If you have a little time before or after the conference, consider planning a day trip to Newport, just 45 minutes by car to the south (frequent bus service is available, too). While the mansions from the Gilded Age are perhaps Newport’s most famous attractions, here you can also explore colonial, military, and maritime history, as well as the churches, synagogues, and meeting houses that trace Rhode Island’s long legacy of religious freedom.
Be sure to explore one or two of the historic mansions. If you have a car, meander along the famous Ocean Drive, a 10-mile route with panoramic views of the rugged Atlantic coastline and the many luxurious private homes along the way.
If the weather is nice and you have good shoes, take in the views along the renowned Cliff Walk. This is normally a 3.5-mile seaside path (7 miles round trip, some of which is paved), but be aware that Hurricane Sandy has closed a portion of the walk, so check beforehand on its status.
There are a number of significant sites to see for those interested in the religious history of Rhode Island. Among them are the state’s oldest surviving house of worship, the Great Friends Meeting House (1699), where Quakers from all of New England convened; the Touro Synagogue (dedicated 1763), America’s oldest synagogue; the Trinity Episcopal Church (1726), which features Rhode Island’s oldest wine-glass pulpit, Tiffany windows, and a 1733 organ given by Bishop George Berkeley; and St. Mary’s Catholic Church (1828), the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Rhode Island, and wedding location of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy.
Other historic places include the Newport Colony House, a 1739 landmark where the Rhode Island legislature met, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, and numerous cemeteries, such as Common Burial Ground, a colonial cemetery with a large section of slave and free black plots known as God’s Little Acre (see links to more cemeteries and gardens here).
As for museums, among others you’ll find the National Museum of American Illustration, the Newport Art Museum, the Museum of Newport History, the Naval War College Museum, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.