FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Rich in History: Explore Gilded Age Mansions and More in Newport, Rhode Island

by Teresa Bitler

Dec 1, 2022

© Demerzel21 | Dreamstime.com

December 2022

Originally a thriving Colonial seaport, Newport became the summer playground for the Gilded Age’s elite in the late 1880s. Today their mansions dot the coast of Aquidneck Island, and their favorite pastimes — sailing and tennis — still dominate the city’s recreational offerings. In fact, Newport hosted the first U.S. Open tennis championship in 1881 and golf tourna- ment in 1895 and hosted the America’s Cup from 1930 to 1983. You can experience most of Newport on your own, including the mansions, but don’t rule out a guided tour or two when you visit.


For a good introduction to Newport, cruise “The Drive,” as it’s locally known. This 10-mile route starts at the intersection of Thames Street and Wellington Avenue in downtown Newport and passes Fort Adams, the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk and Gilded Age mansions. If you don’t have a car, book a guided walking tour offered by Newport Historical Society on topics ranging from the city’s role in the American Revolution to the wealthy families who summered here.

Breakers decor

© Benjamin Paquette | Dreamstime.com


The opulent “cottages” once owned by the Vanderbilts and their peers offer both guided and self-guided options. Download the Newport Mansions app to your smart device before you go and bring earbuds for a self-guided audio tour of The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and Rosecliff. Or purchase a guided behind-the-scenes tour of The Breakers or The Elms. You can also visit Kingscote at your own pace and Hunter House on a guided tour.


Fort Adams State Park gives you the option to tour its military fortifications with or without a guide. With a guide, you’ll see the officers’ quarters and underground tunnels. Without a guide, some areas, like the tunnels, are off-limits. On Mondays take a self-guided tour of the Eisenhower House, the Summer White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency.


Recreation has always played an important role in Newport. To learn more about sailing in Newport, visit the new Sailing Museum and the National Sailing Hall of Fame. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is also located here. If you prefer walking, the 2.5-mile Fort Adams Bay Walk loops around Fort Adams, offering views of lighthouses and yacht clubs. The paved Cliff Walk combines views of the ocean with views of Gilded Age mansions.


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