A Weekend in Newport, RI (can you say LOBSTAHHHH)

Newport, Rhode Island, where they call lobsters “LOBSTAHHHS” and clam chowder “CHOWDAHH).  Welcome to the smallest state with the biggest fun (excuse my english grammar).

Newport is one of my favorite places in the world (yes, the WORLD!)  It’s a place that is near and dear to my heart because it reminds me of my childhood – I grew up just a few towns away and spent some of my best summers in Newport with friends (especially Erin and Tara K!) and family.

In my adult years and since living in NYC for the last 12 years, I make it a point to get to Newport.  This past summer I was lucky enough to drag some of my best New York / Brooklyn friends to a place I call home.  Most had never been and by the end of the weekend everyone was in love with good ‘ole Newport.  Success!

This is us.  Basically the greatest group of friends I could ever ask for (yep, super sappy…).

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Below is some insight into the best weekend ever with the best people ever.

Feel free to follow me on Instagram to check out some of our Newport pictures as well as some of the other fun trips we’ve been on: @TaraSails

Newport Itinerary:

We had just from Friday – Sunday, so I made sure to really get in the most I could for our Newport visit: Lobster, Live Music, Lobster, Sunsets, Mansions, the Beach, and more Lobster…we left about 5lbs heavier, a little tanner and with the greatest memories ever. Totally worth it.

 

Friday:

Depart NYC for Newport early!

Our day started pretty early!  Our entire group took an Amtrak train from NYC to Kingston, RI (right outside Newport).  If you are coming from NYC take Amtrak.  I cannot stress that enough.  You don’t want to sit in traffic on 95 for 6 hours. Plus, it’s so much fun to spend 3.5 hours on a train on a Friday with your friends.  Mimosa and bagels, check.  Laughs, check check.  Orange Taxi Newport will also be your best friend when you arrive to Kingston and also for your time in Newport. Call them, tell them to pick you up in Kingston, RI at Amtrak.  And vou la, you’ll find yourself in Newport. Welcome!

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Morning                     Arrival to Burbank Rose

111 Memorial Boulevard West, Newport, RI 02840

This fabulous B&B (aka the Bubble House – you’ll learn why it’s named that when you stay there) is owned by my friend Brian and is big enough for 20 people comfortably. The house has 3 spacious floors, with several bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens and a common living room. Great for large groups. I rented the entire place for my friends.  Brian is super amazing, he’ll serve great treats and breakfast, and be around for whatever question, help or coordinating you need!  Bring a ouija board (you’ll thank me later)!

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I’m a big dork / major organizer / love to host people so I made these fun little gift bags with the weekend itinerary, Newport map, and some products from my company, Amber Blue skincare.

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12N                  Lunch at The Newport Lobster Shack

150 Long Wharf, Newport, RI

I love the Lobster Shack because it has great views of the water since it’s on the pier and fantastic lobster and other menu options. Plus it’s budget friendly! It also is a great place to have lunch and explore the shops around Newport all surrounding the restaurant.

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Just me showing off to my New York friends

 

1:3oP                 Shop around Newport

This afternoon is a great opportunity to explore the shops!  You could also take a quick sail on the Harbor on the Aquidneck.

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5:00P                           Historic Newport house tour & cocktails

One of my favorite parts of Newport is the beautiful historical homes and mansions. I was lucky enough to bring my group of friends to my wonderful friend Laraine and her husband Garrett’s stunning historical home in downtown Newport. This was a big highlight for everyone! I recommend touring around downtown Newport and looking at the homes or visiting a mansion during this time.

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That is Laraine and Garrett all the way on the left!  Such a fabulous couple!

 

While in Newport, I was also lucky enough to get these cool surfer dudes to drive the group around Newport in the back of their Jeep. Such fun and a great way to get around Newport quickly!  They dropped us off at our next stop… the Vanderbilt Grace to watch the sunset.

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6:30P-8:00P                Sunset & Cocktails @ The Roof Deck at Vanderbilt Grace

41 Mary St, Newport, RI 02840

The Vanderbilt Grace is breathtaking! I reserved a private space on their roof deck for my friends that overlooked the Newport Harbor and watched the sunset. The space is very small so I recommend calling ahead to reserve the space. They have food and fantastic Rose wine at the Vanderbilt Grace.

