Photo credit: Erin McGinn for Yankee Magazine
Anyone that knows me, knows I have an affinity for Christmas and starting just after Jazz Fest in August people start asking me what I think they should do in Newport for the holidays. A few years ago I got together with Ryan Belmore of Whatsupnewp and Trixie Wadson of Bowen’s Wharf Company along with a great group of retailers to create what is now the Newport Holiday Stroll. This community driven event boasts citywide festivities from retail store sip and shops to restaurant discounts and seasonal performances, exhibitions and activities. But with so much to do, where does one start to get the most out of one weekend in the New England’s quintessential Christmas town? I have a few ideas for you, but I encourage you to take bits of this list and make it your own, after all, the best parts of the season are all about traditions of your own!
Photo credit: Discover Newport
Start your shopping on Spring and Franklin and head toward Thames Street, stopping at all of the lovely stores which are locally owned and very carefully curated. Walk up Thames Street toward Trinity Park, take a photo in the park, grab a coffee at Starbucks. I know it is not local, but your hands are frozen and the people that work at this location are all locals and are all smiling and thrilled to be making your drink so you can keep on strolling. Continue along Thames Street and Brick Market Place as they both have some great shops to pop in from sunglasses to sweaters, this is a good block.
Washington Square is next up on your stroll and be sure to grab your gift cards from the Jane Pickens Theatre and hit a couple of the great shops within the Square before heading to Stoneacre Pantry or the White Horse Tavern for a drink and a snack. You made it through day one of the Newport Holiday Stroll, treat yourself!
If you planned in advance you can even get to a performance of Island Moving Company’s The Nutcracker at the Breakers. If you’re looking for something more active, head to Gurney’s for some ice skating and see the goats, Cornelius and William! Their mansion inspired digs are all decked out for the holidays and the Goat Island lighthouse is lit up too!
Photo credit: Discover Newport
Dress as warmly as you can with various layers in preparation for the longest day of your merry life but boy is it worth the charming experience! Start at CRU for breakfast, then when you are properly fueled, head down Bellevue toward Memorial, there are tons of shops along the Tennis Hall of Fame, but I urge you to head down William Street as well to see the new shops or old shops with new owners that have sprouted up there plus old favorites, when you hit Newport Sweet Shoppe, turn back. Now you have two options for midday refuel - Empire Tea & Coffee or head across the way and stop at The Power of Juice. If you need something more substantial try Gourmet Newport Wine & Cheese. There’s a Dunkin Donuts too over in this mix for those salty New Englanders that prefer Dunkin over all else!
Now you must do what has historically felt unusual, but now is super hip and cross over Memorial to get to see my store and my neighbors. I know, it takes several moments to wait for that light to change, but it is worth it! Once you get there we have shops on both sides of the street and you can even stop at Pasta Beach at their new location and have a perfect lunch and perhaps a glass of wine because you’re going to need it for your next stop!
Once you are fully sated and I would say no later than 5pm now, you want to stow your gifts in your car and get down to Bowen’s and Bannister’s Wharf for some shopping and probably our most celebrated Newport holiday event, the 49th Annual Tree Lighting at Bowen’s Wharf. This year they are setting up a Christmas Village with face painting and live music and Frosty will be there. It’s the real deal quintessential New England Christmas scene and if you have kids they are going to freak out and if you don’t, sidle up at the Clarke Cooke House and ask Rick for a dark and stormy. You made it through day two of the Newport Holiday Stroll and the merriment continues tomorrow!
Photo Credit: Jess Ann Kirby
Don’t skip out on Sunday! This is the day you get to drive from place to place and hit the stores with the items you just did not find anywhere else. Start at Bridge Street. It’s refreshing because there are only two spots and they are worth it! Water Brothers just moved back to 39 1/2 Memorial Blvd. Lower Thames has everything, Midtown Oyster Bar, 41 North, a magic shop and all weather gear, home decor shops galore, Thames Street Kitchen and Winner Winner and at the very end there’s a local market and locally owned gallery. If you did not get past Pasta Beach on Bellevue because of time, I encourage you to stop on Mill Street for the few shops peppered in there and along Bellevue near the Newport Art Museum and Redwood Library, did I mention memberships to not for profits make a great gift and contribute to the community too!
