Thinking of the Newport mansions? Newport is, in fact, as fantastic for families as it is for singles, couples, and grandmothers if you know where to go.
Are The Newport Rhode Island Mansions for Kids?
Did you cry when Downtown Abbey concluded, too? One of my passions has always been Gilded Age architecture (hence my obsession with the Berkshires). These summer cottages managed by the Preservation Society of Newport should be on your bucket list.
Families can have an incredible vacation in Newport if they know where to stay and what to do. Throw in the beach and Cliff Walk, an indoor hotel pool, an afternoon tea and toy shopping, and our favorite arcade, and you have an easy family weekend within a few hours of New York and Boston.
How to Make Newport A Family Adventure
My husband and I have been taking our children to Newport to enjoy as a family vacation since our daughter was an infant. We have been visitors at every stage of parenting. Here are some tips by children’s ages so they don’t feel trapped by boredom.
For those under 2
Strollers are not permitted, so baby carriers are essential to tour any homes. When we only had one baby, it was easy to enjoy full days touring homes and gardens while our daughter slept in her Ergo.
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The toddler and preschool years
The tough ages to enjoy the cottages are when you have active, walking toddlers until the age of five. If you have children that fall in this zone, do not underestimate how fun the grounds are to explore with them, however. All is not lost.
School Aged kids 5-10
By age five, children grasp the grandeur and scale of these homes and are intrigued. The homes that provide audio tours are the best choices for families, as families can tour at their own pace. Even if the kids won’t listen to the audio programs, parents can breeze through the rooms at their children’s pace. These include The Elms, Marble House, The Breakers, and Rosecliff.
The Breakers mansion offers a family audio tour that we finally tried with our ten and nearly five-year-old. Both listened to portions of it, but neither found it completely engaging. However, the Breakers offers an excellent store at the end of their tour with an impressively curated children’s book and toy section.
I learned to remind my youngest, “Let’s take a maze through a beautiful old home with a toy store at the end of it.”
Tweens and teens
For older children, try and get them to read about the period beforehand. We purchased two tween novels, The Kissimmee’s Newport series, about a girl living during the Gilded Age, and my daughter loved it. It would be an excellent book to purchase in advance of your visit. Though featured at the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, the popular Serafina series is another way to engage your children in this time period.
After our most recent Newport trip, my daughter seemed much more engaged in what she saw on Bellevue Avenue than past visits, now that she has read so much fiction set in this period.
The Best Newport Mansions to Tour With Kids
Houses to focus on with family appeal include Marble House for its waterfront Chinese tea room. The Breakers offers a family audio tour and an excellent children’s section in the gift shop. The Elms has magnificent weeping beech trees in its back lawn that my children love.
Once inside the four beech trees that have grown together for more than a century, we have a wonderful time climbing, taking pictures, reading the carvings from previous visitors, and feeling like it is our own special hideout.
We ventured into the Elm’s marble garden structures where the acoustics were excellent. My husband, a trained classical singer gave us an impromptu taste from the Barber of Seville.
The best times to visit Newport
There’s really no wrong time to visit, though certain times of year offer more to do.
The Newport Mansions Christmas Events
The mansions celebrate the holidays with extensive decorations, concerts, and visits from Santa from mid-November until January 1st.
Starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, there is a holiday party from 6-8pm at the Breakers and a joint event at Marble House and the Elms on Saturday. Expect a choral concert, refreshments, and access to the house.
Santa visits the first three Sundays in December from 12-3pm.
The Christmas decorations, in my opinion, are more beautiful at night than during the day, which is an additional perk of the ticketed evening event. There was just something thrilling to visit the mansions at night.
Rosecliff hosts an incredibly popular Nutcracker that moves throughout the home’s first floor. This production by the Island Moving Company is only about two weeks long, Thanksgiving week and the first week of December. It always sells out, so plan ahead.
Other Christmas activities in Newport include special children’s teas at Castle Hill (they sell out early fall), and a special cookie decorating experience at the Vanderbilt Grace on Sunday afternoons. This two-hour baking event was well worth it, and my children loved decorating cookies and bringing them home. The hotel’s pastry chef walked them through piping techniques, too.
The Hotel Viking hosts a holiday party in early December that welcomes families for a tree lighting with Santa, refreshments, and a Charlie Brown Christmas. Guests can make s’mores at the hotel firepits and write letters to Santa throughout the season, too.
