Newport at a Glance
Location: Coastal Rhode Island
Access: Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport
Hotel Rooms: 2,697
Capacity: Up to 160 for dinner and dancing
Built: Established as Ft. Adams Trust in 1994, history that dates to the 1700s
Capacity: Several indoor and outdoor locations can accommodate up to 350 guests
Capacity: Up to 150 guests for seated dinner
Newport Harbor Island Resort
Guest Rooms: 257
Meeting Space: 39,438 square feet
Newport Marriott Hotel and Spa
Guest Rooms: 320
Meeting Space: 24,284 square feet
Guest Rooms: 208
Meeting Space: 14,000 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Newport
Cloudscape Technology Conference hosted by Blue Mantis
CONNECT Spring Conference
Epitomizing the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island, has been a hotspot for gathering and entertainment for more than a century. It became a fashionable seaside resort in the mid-1800s, when America’s wealthiest families built “summer cottages” there and hosted dazzling social events. That tradition continues today, ranging from presidential weddings to business meetings. Apparent to groups that visit, Newport’s hospitality and variety of diversions remain unsurpassed.
Newport displays American history at every turn. Conveniently located between Boston and New York City, Newport was one of America’s five primary Colonial seaports. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read on the steps of Washington Square’s Old Colony House, the nation’s fourth-oldest statehouse, which is still standing. Along the city’s cobblestone streets, Touro Synagogue dates to Colonial times and is the nation’s oldest synagogue and one of 10 architecturally distinguished buildings of that era. Another landmark, White Horse Tavern, is the nation’s oldest restaurant, serving food and libations for more than 350 years.
Newport’s No. 1 attraction is the three-and-a-half mile Cliff Walk, which runs along the Atlantic, showcasing stunning panoramas and Gilded Age mansions. Visitors can tour several of the homes, including the Breakers, built by the Vanderbilt family; the Elms, modeled after a mid-18th century French chateau; and Routh Point, which was Doris Duke’s private home until 1993 and features elaborate grounds and ocean views.
Outdoor adventures take place on land and water. From teambuilding aboard one of the America’s Cup 12-Meter sailboats to relaxed sunset cruises, water views are spectacular. Attendees can hop on a unique quad bike and pedal the coastal rail trail. Food tours, wine tastings and traditional clambakes showcase regional cuisine.
“Our greatest asset is our location,” said Tim Walsh, vice president of sales for Discover Newport. “For more than a century, visitors have been attracted to Newport because of our beautiful coastline, opulent mansions and water activities in the harbor.”
Major Meeting Spaces
According to Walsh, Newport focuses on small meetings hosting five to 500 attendees. Several meeting hotels, a handful of world-class boutique properties and more than 100 inns and bed and breakfasts are available. Noteworthy meeting hotels include the 257-room Newport Harbor Island Resort, which is undergoing an interior renovation to be completed this spring. Located on Goat Island, and a short walk from downtown, it offers the 8,000-square-foot Beacon Ballroom featuring floor-to-ceiling windows framing ocean views; the 4,018-square-foot Rose Island Ballroom with a large deck overlooking Narragansett Bay; and the Pavilion, occupying waterfront lawn space. Lewis Hall, located just off the ballroom, can accommodate 28 exhibit booths in its 4,500 square feet. The spa, marina, indoor and outdoor pools, bicycles and watersport rentals round out amenities.
Downtown’s 320-room, nautically inspired Newport Marriott Hotel and Spa boasts 17 event rooms totaling 24,284 square feet of flexible space, with the largest space accommodating 840 guests. The soaring atrium can host a cocktail reception, ceremony or dinner. The 7,800-square-foot Grand Ballroom accommodates up to 500 dinner guests. In addition to having a waterfront restaurant and bar, the property is within walking distance of local dining outlets and shops.
Harkening to the Gilded Age, the 208-room Hotel Viking is on historic Bellevue Avenue. Ten meeting rooms total 14,000 square feet. Unique spaces include the 1859 Kay Chapel, accommodating up to 200 guests. Walkable to downtown’s dining and shopping, this property offers a spa and seasonal rooftop deck featuring views of Narragansett Bay and Bellevue Avenue while serving signature cocktails, wine and draft beer.
Among the city’s many elaborate locations, Rosecliff mansion tops the list. Featured in films such as “The Great Gatsby,” “True Lies,” “27 Dresses” and “Amistad,” it is modeled after a baroque pavilion built at Versailles. One historic dinner party here featured magician Harry Houdini. The ballroom accommodates up to 160 for dinner and boasts gilded bronze and crystal chandeliers and a trompe-l’oeil ceiling of painted clouds.
The Marble House, built for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt in 1892, features the largest private ballroom in Newport, a heart-shaped staircase, a colorful Chinese tea house and ocean vistas. Seated dinners in the Gold Room can host 60 guests, while the terrace can accommodate up to 120 guests from May through October. Cocktail receptions can host 250 guests in warmer months and 100 people in winter.
“We host everything from family-style lobster bakes [that can include] horseshoes and volleyball to white-glove events at our mansions and everything in between,” said Walsh.
Fort Adams, a National Historic Landmark, is undergoing restoration and offers guided tours and teambuilding. Receptions and traditional clambakes take place indoors and outdoors for 10-350 attendees. The fort is accessible from downtown via driving or water shuttle.
Since 1917, Newport Vineyards’ more than 100 acres have been family owned. In 2012, a multimillion-dollar renovation included an expansion of the 30,000-square-foot event venue. Large gatherings, galas, private dinners and receptions use on-site event planning and farm-to-table catering.
After the Meeting
“Among the allures of Newport are pre and post days because there’s so much to do,” said Walsh. “In season you can walk right off the street and play on the grass court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where the first U.S. Open was held. And as home to the largest fleet of America’s Cup racing yachts, many are available for charter and hold about 14 people. Each person is given an assignment, and attendees can race against their colleagues.”
For beautiful views of the rocky coast, Beavertail State Park provides four overlooks. Attendees can hike or explore the park’s Lighthouse Museum, the third-oldest lighthouse in North America. Nearby, the 325-acre Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown supports environmental education and contains diverse habitats with seven miles of hiking trails. One popular trail leads to Hanging Rock with ocean panoramas.
Back in town, the International Tennis Hall of Fame display nearly 2,000 tennis-related objects, plus thousands of images, videos and publications. The Newport Car Museum opened in a former missile manufacturing facility in 2017. More than 95 automobiles exemplify 80 years of evolving automotive design, with separate galleries for Ford/Shelbys, Corvettes, muscle cars and more. After exploring the museums, attendees can meander Newport’s cobblestone streets and bustling wharves for souvenirs and treasures such as glasswork, pottery and jewelry to take home.