And with that, the weekend comes to a close and we must say goodbye to the 2019 Newport Holiday Stroll, but remember these shops and eateries and hotels are here all year long and many offer online shopping and shipping and all of them rely on folks like you that believe in the holiday magic of sipping, shopping, eating and staying locally!
Photo credit: Bowen's Wharf
Below is a guide to my approach for maximum merriment during the Newport Holiday Stroll. I did not include every spot along the way and you can find a full list of shops, restaurants and hotels on the website for Discover Newport. If you check the Facebook Event Page for the Newport Holiday Stroll shops and restaurants and hotels will post their specific offers there. I highly recommend making your list, checking it twice and finding some warm, weatherproof footwear!
But first, a note about parking. You get to be in Newport all weekend. You get to have the time of your life with Frosty and shopping at stores that are giving out cider doughnuts and tempting you with sparkling mulled wine, it’s a good time! But you have to stow your car. The good news is the meters are off and sticker parking is not in place. The bad news is most of those spots are 3 hour limit and let’s face it, 3 hours is right when you’re so cold you’ve tricked yourself you are warm again and that second hot toddy is hitting the spot.
Here are my tips for parking in Newport.
- Do not drink and drive
- Do not park illegally or block someone’s driveway, there is not holiday cheer in getting your car towed.
- Consider leaving your car at the hotel or the visitors center and walking or taking an Uber or Lyft around town.
- Try the trolley. I have no experience with this, but I do know there was a stop in front of my old store on America’s Cup Ave and there’s a stop in front of my store on Bellevue Avenue, there must be more stops to get you where you need to go. Be adventurous, take a trolley in Newport!
- There are free lots - the Mary Street Lot, the Visitors Center. Look up pay to park lots - here are a few I can think of - behind Midtown Oyster Bar, Bellevue Plaza (where CVS and Bellevue Wine and Spirits and A Market will validate if you shop with them for two hours) along Lower Thames Street, metered spots at the Stop & Shop parking lot and beside Pasta Beach on Bellevue.
- Get a group together and rent the Newport Wedding Trolley. Years ago someone did this for the Newport Holiday Stroll and it looked like it was the most fun group because no one had to drive or think about parking and pick up and drop offs were super easy.
Photo credit: Discover Newport
Newport Lamp & Shade
Meeka Fine Jewelry
Shore Soap Company
Photo op at Queen Anne Square, hopefully just dusted with a thin layer of snow!
The Platinum House
Newport Historical Society's Museum of Newport History & Shop
Washington Square & Upper Thames & Marlborough Street
Jane Pickens Theater
The White Horse Tavern
Bellevue Avenue Part 1
Bellevue Wine & Spirits
Lou Lou's Decor
Harper & Tucker
Newport Sweet Shoppe
Empire Tea & Coffee
Newport Gourmet Cheese & Wine
The Power of Juice
Bellevue Avenue Part 2
Seashells in Bloom
Three Golden Apples
The Clarke Cooke House
Cottages & Garden
Jessica Hagen Fine Art & Design
Midtown Oyster Bar
Lemon & Line
Anchored In Pink
The Kings Lens & Friends
Newport Art Museum
Andrea S Keogh Fine Art
Island Moving Company Nutcracker
Gurney’s Newport Ice Skating
Christmas at the Newport Mansions
Christmas in Newport
Check Discover Newport for more shops, restaurants and hotels and the Newport Holiday Stroll Facebook Event Page for specific offers. To get inspired for the holiday season, read this delightful story about Christmas in Newport in Yankee Magazine or check out Christmas in Newport.