Admiral Fitzroy Inn, lower Thames St., Newport, R.I.
Newport Harbor Lighthouse on Goat Island, Newport, R.I.
The Elms, view from back gardens, Bellevue Ave., Newport, R.I.
Save The Bay Exploration Center, Easton's Beach Rotunda, Newport, R.I.

Warm Up by the Sea at the Newport Winter Festival in February

Cozy dining, firepits, fireplaces and heated igloos will warm you up at the 35th Annual Newport Winter Festival starting Friday, February 17th and going through to Sunday, February 26th, 2023. After seeing the festival cancelled two years in a row due to Covid, Newporters are excited about the 2023 Winter Festival, ten days of special events, discounts and fun activities. This year's motto is "Celebrate Don't Hibernate!". Ice sculptures will adorn Bowens and Bannister Wharves. Shops offer demonstrations and hands on activities like Make Your Own Perfume at Newport Aromatherapy, and Make Your Own Soap at Newport Sea Foam Trading Co., both on Thames St. Many events are planned throughout the festival, including historic walking tours, wine tastings, (More)

Ice Skating rink at Gurney's Resort (now the Newport Harbor Island Resort), Goat Island, Newport, R.I.

seal watching tours, dessert and wine pairings, beach polo, horse back riding on the beach and much more. Samples of family focused events are Save the Bay Touch Tank Aquarium, Storytime in The Breakers Stable and Carriage House, Ft. Adams guided tours and firepits, and a magic show at the Marriot, Illusion Quest with David Garrity. Also for kids, there are many special events: Toe Jam Puppet Band, the Rainforest Reptile Show, Mad Science, Teddy Bear Musical Story Time, Nautical Story Time at the Sailing Museum, Make your own Bird Feeder, and the Princess Party.


Over fifty local businesses participate in the Winter Festival discount Bracelet Program. Purchasing a festival bracelet for $10 per person gives you discounts to the activities, shops, restaurants and lodging. Some events are repeated and others are one or two times only. Some require pre-registration and a ticket, while others do not. There are live music performances, comedy shows, and food competitions.


In other words, there's A LOT going on for everyone all at specific times and days. Click here for the festival website day by day schedule. You can purchase the festival bracelet at these Newport locations.


During the Winter Festival, many retail stores, such as Newport Scrimshanders, Newport Seafoam Trading Co. (also the location for the "Make Your Own Soap" activity), the Spice & Tea Exchange, and the Newport Mansions Store on Bannisters Wharf offer discounts to bracelet holders. Museums like the Audrain Automobile Museum, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the Sailing Museum, the Newport Mansions (The Breakers and Marble House) and more also offer bracelet holders discounts toward admission and in their gift shops.


While not all shops are open during the winter since summer is the peak time for downtown Newport businesses, many do open their doors for the Winter Festival. Thames St. runs parallel to Newport Harbor and is lined with boutiques, an arcade, ice cream shops, several chain stores, plus restaurants. Upper Thames St. has a cobblestone road and some on street parking (pay at meters) where you will find an Irish imports shop, gourmet jerky shop, apparel stores, gift shops and restaurants. Shopping enclaves are located on Long Wharf, Brick Market Place, Bowens Wharf and Bannisters Wharf. Lower Thames St. is home to more boutiques, souvenir shops and eateries. The Lower Thames area is more compact with limited parking on the street and in side pay lots. The Gateway Visitors Center Parking Lot to the right of the Marriott Hotel is another pay lot on America's Cup Ave. There are more shopping districts a short drive or long walk away on Bellevue Ave., Spring St. and Broadway. See Scenic Shopping Newport for more details on the shopping in Newport.


The Newport Marriott hosts the Toe Jam Puppet Band, Rainforest Reptile Show, and IllusionQuest with Illusionist David Garrity. Also, they will have Psychic Tarot Readings with Maribeth McNair by appointment or walk-in. The Bubblemania show will be held at the Wyndham Newport Hotel in Middletown on Friday, February 24th. The Wyndham is also the site for the tribute band show, The Eagles Experience on Friday, Feb. 17th.


At The Reef restaurant on the waterfront, you can rent warming igloos, hear live music and consider their burger for the Burger Bender contest. They will also have Naton the Magician put on a show on Feb. 23rd from 6-7 p.m. performing tableside during dinner. The Reef is offering early bird diners free chowder or house salad with entree purchase from 4-6 p.m. for Winter Fest bracelet holders.


The Viking Hotel will host the evening ticketed adult comedy show by Marion Grodin and Paul D'Angelo on Friday, February 24th. And since Winter Fest is during school vacation week, the Viking is offering a special package with discouted rooms, special activities for kids, and "kids eat free." They also have other packages and discounts, like 15% off for Rhode Islanders and residents of other New England states.


There is an ice skating rink open to the public at the Newport Harbor Island Resort (formerly Gurney's Resort) on Goat Island. Skating ($15 adults, $8 kids 12 and under) and skate rentals ($12) are open weather permitting for two hour skate sessions (unlimited time for guests, rentals not included) through the winter months. See their website for hours and discounts. Their rink is perched on the northern part of Goat Island with an awesome view of Narragansett Bay, the Newport Harbor Lighthouse and the Newport Bridge. Newport Harbor Island Resort is currently offering a Stay & Skate promotion, plus several other winter getaway packages. They also have outdoor gas fire pits, warming igloos (food and beverage minimums apply to igloos) and seating off of their lobby, plus a cafe and lounge. The hotel has great bay views, an indoor pool and spa, onsite restaurant, a shuttle to downtown, parking, and friendly staff to help you take part in the festival activities.