 

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Can’t beat a beautiful Newport sunset!

 

8:15P                           Lobster Rolls & Live Music @ Waites Wharf At the Deck

1 Waites Wharf, Newport, RI 02840

This spot is great for large groups and also has freakin amazing Lobster Rolls! The seating is outdoor overlooking the boat dock and water. They also have live music on the deck from 6P – 9P. For a large group I recommend calling ahead for a reservation and even pre-ordering your meal (if everyone is getting Lobster Rolls it’s pretty easy to put in the order!) this way you aren’t waiting to long (which can happen since it’s pretty busy there). After 9P a DJ starts and the outdoor dock can get a bit rowdy – but if you are into dancing the night away stay for a bit!

Other night life includes: Pelham, 41 North, Boom Boom at Clark Cooke House, Newport Blues.

 

Saturday:

9:00A-10:00A             Private Sunrise Yoga @ The Roof Deck at Vanderbilt Grace

41 Mary St, Newport, RI 02840

Whenever I plan a vacation or weekend away with friends I always try to incorporate some physical activity / workout. For this trip I arranged for a private yoga session on the roof of Vanderbilt Grace with the Vanderbilt yoga instructor, Sheri. Sheri was absolutely fantastic and the views on the roof that early over the harbor were breathtaking. We had so much fun and I highly recommend doing this if you can! Call the Vanderbilt to make arrangements.

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11:00A                        Go Cart / Scooter the 12-mile drive

                                    Scooter World at 12 Christies Landing, Newport RI

 Imagine nearly 20 of us scootering around Newport in go-carts. Yes that happened! Newport is gorgeous, I cannot stress that enough, from the ocean, mansions, boats, sunsets, parks and more. The scene is breathtaking. The best way to see this is the 12-mile drive (very famous) and scootering around. I lead the way for my friends since I’ve done it a million times before, but it’s really easy! Scooter World will give you a map and you really cannot get lost. It’s a big circle. It will take you about 60-90 minutes and is really worth the money and time!

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Stop for Dells Lemonade it’s a Newport staple while on your scooter trip on Thames Street!

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Here’s a map from Laura Hooper that depicts a good idea of the path of 12-mile drive.

 

 

1:30P                           Walk the cliff walk, have a picnic & Easton/1st beach                 

                                    1st Beach/Easton Beach Newport, RI

In Newport, there is 1st beach (Easton), 2nd beach, 3rd beach and so on. Each is different but for this weekend I lead the group to 1st beach/Easton Beach since it is pretty close to our house, you can enjoy the cliff walk, has really good Lobster rolls (the best in my opinion) at the Easton food shack and is big enough to run around and play bocce and toss a football or two. Have to admit though, it does have a bit of seaweed (always has) so if you don’t like that try the other beaches which usually are free from it. Regardless we had a great day sipping Rose, eating Lobster rolls, swimming and playing beach games!

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Watch out for the cheeky seagulls! The guys had their bocce balls stolen quite a few times by the seagulls – made for many laughs watching them run after the seagulls! 

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Food and Bocce Balls! Sign from Easton Beach Snack Bar! 

 

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Cliff Walk

 

 

6:30P – 8:00P             Sunset & Cocktails at Castle Hill Inn

590 Ocean Ave, Newport, RI 02840

This is a must. I repeat, you must watch the sunset at Castle Hill Inn in Newport. The lawn is gorgeous, sit in an Adirondack chair, admire the ocean and sailboats, have a cocktail and watch the best that mother nature has to offer, the sunset. Get there early, Castle Hill doesn’t let the lawn get overly crowded and they will turn people away once it gets too busy.

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8:30P                           Dinner & Live Music at The Landing

30 Bowens Wharf, Newport, RI

There are so many great restaurants in Newport. I picked the ones I picked because, while good, they also were able to accommodate larger groups. Many of the Newport restaurants are small and cannot. I will provide a list of other places below. The Landing was super accommodating and had great food! Before getting to the restaurant we pre-ordered appetizers so when we arrived food would be on the table. We then ordered several dishes for the entire table to share (around 20 dishes likely) which we passed around and all tried. It was a great way to share and try different Newport foods. The prices are great too! The Landing gets busy and generally has a line of people waiting to get in since they have a great outdoor space that has Live Music and outdoor bar. We spent most of the night here and had a great time!

