From New York City, take I-95 to the third Newport exit, picking up Route 138 east (which joins briefly with Rte. 4) and crossing the Newport toll bridge slightly north of the downtown district. From Boston, take Route 24 through Fall River, picking up Route 114 into town.
T. F. Green/Providence Airport (tel. 401/737-8222) in Warwick, south of Providence (exit 13, I-95), handles national flights into the state. Major airlines serving this airport include American (tel. 800/433-7300), Continental (tel. 800/525-3273), Delta (tel. 800/221-1212), Northwest (tel. 800/225-2525), Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792), United (tel. 800/864-8331), and US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322). A few of the larger Newport hotels provide shuttle service, as does Cozy Cab (tel. 401/846-2500).
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, or RIPTA (tel. 800/244-0444 or 401/781-9400; www.ripta.com), runs up to 28 buses a day on the 70-minute ride between Providence's Kennedy Plaza and the Newport Gateway Visitor Center. One-way fare is $1.50.
RIPTA also has ferry service between Point Street Landing in Providence and Perrotti Park, near Newport's Gateway Center. From mid-May to mid-October, there are six departures daily. One-way fare is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and children 5 to 11; younger children ride free.
For advance information available 24 hours, call visitor information (tel. 800/976-5122 outside Rhode Island, 800/556-2484 in Rhode Island; www.goNewport.com). In town, stop by the excellent Newport Gateway Visitor Center, 23 America's Cup Ave. (tel. 800/326-6030 or 401/849-8048). Open daily from 9am to 5pm (until 6pm Fri-Sat), it has attendants on duty, a lodging-availability service, a cafe, and panoramic photos showing the locations of mansions, parks, and other landmarks. A TV monitor lists regularly updated lists of inns and hotels with available rooms. The building is shared with the bus station.
Parking & Getting Around
Most of Newport's attractions, except for the mansions, can be reached easily on foot, so leaving your car at your hotel or inn is wise. Parking lots aren't cheap, especially at the waterfront, and many streets are narrow. The metered parking along Thames Street is closely monitored by police, and fines are steep (although Nov-Apr the meters are hooded and parking is free for up to 3 hr.). Renting or bringing a bicycle is an attractive option.
RIPTA, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (tel. 401/781-9400), has several trolley/bus routes through town, making stops at major sights. Service originates at the Gateway Information Center. Fare is $1.50.
Arrive any day in summer, and you can expect to find at least a half-dozen festivals, competitions, or other events in progress. Following is only a partial list. (Call ahead to confirm dates: tel. 800/263-4636 outside Rhode Island, or 401/848-2000 in Rhode Island).
While there are a few substantive events in the off season, notably Christmas in Newport (tel. 401/849-6454; www.christmasinnewport.org) and the February Winter Festival (tel. 401/847-7666; www.newportwinterfestival.com), which focuses on food and winter sports, the pace ratchets up in June, starting with the Great Chowder Cook-Off (tel. 401/846-1600; www.newportfestivals.com).
In the third week of July is the Black Ships Festival (tel. 401/846-2720; www.newportevents.com), a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture.
August brings the Newport Folk Festival (www.newportfolk.com) and the 4-day JVC Jazz Festival -- Newport (tel. 866/468-7619; www.festivalproductions.net), both held at Fort Adams State Park. In early September, the gardens of the Point section of town are open to visitors during the Secret Garden Tour (tel. 401/847-0514; www.secretgardentour.com). The Waterfront Irish Festival (tel. 401/846-1600; www.newportwaterfrontevents.com) arrives in early September, Oktoberfest (www.newportfestivals.com) on Columbus Day weekend, and the Bowen's Wharf Seafood Festival (tel. 401/849-2120; www.bowenswharf.com) in the third week of October.