A Gatsby-style weekend in Newport, R.I.

The restaurant at Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, in a 1909 mansion built for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.
The restaurant at Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, in a 1909 mansion built for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.

NEWPORT — The much-anticipated 3-D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire, hit theaters May 10. That makes this the perfect time for a glamorous Jazz Age getaway in Newport, where several scenes from the 1974 movie with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, and Sam Waterston were filmed.

Here’s a weekend itinerary for a modern day, Gatsby-style escape.


Check into the elegant Vanderbilt Grace Hotel (41 Mary St., 401-846-6200,, summer rates from $520), where you’ll be greeted with a flute of champagne and a cadre of at-your-ready staff. Housed in a historic Gilded Age mansion, the hotel has 33 rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, rooftop lounge, billiard room, and spa. Bright contemporary rooms have neutral palettes punctuated with bold, colorful accents and lavish linens; many have working fireplaces and harbor views.


Dress for dinner at Muse by Jonathon Cartwright, the hotel’s classy signature restaurant, with its glittering chandeliers and white linen tabletops. Even arrogant Tom Buchanan would approve of dishes like the butter-poached smoked lobster and pan-seared quail breast with foie gras, followed with veal medallions and a herb-crusted spring lamb cutlet or sauteed beef tenderloin topped with a shallot glaze. For dessert, try the decadently-rich peanut butter and chocolate parfait with cashew sorbet or the equally hedonistic goat cheese cheesecake with candied gooseberries (four-course prix fixe $75).

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Take an after-dinner stroll on Thames Street and down by the waterfront wharves, with views of mega-yachts and luxury sailboats moored in the harbor. End your evening with a nightcap at Pour Judgement (32 Broadway, 401-619-2115,, in honor of Gatsby’s often foolish, blinded-by-love decisionmaking.


After breakfast in the hotel’s sun-lit conservatory, take a leisurely ride down Ocean Drive and Bellevue Avenue to view the Gilded Age mansions that line the leafy boulevards. First stop: Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Ave., 401-847-1000,, modeled after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles, and the setting for Newport’s most lavish Gilded Age parties. The summer “cottage” served as Gatsby’s mansion during the 1974 movie; the back terrace, expansive waterfront lawn, and ornate ballroom were used for the film’s extravagant party scenes. Next, stop at Marble House (596 Bellevue Ave., see above), the former summer house of William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of US tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. The over-the-top gilt and marble ballroom was featured in the 1974 movie scene where Gatsby dons his old army uniform to dance with Daisy Buchanan. Both mansions offer self-guided audio tours ($14.50 adults, $5.50 ages 6-17).

The rekindling of Gatsby and Daisy’s ill-fated affair begins when Nick Carraway invites Daisy to afternoon tea. You can partake in this high-society indulgence at the light-filled garden room at the historic HotelViking (One Bellevue Ave., 401-847-3300,, $24.95). Start with a glass of champagne before the tea butler presents an array of tea choices (served in china cups, of course) and a three-tiered offering of tea sandwiches, breads, scones with house-made lemon curd, and chocolate truffles.

Later stop by side-by-side Newport Wine Cellar and Le Petit Gourmet (24-26 Bellevue Ave., 401-619-3966, to pick up provisions for the evening ahead: a polo match and picnic. In Chapter 1 of “The Great Gatsby,” we get a notion of Tom Buchanan’s massive wealth when we learn that when he left Chicago to come East he brought his own polo ponies, an unheard of extravagance even among the wealthiest of the day. You can engage in the sport by heading to the Newport International Polo Series at Glen Farm to watch the summer matches (715 East Main St., Portsmouth, 401-847-7090,, held Saturday, 5 p.m., June-Aug; 4 p.m. in Sept.; $12 adult lawn, $20 box, $50 VIP Lounge with complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). Join others dressed in summer finery and fancy hats, sipping mint juleps and nibbling from picnic spreads, as they watch teams compete on the lush, grass course. Helping to replace divots during halftime, a polo tradition, is optional.


Consider a late dinner at tiny Tallulah on Thames (464 Thames St., 401-849-2433,; entrees $33-$42), located in an early 1900s home. The space may be modest but the food is artistic and seriously good. Dishes like the Aquidneck Farm egg served with pork belly and truffle jus, the English pea agnolloti, and the Kurobuto pork loin would please even the loftiest clientele.


Sleep in. Then window-shop at the tony boutiques on Bellevue Avenue before driving to the Castle Hill Inn for champagne brunch (590 Ocean Drive, 888-466-1355 or 401-849-3800,; entrees $15-$25). This summer the Lawn at Castle Hill has been expanded to include a new open-air dining room, a newly-expanded terrace bar, and three tiered terraces that cascade down the hill. Sip cocktails and listen to a live band play Jazz Age classics as you meander the sprawling lawns and gardens overlooking Narragansett Bay, invoking the grandeur and beauty of a Gatsby lawn party. Then have a seat at an al fresco, seaside table, and dine on appetizers like the ultra-fresh Matunuck raw oysters and entrees that include fluffy brioche French toast drizzled with peanut anglaise or the signature Maine lobster hash with chive crème fraîche.

End your high-life weekend with a classic, 75-minute motor yacht tour of Newport Harbor, as you cruise by oceanfront mansions and former speakeasies that were prolific back in the 1920s and ’30s. Board the Rum Runner II (Bannister Wharf, 401-847-0298,, $20), an authentic Gatsby-era, high-speed bandit motor boat built for two New Jersey mobsters who used it to smuggle cases of hooch during the height of Prohibition. Gatsby, who earned his nouveau riches and wealth with nefarious dealings, including rum running and smuggling, would have to approve.

Discover Newport  23 America’s Cup Ave., 401-845-9123,

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@