The Newport Egg Hunt
It really is an exceptional event to celebrate spring’s arrival, enjoy the incredible photo opportunities, and experience the mansions with toddlers and preschoolers who are otherwise indifferent to Gilded Age architecture. Anything is fun with loads of chocolate bunnies, so grab a mimosa, and have a fabulous time.
Children are grouped by age and gather eggs on Rosecliff’s lawn. As with most egg hunts, the hours of planning and prepping are expended in about two minutes and fifteen seconds, and guests proceed inside Rosecliff for a brunch buffet.
We found the buffet breakfast enjoyable in the ballroom where Robert Redford portrayed the Great Gatsby in the 1974 film. Expect to encounter parents who think egg hunts are competitive sports.
This event is truly hit or miss based on the weather forecast for Easter that year. When the weather is fair with no leftover snow on the ground, it’s wonderful linger on the lawn.
Newport in the Summer
For crowd control, don’t go from Memorial Day through September when Newport hosts a variety of festivals that bring in the crowds: boats, polo, music, flowers, and cars to name a few.
It is one of the most beautiful spots in New England in the summer, so I see why you are tempted. If you want to go in the summer, try and go midweek. On a last-minute trip in July, we stayed a Sunday and Monday night and had Newport’s closest beach, Easton Beach to ourselves on a Monday with no weekend crowds.
Outside of special holidays, May and September are our solid favorites for a weekend break. The weather can vary cool to sunny and warm, but everything was stunning regardless. Crowds are quieter at the hottest restaurants, and room rates are still at the shoulder seasons. We easily found street parking everywhere we went and had no waits at the most popular restaurants.
More things to do in Newport RI with Kids
So many families always search for an indoor pool at their hotels, but unless you are traveling to Newport in icy weather, there are many better options for your kids to get some energy out. There is, of course, the Cliff Walk, that passes many estates along the waterfront trail.
We love Brenton State Park along Ocean Drive. Its windy position makes it the kite-flying capital of the area, and in warm weather, there is even a truck that sells kites. But stepping out along the rocky shoreline and hopping from rock to rock, rain or shine, is a fantastic way to savor the salty sea air. You’ll be drawn in closer and closer to the water until it splashes you by surprise.
For a super kid-friendly break, head to the family-run Ryan’s Amusements downtown on Thames across from Bowen’s Wharf. We make it a stop on every trip, but it is also an integral part of our family negotiations on how we spend our day. A stop at Ryan’s for arcade games after a trip to a mansion or museum will keep the kids happy.
Our favorite Newport Restaurants With Kids
Newport hipsters have been multiplying at a frenzied rate over the last 10 years, bringing excellent new dining options among the more traditional tourist seafood spots.
Best Breakfasts in Newport
Corner Café is our go-to breakfast spot if we are not eating at our hotel. Creative omelettes, breakfast burritos, and specialty French toasts are our favorites. Scratch, nearby, is also good and specializes in grilled cheese frittatas, but kids may prefer their lunch menu where grilled cheese and mac and cheese reign.
The Chanler serves a child-friendly menu for lunch in their cafe, and the water views and location are extremely convenient if visiting the Tennis Hall of Fame or the Mansions on Bellevue. Seating is on a first come, first served basis, so a Saturday lunch in the summer is a bad idea.
Another great hotel spot for lunch in warm weather is Castle Hill. The sweeping views of Newport Harbor and the sailboats are a must. Kids can expend energy on the expansive lawn while waiting for their meals.
Diego’s downtown on the water had always been so crowded, so we only got to try it this time on a Sunday afternoon at 2:45 walking right in. The homemade guacamole is worth ordering, and the kids’ menu has everything.
I’m a taco purist, so my fish tacos fell short in offering an authentic corn tortilla, onions, and cilantro. The overflowing flour tortillas were filled with fresh ingredients, however, and everyone else found their entrées perfectly prepared.
Best bets for dinner
Everyone told us to go to Mission to try the burgers, hand-cut fries and hot dogs. It was the perfect casual family dinner on a Saturday night after our clothes have been sprayed with saltwater from our shoreline rock climbing. Patrons are given plastic toys with Star Wars names instead of buzzers to identify table orders.
