An Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary to the 2023 Newport Jazz Festival: Where to Eat, Stay, and Park
The popular summer music event returns this weekend.
Even some lifelong jazz enthusiasts are surprised to learn that the origin story of the Newport Jazz Festival is tucked away in Boston's music archives. In the ‘50s, George Wein—a local music producer, promoter, and owner of the Storyville jazz club—was approached by prominent Newport residents who felt the summer scene there was a snooze and wanted Wein's help.
The Newton native came through big-time with the idea of creating a jazz festival—one of the first of its kind—so magnificent that it would attract the music genre's top talent for decades to come.
All these years later, the Newport Jazz Festival is a trailblazer and one of the country’s most popular annual music celebrations. Taking place every August, it’s known for its balance between the roots of jazz and creative riffs of experimentation from jazz-adjacent performers like Thundercat, popular for his collabs with artists such as Kendrick Lamar and his proliferation of acid jazz, which marries traditional jazz with EDM.
Happening August 4–6, this year’s festivities are expected to attract throngs of people to Newport's Fort Adams State Park, so a little strategy can go a long way in terms of getting there—especially when it comes to navigating the parking situation (which is very limited).
Basically, you should avoid driving to the park and instead take advantage of Newport's unique coastal infrastructure, including multiple ferries and a beautiful bikeable landscape.
To get there by ferry, Oldport Marine Services offers $20 roundtrip tickets with pickups from Perrotti Park and Oldport Marine's dock on the city's famed America's Cup Avenue. If your favorite Newport hotel is sold out, the Jamestown-Newport Ferry offers express festival-specific ferry service from nearby Jamestown.
As an alternative, the folks at Bike Newport have helped establish The Newport Jazz Festival as one of America’s most bike-friendly fests, so pedaling there is a (coastal) breeze. Follow one of the organization's pre-set festival bike routes, or—if you're coming in just for the day—you can leave your car in their dedicated cyclist lot at the Newport County YMCA.
Where: 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI, 02840
Get there: About 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive from Boston to Newport
Where to pick up a road trip snack near Newport, RI:
On your drive from Boston, you'll likely pass the 24-hour donut haven Ma's Donuts and More in Middletown. Whether for a late-night snack or as a treat for sitting through traffic, enjoy their donuts in offerings like Honey Dip and signature Ma’s Donut, along with donut holes, pies, and more.
Where to stay in and around Newport, RI:
If funky artist Andy Warhol were around to play concierge for you, he'd suggest Wayfinder Newport—an artsy retro-chic hotel with a love of all things local. If booking in the 11th hour, you can also try locations like Club Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, across the Newport Bridge, in Jamestown.
Where to eat in and around Newport, RI:
Breakfast is mandatory on festival day. The festival gates open at 10 am, and the music starts at 11 am, so you've got time to fuel up with a laidback dockside breakfast at Belle's Café or a delicious breakfast bowl at Drift Café. Or—if you overslept—call ahead to Drift Café to have everything ready before the five-minute walk to Old Port Marine Services' pickup location at Perotti Park.
Although you can't bring alcohol into the festival, you are allowed a small cooler. So, if you want to pack a picnic, stop at one of Newport's many gourmet markets. Grab some cheese, bread, and caramelized onion jam from Newport Wine Cellar & Gourmet. Or get pizza from Newport's newest spot, Mother Pizzeria, where the Notorious F.I.G. sourdough pie is giving crusty elevated seaside shanty vibes.
What to do in Newport, RI:
The area is known for its large concentration of Gilded-Age mansions. Head to the Vanderbilt family's Newport cottage, The Breakers (and by cottage, we mean a 48-bedroom, 27-fireplace palace that sits on 13 oceanside acres). The Vanderbilts were one of the wealthiest families in the world, and Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife Alice used their riches to add the latest technology—like underground boilers—to their quaint seaside abode—as well as all the Gilded Age wealth flexes you can imagine like open-air courtyards, extraordinary tile mosaics, and Baccarat crystal chandeliers.