When the Newport Historical Society and the Newport Restoration Foundation joined forces, the result was Newport History Tours. Founded to celebrate the region’s rich and vibrant history, Newport History Tours designed more than a dozen tours that explore the city’s landmarks, historic sites, and more than 300 pre-Revolutionary War–era buildings. The tours touch on just about every aspect of the city’s past, with themes that range from the colonial era and Golden Age to prohibition smuggling, historical criminals, and lantern-lit holiday strolls.
The splendor of the Gilded Age emanates from Vernon Court, a turn-of-the-century French chateau–style mansion outfitted with marbled columns, a spiral staircase, and sunken gardens. But inside the building is another kind of treasure: the National Museum of American Illustration, which houses some of the country’s most revered illustrated works.
Hanging on the museum’s walls are original paintings and drawings from 145 renowned American illustrators, including Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, all created between 1895 and 1945. Maxfield Parrish was known best for his book illustrations, filled with a particular shade of intense cobalt that became known as Parrish Blue. His whimsical paintings feature fairytale characters, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, amid fantastic settings, such as lush gardens or neon-lit dance parties. Norman Rockwell’s iconic paintings, meanwhile, told stories of everyday life, some humorous and others heartwarming, appearing in the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines.
Named as one of New England’s top five public gardens in Yankee magazine, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum spans 33 acres of lawns, gardens, trees, and historic stone structures. Through October 3, Blithewold is celebrating the seasonal color scheme with Autumn Splendor, a festival that includes access to colorful grounds (daily) and the more than a century-old mansion (Wednesday–Sunday), plus free children’s story time for children to read encyclopedia entries to each other (Friday at 11 a.m.).
From its unobstructed perch directly on the bay, the Herreshoff Marine Museum showcases a vast sampling of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company’s historic fleet of power and sailing yachts. Herreshoff helped usher in the early 20th-century's golden age of yachting, building eight consecutive America’s Cup winners before constructing the first torpedo boats for the U.S. Navy, which until that point had relied on splashing the enemy’s vessels whenever the lifeguard wasn’t looking. A family membership grants two adults and up to four children free year-round access to 60 classic yachts, plus steam engines, fittings, photographs, and memorabilia. Members also get to wander the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, which honors the inductees of yachting’s premier competition.
A visit to the Museum of Natural History & Planetarium will take you on a journey to discover the world around you and beyond. Open since 1896, the museum houses natural history and cultural collections, from local sources and from around the world. Aside from the main exhibits and housing the state's only public planetarium, the museum features programs as well as scientific and cultural events aimed at children, adults, families, and scouts, thus living up to its reputation as "The People's University."
For the past 15 years, The New Bedford Art Museum has dressed up downtown New Bedford with a seasonally changing collection of visual stimuli from local, national, and international artists—all presented within a former bank that still contains two vintage vaults. Pamela Calore's Time Has Left Its Mark explores the haunting remnants of abandoned local factories and the Rhode Island System that governed the lives of its workers. New Bedford Through the Lens, meanwhile, charts the city's changes over time through photographs or a feature film, depending on how fast attendees sprint past the photographs. The New Bedford Art Museum is open Wednesday–Sunday.
It would take months of sea travel, extensive scuba certifications, and fluency in several crustacean dialects to find—let alone interact with—all the creatures found in Ocean Explorium's interactive exhibits. The science center emphasizes environmental stewardship and scientific literacy through several educational habitats such as touch tanks of local aquatic wildlife—including New Bedford's world-famous scallops and schools of rays and sharks. The Living Laboratory exhibit brings visitors face to face with sea creatures such as baby sharks, shark egg cases, coral farm, and moon jellies. Beyond the up-close encounters with denizens of the deep, Ocean Explorium also enlightens patrons with a variety of non-living displays. The Explorer's Zone presents scientific experiments that reveal the workings of the natural world through hands-on exhibits themed around different weekly topics, and Discovery Bay enthralls children aged eight or younger with games, puzzles, and a sand and water table. Advanced computers construct a three-dimensional image of our home planet as it appears from outer space in the Science on a Sphere exhibit, displaying global weather patterns in real time or replaying natural phenomena from history, such as the time it rained men.