Other after dinner options: Pelham, 41 North, Boom Boom at Clark Cooke House, Newport Blues

 

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Our group being silly!  My dad even got to join this dinner which was great, “hi dad!”.  

 

After dinner we headed to the outside area of The Landing to listen to live music.  Here’s Meg hopping on stage with the singer to add in her own vocals!  We had so much fun!

 

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“Oh baby youuuuuuu… got what I need… and you say you’re just a friend…and you say you’re just a friend”… Meg singing!

 

 

Late Night                  Via Via Pizza

372 Thames Street, Newport, RI

Via Via was my old stomping ground in high school and college… and let’s be honest it’s also a place I’ve enjoyed well into my 30’s too! Check it out post a night of live music at Newport Blues or the like and enjoy a slice with the rest of Newport! It gets busy but it’s a total Newport experience!

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Sunday:

10:00A                        Pineapples on the Bay

                                     On Goat Island

Head over to Goat Island (just across from Newport) for brunch. Great views of the Newport harbor!

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All Day                        Sunday was spent doing a variety of Newport things on our own/in small groups

*For Suggestions see below for “things to do” in Newport like the beaches, mansion tour, 12-mile drive, shopping on Thames, sailing…

Afternoon                 Departures – Goodbye

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That concludes our amazing Newport weekend!  We had an absolute blast and still talk about our weekend to this very day and laugh! I am looking forward to another summer in Newport with friends!

Below are more ideas of things to do in Newport and other items you may find helpful!

 

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Other Important Stuff to Know:

TRANSPORTATION

Orange Cabs Phone: (401) 841-0030 (They are fantastic and you can book ahead and arrange for car service. I exclusively used them for my entire weekend)

Uber now exists in Newport.

Getting to and from Newport can be a b*tch. I had to twist my friend’s arms not to drive to Newport because even though Google map will tell you it takes 3 hours, it will take you 6 hours with summer traffic from NYC.   The best way to get there is by train! Take Amtrak to Kingston Railroad Station (West Kingston train stop). From there, take a cab to Newport. You can pre-arrange this with Orange Cabs. Very often cabs will be waiting there as well. Share the cab with others to make it cheaper – everyone does this.

BRUNCHES/LUNCHES

  • All the places I listed above and also the ones below I enjoy:
  • Pizza: Via Via Pizza or Nikolas Pizza
  • Black Pearl great for day time chowdahhhh (Clam Chowder) on the dock outside
  • Pineapples for Brunch on Goat Island
  • Castle Hill for lunch The Lawn 11:30a-3p
  • Barking Crab
  • Ice Cream at Newport Creamery (childhood favorite!)
  • Brick Alley Pub
  • Red Parrot
  • Easton Snack Bar at Easton Beach (Lobstahhhh Rolls!)
  • The Lobster Bar
  • Dells Lemonade (MUST HAVE)
  • Franklin Spa (Very popular hole in wall for breakfast)
  • White Horse Tavern (oldest Tavern in the USA)
  • Perro Salado (great Mexican)
  • Clarke Cookhouse
  • Tallulah on Thames (one of my favorite restaurants!! Lobster grilled cheese – yes please)
  • Pasta Beach

OUT AT NIGHT:

  • 41 North
  • The Deck / Dockside Live Music
  • Pelham
  • Clark Cooke House Boom Boom Room
  • Newport Blues – LOVE THIS PLACE! Especially on 80’s night!! Great for Bachelorette parties too.

THINGS TO DO:

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VIVA LA CUBA

Cuba, ahhh, step into a time-capsule and be sent back to the 1950’s.  What I loved about my visit to Cuba was simply the simplicity.  Wandering the streets and admiring the architecture, meeting the locals, learning about politics, food, art and more.

For pictures visit my instagram: @tarasails (Cuba Trip Pictures: #TaraSailsCuba)

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I encourage everyone to visit Cuba when they can!

