A Local’s Guide to the Newport Folk Festival

Newport Folk Festival 2014

Lay back and relax at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. Photo by Meaghan O’Neill.

The Newport Folk Festival is just days away, and in the spirit of good vibes and sharing the love, we’ve put together a few insider tips, especially for anyone traveling from off-island. Here’s how to make the most of your time in Newport when Folk Fest joyously descends upon us.

Leave your car behind.

Summer traffic in Newport is no joke, and your experience will be much more relaxed if you leave your car at home. This year, the good people of Folk Fest have made it even easier to get to town by offering buses that travel directly from Boston or New York to Fort Adams State Park, where the main event is held.

Once you’re here, there are several ways to get around. From downtown, you can take the water taxi directly to the festival – and enjoy incredible views of the harbor on the way. It’s easy to bike to Fort Adams, as well — and Newport has several shops that offer bike rentals if you’re not able to bring your own. The festival is super bike-friendly, with tons of racks set up at the entrance. (Car riders have to take a shuttle or hoof it a fair distance to get to the gate.) You can also flag down or phone Newport Pedicab or Pirate Pedicab for a pickup. You’ll see their drivers all around town.

The view from The Coffee Grinder. Photo by Louise Palanker via flickr BY-SA 2.0.

The view from The Coffee Grinder looks over Newport Harbor. Photo by Louise Palanker via flickr BY-SA 2.0.

Grab some grub before you go.

You have a long day ahead of you – fuel up at the Franklin Spa, an inexpensive and delicious diner that serves up hearty omelets, pancakes, home fries, and other satisfying fare. Prefer something more gourmet? Rosemary & Thyme is a local favorite for homemade croissants and pastries. Vegans and vegetarians will like Keenwah Super Food Eatery, which offers tofu and tempeh breakfast burritos in addition to smoothies, juices, and acai bowls. There’s a ton of great food inside the Fort (more on that to come), but the Festival does allows ticket holders to bring in small coolers and outside food (no alcohol and no glass, though – expect a quick, friendly search), so feel free to pack up a picnic, too.

If all you need in the morning is a cup of joe, Empire Tea & Coffee is widely agreed to be the island’s best. With three locations, there’s bound to be one near you. If you’re taking the water taxi, stop at The Coffee Grinder on Bannister’s Wharf on your way. The tiny weather-beaten shop has plenty of personality and Adirondack chairs where you can sit and watch the boats go by.


Enjoy sunset cocktails with the Newport Bridge in the background at The Roof at Vanderbilt Grace. Photo by Maaike Bernstrom Photography.

Dip into Newport’s nightlife.

Tickets for most of the after-shows at the Jane Pickens Theater have already sold out (a few are still available for Thursday night), but there are plenty of other places where you can get your game on. Head to Salvation Cafe for pad thai and drinks by the tiki bar, or try the jalapeno-cilantro margaritas at Perro Salado, an inventive Mexican restaurant in an 18th-century colonial house.

After spending the entire day outside, it’s understandable if you want nothing more than to take a shower and climb into bed. Don’t surrender! You’ve still got to time to catch the sun going down, and Newport’s got some amazing bars where you can watch the sunset. After all, Folk Fest only happens once a year – you mind as well live it up.

Antonia Noori Farzan is a writer living in Newport, Rhode Island. She enjoys cooking vegan meals, practicing yoga, designing floral arrangements, and photographing old houses for her blog, Clapboard and Shingle.

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