The fries were, indeed, outstanding, with a perfect white fluffy inside and golden crunchy outside, and the burgers were also very good, cooked on the rarer side with butter crispy edges to the buns.
The Moorings is well located in the Wharfs and serves a classic New England menu with water views. The kids menu and regular menu have many staples to feed hungry, picky children.
For a casual dinner at a seafood market, we head to Anthony’s Seafood in nearby Middletown and get their traditional lobster dinners, fried seafood, and chowders. Lines grew after this local favorite was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, so go outside of the peak dining times during high season.
The Best Hotels in Newport, RI With Kids
Newport is a tough hotel market for families. Many bed-and-breakfast options have a no-child policy, and innkeepers focus on romantic, childless vacationers and other demographic groups who are getting a lot more sleep than you are.
The most luxe options
The Chanler at Cliff Walk
Located at the base of the Cliff Walk, the Chanler has rooms as richly appointed as many of the mansions, all with very different styles. They accommodate children but don’t advertise it. Call the hotel to confirm which rooms accept rollaway beds for children.
The Grace Vanderbilt
The Grace Vanderbilt is an option offering spacious suites and duplexes for families who prioritize square footage. Our bi-level suite from our stay was very large, but no ideal had we had a crawler or toddler. This side street location off of Thames means many things are an easy walk. The Grace Vanderbilt also has an indoor and outdoor pool.
The hotel offers an afternoon tea that my children enjoyed. Guests smell their tea varieties in sampling jars in order to choose which blend to order.
Castle Hill Inn
Castle Hill Inn is a Relais & Châteaux property outside of the wharf area and situated on a peninsula with sweeping water views. There is a main house from the Gilded Age and beach cottages on property but a few blocks from the main inn. Families can reserve these beach cottages and relax with more privacy and space, as well as access to a private beach. Of all the places we have stayed in Newport, this one is definitely the most luxurious.
The Attwater turned out to be the perfect choice for families in ways I didn’t expect. It is part of the Lark Hotel Group, which has a collection of small boutique hotels thought New England and California that all boast incredibly sophisticated design.
The Attwater opened in 2012 and is within steps of the Newport Art Museum, the International Tennis Hall of Fame , and one block from Bellevue Avenue. The location is ideal, and many stores, restaurants, and the waterfront area are within walking distance, so a car isn’t critical.
The Attwater’s more minimalist Elle Décor vibe is perfect for families, as there’s not an antique in sight to break. The Attwater is set up like a bed-and-breakfast but with style.
The daily tapas style breakfast buffet was both traditional and unpredictable. Small plates of frittatas, seeded flatbread, various sweet and savory breads, granolas, oatmeals, fruits, cheeses and nuts were delicious. I confess we still went for a more filling breakfast later. (Head to the Corner Café, Caleb & Broad, or Rosemary & Thyme).
The King suites are perfect for families. Ours included ample space, a fridge, coffee maker, and a very comfortable sofa bed with an inflatable mattress built in. Rooms come with preprogrammed iPads and the televisions have Apple TV’s.
The beds were exceptionally comfortable, but the window treatments are not the type that darken a room. If any members of your family are sensitive to light while sleeping, pack a few dark garbage bags and a roll of painter’s tape to black out the room.
Actually, one of the best features of the hotel was the free parking. The ease with which we could come and go (and even find parking) in town so easily is another perk to visit off season.
We have stayed at the Hotel Viking many times, and it is the perfect place during the holidays. The Viking has an indoor pool in its basement and a playroom filled with toys and games. Its Bellevue Avenue location is convenient to nearby shops and cafés, but parking is tough, and valet is typically required. The afternoon tea is one of the more family friendly in town, too.
Newport Beach Hotel and Suites
During one summer weekend, we planned a last minute trip when our old standbys were sold out. We tried the Newport Beach Hotel and Suites because it offered one bedrooms suites with kitchens and an indoor pool. Even better, the hotel lies across the street from Easton Beach.
We stayed in the new building, and our room was comfortable. I’ve read that the historic building is not ideal. This is more of a glorified motel than a true hotel like the previous ones listed. We can’t knock how easy it was for a vacation with four children. We loved being across the street from Easton Beach on a summer weekday and had the beach to ourselves.
For more information, consult with Discover Newport with the latest event calendar to plan your family break.