Here is some help in getting you to Cuba to see what I saw:

Visiting Cuba: Tara Sails

Tour with a local:

To truly capitalize on your time there I encourage hiring a local guide/translator.  My local guide was Pedro Foster, a Cuban Doctor who also is a tour guide. He’s pretty freakin awesome! “Locally Sourced Cuba Tours” / Pedro Foster at http://locallysourcedcuba.com

Tour group:

Travendly (local New Yorkers to travel with)

Intrepid (People to People group trips)

Visas:

You need a Visa to go to Cuba.  When you get to the airport you will fill out a form.  I picked education as I had an itinerary created that was called “People to People”.  If you hire a local tour guide they can help you with this itinerary and a tour group will do the same. (This is for Americans)

Flights:

I took a Charter flight out of Miami, however, JetBlue started direct fights to Havana on December 1st – lucky you! (This is for Americans)

Airport Logistics:

  • When you depart to Cuba purchase a visa and pay the Cuban departure tax (totals $110).  Save this information/receipts/visa for when you come back to the states – they’ll ask for it!  Big headache if you lose any of this information.
  • Exchange your money in the Cuban airport for CUC.  The exchange is 1:1 on the USD, however, they charge an additional 10% fee for changing USD (they do not charge this if you are exchanging with EURO).
  • Transportation is easy to your casa – there are tons of Taxi drivers that will take you to where you need to go.  I recommend printing out a google image map of your house or hotel to show the driver (keep in mind there is no cell phone and internet service in Cuba!).  

Hotel/Housing:

I stayed in house because I did “people to people” plus it was amazing to be with local Cuban family.  It was a beautiful home in the neighborhood of Vedado, Havana.  Also it was right near the Presidential Hotel so I could sneak over for a drink, music and WIFI. I liked this area because it was quiet, safe and a 2-minute walk from the Malecón seafront promenade and beer garden.  It also is near a 24 hour gas station, which helps when you have a late night chocolate ice cream craving 🙂

I visited The Hotel Nacional de Cuba which is considered a symbol of history, culture, and Cuban identity.  I also visited the Hotel Saratoga which is right in the mix of all of Havana. It’s also the hotel that many celebrities stay at.

8 Hotels in Havana according to Vogue: Click Here

Where to stay in Cuba according to Conde Nast: Click Here 

Food and Evenings Out:

Get ready to enjoy some plantains, rice, beans and mojitos!  The food is great and many of the restaurants source their ingredients from the gardens nearby.  It’s as organic as you can get!

Here’s where I went:

Lunch on Day 1: 304 O’Reilly

Dinner on Day 1: Motivo’s / Razones

Lunch on Day 2: NAO

Dinner on Day 2: Porto Habana

Lunch on Day 3: Casa de Confianza (in Vinales at their farm)- absolutely must go here!!! Amazing!!!!!!!!

Dinner on Day 3: El Cocinero followed by Fabrica de Arte (Anthony Bourdain went here) these two places amazing. El Cocinero is very hip and reminded me of a place in TULUM. Go to roof deck to sit at table and/or get a drink at roof!! Great music.  Lines long at Fabrica de Arte post dinner so try to do earlier dinner and get to Arte early (they are next door to eachother).  

Bar on Day 3: Espacios Tapas Bar & Restaurant

Lunch on Day 4: Ajiaco Cafe (in Cojimar) – cooking class – amazing and farm next to it where they source food do tour of farm! My favorite.

Dinner on Day 4: Habana 61

Bar on Day 4: Kilometro Zero

*I will post some photos soon on these locations!  

My Itinerary:

Day 1:

Explored the neighborhood of Vedado, Havana the richer neighborhood of Havana where there are large homes with beautiful architecture.  I watched the sunset on the Melecon and drank some local rum! Highly recommend a night watching the sun and having a drink on the Melecon, most locals do this.  There’s also a beer garden across from the Melecon in Vedado that I visited too.

For dinner I visited a local paladar, a privately owned restaurant, and went to a local jazz club.

Education:

History of paladares: http://havanarestaurants.com/history-of-paladares-in-cuba.html

Day 2:

Today I visited Callejon de Hammel, took a classic car ride around Havana, did a walking tour of Old Havana, explored the Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de San Francisco and finally took a salsa dancing class!  

