Summertime is the height of the season for the seaside resort town of Newport, Rhode Island. After all, that is exactly when the rich elite went to this famous city by the sea and set up shop for 6 or so weeks in their “summer cottages” playing a part of high society. I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for Newport. I’ve spent time there in virtually every season and I love it always BUT nothing beats Newport in the Summer. Not only did I get to visit in the summertime BUT this go round I did Newport in true VIP heiress style and boy did I TRES ADORE IT!
How do you start off a VIP tour of a gorgeous seaside town, you ask?! Well, if you are moi, you take a helicopter ride to get an aerial view of the place. As much time as I have spent in Newport over the years, I have never seen it from the air and I think it’s the perfect way to get yourself oriented with place. You may think this sounds like an exclusive experience but it’s actually very reasonable. With Bird’s Eye View Helicopters, you can have a private tour starting at $65. What will that get you? Approximately 15 minutes of awe-inspiring views of the coastline, the famous Newport mansions, Newport Bridge and harbor. It is simply STUNNING!
Next on my heiress agenda was to set sail on an America’s Cup racing yacht, as you do when you are in the “Sailing Capital of the World”. I was truly the luckiest gal to be aboard “Heritage” – the last wooden yacht built in 1970 for the America’s Cup. This is an experience that I cannot encourage enough when visiting Newport. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like getting out on the water. Better still, on an incredible boat such as Heritage. To see the landscape I had just flown over and be a part of the U.S. sailing history is really something. Heritage is one of 12 Meter Charters fleet and a 2 hour sail starts at $73. Perhaps it’s not for the faint of heart…but it was UNFORGETTABLE!
Another important part of Newport’s history is the International Tennis Hall of Fame. So, what better place to have lunch for a modern-day heiress than dining beside the posh grass courts. Such a lovely setting, the International Tennis Hall of Fame was made a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Want to know why? Oh, just that the facility hosted the first U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships here 1881. It’s that little event better known today as the US Open. In fact, still housed here at the International Tennis Hall of Fame are the coveted silver trophies awarded each year at the US Open! You can also find on site other important tennis memorabilia and a diverse sampling of tennis fashions starting with Victorian tennis dresses to Serena Williams’ 2012 Olympic Games dress. FANCY!
As you can imagine, with all this VIP treatment and amazing history in Newport, naturally I had to stay in a historical mansion myself. I was the invited guest of the ever gracious Vanderbilt Grace. This 33 room boutique hotel was originally commissioned by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909 for his mistress Agnes O’Brien Ruiz. Nice gift, eh?! But take a look at the gifties Lola received from Vanderbilt Grace!! I particularly enjoyed the impeccable service of the staff anticipating guests needs while never ever being intrusive. It was like staying in a very luxurious and swanky home. Some things not to miss while on property at Vanderbilt Grace are the beautiful outdoor spaces – the Terrace Garden with cozy fire pits, fountains and a pool as well as the Rooftop Deck with possibly the best views of downtown Newport and the harbor. C’EST SI BON!
Now finished with full day of heiress treatment touring, it was time for some tasty treats at TSK (Thames Street Kitchen). One of my very favorites, TSK is a cozy restaurant that is also popular with the locals. Read – you may need to be important to get in here. Having said that, TSK is anything but stuffy. Offering a field to fork menu with locally sourced food, like this delicious charcuterie board pictured above, my favorite thing about TSK outside of the awesome food and service is the BYOB concept. It isn’t every day you can dine out and bring your own favorite vintage of vino. That alone makes me feel like a VIP!
Day two of a modern-day heiress adventure in Newport would have to include a stroll on the Cliff Walk beside the pretty Atlantic Ocean. Not only is it a picturesque way to get in some exercise but you can also get a behind the scenes look at the Newport mansion grounds. This is what I’d call a glamorous two-fer. A perfect stopping point along the Cliff Walk and an absolute Newport mansion must is a tour of The Breakers. A jewel of the New York Central Railroad fortune, The Breakers was Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s statement of the family’s social and financial preeminence to the world. This 70 room “summer cottage” was designed in the Italian Renaissance style and features rooms adorned with platinum leaf, marble and gilded wood. If walls could talk, couldn’t you just imagine the stories from summer soirees gone by. AMERICAN OPULENCE!
All mansion touring aside, where better to learn tricks of the modern-day heiress trade than from a gal that actually was one, Doris Duke! Miss Duke was the only daughter of James Buchanan Duke, who founded the American Tobacco Company, the Duke Power Company and was the benefactor of Duke University. When her father died, he left Doris an $80 million estate. One of Duke’s many homes, and among her favorites, was right here in Newport. Rough Point is an incredible oceanfront estate which Doris left exactly as she lived in it to the Newport Restoration Foundation – an non-profit organization that Miss Duke founded expressly to preserve important colonial architecture in Newport. Completely inspiring to get a glimpse of Duke’s life, my visit to Rough Point was educational to say the least. I really loved that she was Renaissance woman – traveling the world, collecting art and becoming a huge philanthropist along the way. Doris Duke gave away more than $400 million to various causes in her lifetime and she left 90% of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation which today supports the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse. Talk about one CLASS ACT!
Taking Doris’ lead to enjoy a sweeping ocean view, no visit to Newport would be complete without a cruise down Ocean Drive and sunset cocktails at the gorgeous Castle Hill Inn. Castle Hill is my most favorite spot in Newport and arguably the best place to see the sun set. Once a private summer residence, Castle Hill Inn still retains its 19th century charm. Castle Hill is so special that 5 years ago it became the first Rhode Island property to be invited into the prestigious Relais & Chateaux family. Regarded as the foremost authority on luxury hospitality, Relais & Chateaux recognizes hotels that combine one-of-a-kind accommodations with exceptional cuisine. I couldn’t agree more that Castle Hill qualifies! Luckily for me, I was able to confirm the exceptional cuisine status and enjoy an unbelievable multi-course tasting including scallops, an heirloom tomato tart and lobster risotto all paired with different wines. PERFECTION!
With my VIP visit to Newport coming to a close, how do think a modern-day heiress would bid this famous summer playground adieu? Oh, with a local radio interview about my visit is all! It was so much fun to share what’s so great about Newport over the airwaves of WADK. I loved reminiscing this visit on the “Talk of the Town” show and all the many previous times I’ve come to Newport. You see, it’s a place that you can enjoy repeatedly and find new things to discover every time! Heiress or not, Newport is not overrated as FABULOUS!
A huge heap of gratitude to Discover Newport for creating such an incredibly glamorous itinerary to experience Newport like a modern-day heiress! I was treated like a VIP with the helicopter tour, 12 Meter Charters sail, lunch at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and dinners at TSK & Castle Hill. My chariot to Newport was made possible by Argus Car Hire. Best of all was my VIP company, Ana – AKA – Mrs. O Around the World! As I already confessed, I love Newport and so I completely ‘Lola Approve’ this trip from beginning to end! The views here are mine.