Poor, neglected Rhode Island. We’ve lived in New England for almost a year and a half, yet somehow it’s the only state we managed to skip over…and over, and over. For some reason (*ahem* mountains, foliage, breweries, maple syrup, etc.) Sean and I always seem to go north when we travel up here. We’d been planning a trip to Rhode Island for ages, but we just…never got around to it. Which is a darn shame! Rhode Island may not have the crunchy-granola vibe that I love so much about Vermont and Maine (hat tip to renegade New Hampshire for “live free or die”). But you know what Rhode Island does have? Mansions.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Newport, Rhode Island, was the playground of the super-rich. The Vanderbilts, the Astors, and other American elites built their sprawling summer homes right on the water. And now, for a nominal fee ($25 for one house or $35 for five), plebeians like us can swan through their gilded halls, too.
The most famous mansion in Newport is The Breakers—a 125,000-square-foot “cottage” built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1893 (before income tax was A Thing, when the family was sick with money). Photography isn’t allowed inside, but believe me (or Google) when I tell you that it is absolutely stunning. I felt like I’d stepped into Versailles, but with a sweet ocean view. If it wasn’t so darn big, I’d move in tomorrow. Heck, I’d even invite a couple dozen friends and we could all share it.
We also visited Marble House (owned by William Kissam Vanderbilt), which was nice in its own right, but didn’t call my name with quite the same volume as The Breakers did. That said, I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of a grandma, and both homes took geriatric chic to a whole ‘nother level. And I have to give credit to Marble House—it might not’ve been my favorite, but I’d give just about anything to make the matriarch’s bedroom my own. (Shoutout to my husband for knowing as soon as he walked in that I would love that room with my whole girly heart.)
Since we bought the five-mansion pass that never expires(!) we decided to save the remaining houses for another visit and spend the remainder of the day meandering along the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk that winds along the sea behind the mansions.
When we were planning our trip to Newport initially, I had it in my head that we’d get dinner at a seafood shack on the beach. But after spending all day surrounded by mega-opulence, I was in the mood for something a tad more chichi—or at least a place where I could get a glass of wine and a cloth napkin. We ended up at a restaurant called The Mooring with a great ocean view, limoncello and prosecco cocktails, and THE BEST appetizer I’d even tasted: seafood doughnuts with chipotle-maple aioli. Whoa.
I’m sorry I overlooked you, Rhode Island. It was wrong. I was dumb. But I have seen the light (in the form of two Baccarat crystal chandeliers) and I’m glad I have a reason to return.