Education:

Callejon de Hammel: https://thirdeyemom.com/2014/04/27/exploring-central-havanas-hamels-alley/

Salvador Gonzalez: http://www.lahabana.com/content/salvador-gonzalez/,

Neighborhoods of Havana: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/havana/777945

Old Havana: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/204 and https://placesjournal.org/article/history-of-the-present-havana/

Salsa:: http://salsagente.com/history-of-salsa-music-dance/

Day 3:

My favorite day!  I went to Vinales, Cuba.  A bit of a drive from Havana but worth it!  First I stopped at Las Terrazas, a small community and nature reserve.  I then went on to Vinales and  toured a beautiful organic farm (Casa de Confianza) and had lunch overlooking the mountains of Vinales! I also was able to visit a local cigar farm and smoke a cigar! Dinner was at El Cocinero which was amazing.  Very hip spot and reminded me a lot of Tulum, Mexico.  Definitely head to the roof for a drink and some music before or after dinner!  I then headed over to Fabrica de Arte (Anthony Bourdain went here).  There are long lines long at Fabrica de Arte so try to do an earlier dinner and get to Arte early (they are next door to each other).  I ended up later in the evening at Espacios Tapas Bar & Restaurant.  This is also the night I learned of the death of Fidel Castro along with the rest of Cuba!  

Unesco: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/840

Cuban Cigars: http://floratheexplorer.com/the-truth-behind-cuban-cigars/

Anthony Bourdain’s experience at Fabrica de Arte: http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/09/21/cuba-art-bourdain-parts-unknown.cnn/video/playlists/bourdain/

Day 4:

Today I visted a Cigar factory (Partagas Cigar Factory) and I highly recommend you doing this as well!  It’s incredible to see first hand the process that goes into making each cigar and I had no idea that they were carefully hand rolled one by one by a local Cuba and not done by machinary.  The experience of being in a factory and seeing people at work was also eye opening.  I won’t reveal much as I’d like people to see this on their own!  I then took a cooking class in Cojimar at Ajiaco Cafe  and toured the local garden nearby where they source much of their ingredients.  The day ended visiting Fusterlandia and shopping for souvenirs.

Cuban cigar history: https://www.puroexpress.com/Puro_Express/Cuban_Cigars_101/History_and_Production

Different factories: http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/16209

Brief overview of Cuban food history: http://www.lahabana.com/content/cuban-cuisine-traditions-and-innovations/ and http://cookingincuban.com/history-of-cuban-food/

Fusterlandia: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/regina-fraser-and-pat-johnson/havanas-fusterlandia-cultural-art_b_1762925.html

Jose Fuster: http://www.lahabana.com/Culture/articles_couch.php?id=Fuster-Cuba’s-irrepressible-Gaudi-restyles-Jaimanitas

Extra Information:

Currency:

There is no relationship between U.S, financial institutions and Cuba therefore credit cards will not work.  You NEED cash and it’s important to get this from the airport when you arrive in CUBA.

Internet:

There is no internet or cell phone usage in Cuba.  WiFi is available through Government owned hotels in Cuba and they offer internet cards for 1 hour uses (cost around $2 CUC – $10 CUC depending on the hotel).  The cards SELL OUT so buy a few at once so you have a stash.  

Water

Do NOT drink the water.  Use bottled water for everything including brushing your teeth.

Offline maps

Download offline map app from the app store and download Havana.  

Handing Out Supplies

Bring items to give away to people in Cuba – they will appreciate it!  Cubans do not have access to many drug store like items like advil, bandaids, first aid items, OTC drugs, toothpaste, etc.  Also, you could bring candies and hand them out to children on the streets – I did this and the kids LOVED IT!  You can even pack clothes you plan on donating in the USA and bring that to hand out when you leave (plus that leaves you with less in your suitcase for all the rum and cuban cigars you buy!)

Tipping:

Definitely encouraged for service people like your tour guide and translator!

Pack in your bag daily:

A snack (nuts, granola bar, etc), toilet paper (you will thank me for this at one point), hand sanitizer, and sanitary items (for the ladies).

HAVE FUN!!