My husband and I had an easy time picking a summer babymoon destination. We wanted to plan the trip late in my pregnancy but we could only take off of work for a couple of days, so many popular options—Florida, the Bahamas, Europe—were out of the running. But that didn’t prevent us from finding the best driving-distance oasis for our pre-baby getaway: Newport, Rhode Island.
In anticipation of the arrival of our first child we’ve been frantically fixing up our new house, registering for baby gear, and reading early parenting books as if preparing for Armageddon. So the babymoon was a much-needed breather from real-life responsibilities and our only chance to be relatively carefree indulging in alfresco meals, museums, and non-goal-oriented shopping.
With just four days in Newport, we were determined to make the most of our limited time with equal parts sightseeing and relaxing in the seaside city just south of Providence, RI. So we cruised into town midday on Saturday and immediately joined the Rhode Island Red Food Tour, even before dropping off our bags at the hotel. The tour is a brand new offering this summer and introduced us to some of the lesser-known culinary spots in the immediate area (no tourist traps or cheesy theme restaurants). We visited an eclectic café, a creative pizza joint, a bar with an operating baseball diamond out back, and the oldest drinking establishment in the country, all while taking in some local history and culture. It was a three-hour excursion but we covered the two miles on foot at a slow and steady pace with plenty of bathroom breaks. At nearly eight months pregnant, it was no sweat.
With bellies full of fried green tomatoes and root beer-braised beef short rib, we checked into the Francis Malbone House, located directly in the heart of the action on Thames Street where people flock to shop and dine just steps from the waterfront. The inn was built in the mid-18th Century for a local shipping merchant and is an award-winning B&B boasting the kind of hospitality that makes a babymoon so special. We awoke every morning to a multi-course breakfast where we indulged in things like lemon poppy seed waffles and mixed berry pancakes in a beautiful courtyard. It was sufficient fuel for days spent wandering the area’s biggest attractions—Newport’s many historic mansions. A collection of ten sprawling properties owned by the Preservation Society are open for daily tours, allowing visitors to get a glimpse at the former private estates of moneyed families like the Vanderbilts.
After touring the kinds of lavish homes that we could never imagine raising a toddler in, my husband and I were in the mood for an outdoor lunch that was a little nicer than some of the run-of-the-mill fish shacks in town. So we headed over to the Safari Room at OceanCliff for lobster rolls and sailboat watching. It was unseasonably chilly, but we couldn’t pass up the restaurant’s waterside views and salty harbor air. It also got us all the more excited for our sunset cruise we had booked for that evening.
Although I grew up sailing on Long Island Sound, I wasn’t convinced I’d be game for boating during pregnancy. But I could tell my husband really wanted to get on the water. So I agreed to a 90-minute ride aboard the Sightsailing yacht Aquidneck through Narragansett Bay. It was a relatively breezy evening but the sail was nice and tame, and I never felt unsteady—despite my ever-changing center of gravity—on the beautiful schooner. A crew of sailors served passengers unlimited champagne and beer, plus soda and water for teetotalers like myself. We sipped our refreshments and took in the New England shoreline, along with sights like Fort Adams, Hammersmith Farm, which was JFK’s summer White House, and a fascinatingly constructed home known as Clingstone situated on a rocky outcropping.
When we return to the dock post-sunset we could have easily been lured by any of the nearby charming wharf restaurants, but we were determined to check out a modern New American spot recommended by the Francis Malbone innkeeper called Tallulah on Thames. Full disclosure: I’m not a big fish eater, so the farm-driven menu with plenty of fresh, seasonal vegetables and pork and pasta plates was especially appealing. We opted for the four-course prix fixe dinner, which allowed us to taste a little bit of everything—from smoked avocado to zucchini cake with Chinese five spice ice cream. I’ve been to some fantastic Manhattan restaurants during this pregnancy, but I’d be lying if I said Tallulah wasn’t the best meal we’ve had in a very long time.
Our last day in Newport was laid back with plenty of antique shopping—check out Aardvark Antiques and Armory Antiques for one-of-a-kind finds big and small—and a prenatal massage (which can be harder to find than you might expect) for yours truly at the Newport Marriott. The hotel is the biggest in the city and just underwent an extensive, $35 million renovation. I took a spin around the lobby before my appointment and was blown away by the gorgeous atrium, outdoor terrace, and collection of rooms with interior balconies that gave the effect of being onboard a luxury cruise ship. The nautically inspired décor created the perfect ambiance for waterfront guests. But I was determined to take advantage of the venue’s full service spa given the aches and pains of my pregnancy. So I practically skipped off to my “mother-to-be massage” where I was propped up by special cushions and pillows and rubbed into blissful oblivion while lying on my side. It was similar to a traditional Swedish massage and left me as loose and relaxed as a glass or two of my much-missed Sauvignon Blanc.
Before heading back to New York, we grabbed a bite at Brick Alley Pub, a popular spot for burgers and nachos, and a perfect way to satisfy my growing third-trimester appetite. The atmosphere is akin to your favorite family-friendly bar-restaurant with neon signs and sports paraphernalia covering every inch of the walls. The food is comfort cuisine at its best with options in all categories—from salads and pizzas to fish and steaks. We couldn’t resist sharing a little something from each part of the menu, and finished the meal with whipped cream-topped milkshakes that made us feel like we definitely weren’t adult enough to be preparing for a baby (hey, we still have six weeks to grow up).
The less-than-three-hour drive back to New York was just long enough to relive our favorite moments from the trip and talk baby names as we narrow down the list of boy and girl options. And we even started planning our first family summer trip back to Newport next summer. Now we just need to figure out how to get a stroller on a schooner.
For more ideas and information, visit gonewport.com.
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer living in Westchester, NY. She is due at the end of August. Find her at whitneycharris.com.