck that overlooks the beach with a cover band playing music most of the day. Things can get pretty ugly by the late afternoon. They expanded it last summer to add a second bar that definitely gets the drinks flowing a bit easier. The “Astro Bomb,” which combines an alcoholic concoction to make it look like an old school “Bomb Pop,” is the drink of choice for many. The bands don’t get rolling until around 2 p.m., but you’ll need to get there before noon if you want to secure a table in the sun. You can also set up shop in front of the ABC and play some Tailgate Golf, Cornhole, beach volleyball, or catch with a football before making your way in.
4. If you’re looking for a regular beach experience, you have a few different options. The preferred option for a full service beach with parking is Sachuest Beach (aka Second Beach). It’s always busy, has the best waves, a snack stand, beach volleyball, surfing, and plenty of space to lay out with your crew and drink some beers. (Just make sure to you red solo cups at the local beaches or the cops will come after ya.) Easton’s Beach (aka First Beach) is the closest to town and probably has the most going on, but it has its drawbacks. Red tide (unpleasant red seaweed that gets all up on you including on your junk) seems to be the most prevalent here of any of the beaches. There’s also a sewage area near the Atlantic Beach Club that occasionally provides an unpleasant smell. Reject’s Beach is preferred by Newport Locals and is good on off days, but lacks parking and good waves. Third Beach and Gooseberry Beach are more suited for families with no real waves and should be your last options.
5. You’re in New England, so you have to eat some seafood, right? Flo’s Clam Shack is right across the street from the Atlantic Beach Club and is a quick and easy fix for midday seafood if you’re at the beach. The Aquidneck Lobster Bar is new as of last summer, but it’s a non-nonsense approach to the best lobster in town. Clarke Cookhouse is one of the more well-known spots in town for churning out good-quality seafood. It’s pretty big, but still requires table reservations in the summer. Tallulah on Thames and Scales & Shells (no reservations) are two other good seafood spots to consider, but are a little more high-end.
6. Don’t like seafood? No problem. You’ll want to eat your breakfasts at Franklin Spa. Just be prepared to deal with a line. (Your best option is to call in a pickup order and bring it home.) Their Eggs Benedict, French toast, and omelets are the best in town. You’ll also be well suited to get any type of breakfast sandwich on the thick-sliced Portuguese sweet bread. Diego’s in Bowen’s Wharf serves up the best Mexican food in the neighborhood. (It’s good for brunch too.) 22 Bowen’s in the same area is your best option for a good steak. Becky’s BBQ requires a little bit of a drive and closes at 8 p.m., but it’s some pretty legit barbecue as is evident by its best in Rhode Island designation. (No, it doesn’t compare to something like Carolina barbecue, but beggars can’t be choosers.) Smoke House Café comes up short to Becky’s, but is a slightly more convenient option if you’re in the mood for barbecue. Pasta Beach has a name that speaks for itself. Fifth Element serves up good modern American food including some pretty good pizza and mussels. Salvation Café across the street is a little quirky in menu and look, but the food is generally pretty good as well.
7. At this point you’re probably wondering “when the hell am I going to start talking about the bars?” Fear not my friend, I have you covered there. The bars close at 1 a.m., so you need to get started early. (A smart and experienced crew also loads up on beer back at the house. You’ll want to get a good after-party going with whomever they meet at the bar since the night should never end at 1 a.m.) You have to make a decision on whether you want a scene with action or one without. (If you like getting it wet, you’ll probably choose the ones with action.) Just know that you’ll be paying a cover charge at most places and they’ll be as high as $25-30 on holiday weekends.
8. There are quite a few places with the action you’re looking for. The Landing is my preferred spot as it allows you to mingle on the outside decks of the second floor or grind away to top-40 on the inside dance floor. Just don’t wear anything that shows sweat because it can get pretty hot in there at times. The Dockside is the biggest bar in town and gets pretty jammed on busy summer weekends. It offers two different cover bands with some top-40 music and dancing when the bands take breaks. There’s also a new outside area there called On The Docks if you need a breather from the mayhem. Forty 1° North, one of the newer establishments, shifts from restaurant to bar after 10 p.m. and caters to an older crowd. It’s perfect for cougar hunting and classes up your night if you’re willing to spend a little extra on drinks. It’s got a big outside area and some dancing in a room nearby. Studio 3 is the only place in town purely dedicated to clubbing and has a decent scene from time to time.
9. Is chilling out more your thing? @ The Deck is the best low key atmosphere available while still having adequate amounts of females for you to go hunting. It splits between a tent and some outdoor space and allows you to just drink with your buds and enjoy the warm weather or throw your best pickup lines out there with the broads. (Whether they actually work is up to you.) You can also luck out by not having to deal with a cover charge most nights. Star Bar is another local favorite and has all the makings of a relaxed evening with darts, pool, rod hockey, and table tennis. The biggest plus is they serve their (strong) drinks in pint glasses. One Pelham East is a more low-key experience compared to The Dockside, but offers you cover bands as well. Speak Easy Bar & Grill opened up last year and is as standard of a bar as you can get.
10. There’s still plenty of energy in town once the bars close at 1 a.m. and all that energy heads towards the late-night pizza places. It’s a win-win proposition since you can make a last ditch effort to get laid or end up with a pie to take home. (I can speak from experience that picking up at these pizza places can be done. It surprised even me the first time.) Everyone congregates near two pizza places on Thames Street as they figure out how their night is going to end. Via Via is the most well-known of the pizza places and is your best chance to snag a pie quickly to take home. It’s got plenty of people, but just be careful of the occasional fight. Rival Hollywood Pizza across the street is second-rate except when it comes to their Buffalo Chicken pie. Nikola’s a few blocks away on Memorial Blvd doesn’t have the same action, but the locals swear it's better pizza.
[Newport image via ShutterStock]