The Ocean State
Rhode Island is such a state of contrasts from the elegance of Newport to the quaintness of Narragansett and fine dining to the best of seafood from beach-side shacks. Most importantly for us, Rhode Island also means spending time with good friends, seeing long-time college buddies and of course, a visit to a URI football game.
The exploring is fun since you never have to go too far (or you are in another state) to find that great antique treasure, a beautiful coastal scene or the next great lobster roll. Some notable highlights for good Rhody food include, the well-known Black Pearl on the wharf; hidden delight, Belle’s Cafe, at the Newport shipyard; Castle Hill for a killer alfresco brunch with a view; Blue Rocks Market to supply everything needed for a tasty tailgate party; and Flo’s Clam Shack (in Middletown), for fresh fried clams and everything else!
Oh yeah, and for a unique Mexican experience, try Perro Salado (Salty Dog) for some kick-ass margaritas and unusual items like fried avocado and sticky ribs. Located in a restored 18th century Naval officer’s home, they describe themselves as a “boisterous gathering space” and I can attest to the truth behind that statement. Just one caveat, watch out for who might be sitting at the next table!
Then, of course, there are the famous Newport mansions. It would take an entire summer to really explore them thoroughly. Properties run by The Preservation Society of Newport County offer reasonably priced self-guided audio tours. Allow at least an hour per mansion, but you could spend many more if you have time to take advantage of the wealth of extra information that goes beyond the basic tour and offers glimpses into the people, activities, and drama of the Gilded Age era. The Elms also features a “Servant Life Tour” which is very similar to the “Behind the Scenes” tour at Asheville’s Biltmore Estate. A $15 bargain ($12 for Preservation Society members). You can buy tickets on-line or at the door for all the tours, but the guided “Servant Life Tour” runs hourly and does book up during peak times. Single mansion tickets run under $15 and a variety of packages are available including five properties for under $35. Check out the website: www.NewportMansions.org
We never tire of the Ten Mile Ocean Drive and if time and weather permit, be sure to check out the Cliff Walk. It’s also fun to just walk around the shops and galleries in town, enjoy the restaurants and bars in the lively wharf area, shop the unique boutiques on Bellevue Ave., or relax in one of the many parks. Every time we visit I discover more wonderful Rhode Island surprises; the state is an often overlooked gem.