Newport Harbor Island Resort hosts several scheduled featured events of the festival, including Robert Clarke Juggler and Comedian, and the Mad Science Show for kids. The Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band, Changes in Latitudes will perform on Saturday night, Feb. 18th. Polar Pineapples is a festival event on Friday, February 17th and Saturday, February 18th when the poolside Polar Club restaurant serves cocktails from their ice bar while you visit the firepits and take in the water views. Bracelet holders receive free hot chocolate. The 26th Annual Chili Cook-Off will also be at Newport Harbor Island Resort on Saturday, Feb. 18th from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm.


Other special events include the Princess Party at OceanCliff Castle on Wednesday, February 22nd (advance tickets for children and parents, costumes encouraged, strollers not permitted in ballroom). The Teddy Bear Musical Celebration and Story Time will be held at the Newport Harbor Hotel, located along the waterfront on America's Cup Ave. on Tuesday, Feb. 21st. (bring your teddy bear, $5 admission, $2 with bracelet).


The Breakers Mansion is hosting Winterfest Storytime in The Breakers Stable and Carriage House at 10:30 a.m. daily on weekdays during the festival for kids age 4 and up (free but space limited, pre-registration required, adult must accompany child) from February 20th to February 24th. There will be an ice carving demonstration sponsored by Dunkin on Saturday, Feb. 25th on Long Wharf, and ice sculptures will be on display throughout the week. The Burger Bender contest will be going on at participating restaurants throughout the festival and you can vote for your favorite burger.


For a cozy lunch or dinner, there is a list of restaurants that participate in offering discounts to bracelet holders during the winter festival. For example, Lucia Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria is a small cozy Italian restaurant on Thames St. serving delicious entrees and specials with 15% off food only, excluding Valentine's Day and Saturday nights. If the restaurant is not listed, you can ask for a festival discount and they may offer it. A few downtown restaurants to consider are Wharf Southern Kitchen (15% off dine in), Diego's Newport (Bowen's Wharf and Middletown locations, 15% off dine in), La Forge Casino Restaurant at the Tennis Hall of Fame (15% off dine in, excluding alcohol, tax and tip), The Reef (free chowder or house salad for early birds from 4-6 p.m.), Wally's Wieners (15% off dine in, excludes alcohol, tax and tip), Speakeasy Bar & Grill (free chowder with entree), and Perro Salado (15% off). Ben & Jerry's has a buy one, get one free special. For more information about many other of Newport's places to eat, see Scenic Shopping Newport.


The Chanler, a historic mansion and inn located on the Cliff Walk offers gourmet hot chocolate at their hot chocolate bar on weekends during the winter from 1-4 p.m. with an option to turn your hot chocolate into an adult beverage. They will have an outdoor fire pit and chairs, and the cliff walk is steps away. During the festival, bracelet holders get a free cookie to go with their hot chocolate. There will be drink contests at the Red Parrot, Gas Lamp Grille and the Bar & Board. On Long Wharf you can find Yagi Noodles having a Dumpling Eating Contest on Saturday, Feb. 25th (deadline to enter is Feb. 23rd).


The Winter Festival Newport has a slower pace than during the summer. Parking is easier and the town is less crowded. You can bundle up and enjoy shopping, dining and special seasonal events, while still taking in the expansive ocean and bridge views from downtown streets. The weather can affect some outdoor activities and how long you can venture outside without turning into a popsicle. But hot chocolate is more effective after you've been chilled to your bones. And there's lots to do indoors too. You can purchase the festival bracelet at these Newport locations. Many accommodations are offering special winter rates and packages, such as the Admiral Fitzroy Inn, Newport Harbor island Resort (formerly Gurney's Resort), Newport Marriott, Hotel Viking, Hilltop Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Homewood Suites, Sonesta Hotel, Newport Harbor Hotel, The Firehouse vacation rental, and the Residence Inn.


Whether you take a day trip, weekend or week long vacation to the Winter Festival, you will have lots of fun activities to choose from. This year's festival is a great chance to "Celebrate Don't Hibernate!" in Newport, Rhode Island.


See the Newport Winter Festival website for more information and the schedule of events.


See Scenic Shopping Newport for more information about shops, restaurants, places to stay and activities to do.


-M.A. Barrett (February, 2020, updated February 2023)



Newport Sea Foam Trading Co., Thames St., Newport, R.I.

Firepit at Gurney's Resort (now the Newport Harbor Island Resort), Goat Island, Newport, R.I.
William and Cornelius, resident goats at Gurney's Newport (now the Newport Harbor Island Resort), Goat Island, Newport, R.I.
Newport Sea Foam Trading soaps and bath products, Lower Thames St., Newport, R.I.
Shoppers on Upper Thames St., downtown Newport, R.I.
Winter warming igloos at The Reef restaurant on Howard Wharf off of lower Thames St., Newport, R.I.
Heated igloo at Gurney's Resort (now the Newport Harbor Island Resort), Winter Festival 2018, Goat Island, Newport, R.I.
View of Newport Bridge at sunset from Goat Island, Newport, R.I.
Newport Sea Foam Trading Co., Winter Festival Make Your Own Soap sign, Thames St., downtown Newport, R.I.