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Newport, Kentucky is an unassuming city that sits in the shadow of Cincinnati. Although often overlooked as a travel destination, there are many fun things to do in Newport, Kentucky – you just need to know where to look!
To help fellow travelers, we have created our personal list of top Newport, KY attractions and best local cuisine.
Why Visit Newport, KY?
Situated at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, Newport, KY boasts top regional attractions and a riveting history.
Once a ‘Sin City’ – complete with mobsters, brothels and gambling halls – Newport has reinvented itself.
Although there are nods to the raucous past, modern attractions, regional food and a spirited community are a few of the best reasons to visit Newport, KY today.
The Best Things To Do in Newport, Kentucky
Whether spending an afternoon or staying for the weekend, you can use our list of the top Newport, KY things to do to help plan your trip!
Additionally, we offer tips for where to stay and what you will need. To further assist, we provide a useful Newport, KY map of attractions at the end of this article.
#1 See the Sea Creatures at the Newport Aquarium
Topping our list of things to do in Newport, KY is the incredible Newport Aquarium. The state-of-the-art facility is home to an array of aquatic sealife, including penguins, jellyfish, alligators and sharks.
What makes the aquarium a Newport, KY must-see attraction, however, are the world-class displays, unique exhibits and fascinating information. Visitors can walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks, pet a swimming stingray and meet a penguin face-to-face.
Although it is rated as one of the best things to do in Newport, Kentucky for families, fun at the aquarium isn’t just for kids!
Guests planning to visit Newport to see the sea creatures should plan on spending a full day in the city. Start with the sea life in the morning and then spend the afternoon discovering the top things to do near Newport Aquarium (which we detail throughout this article!).
#2 Step Back in Time at Pompilios Italian Restaurant
Serving up spaghetti since 1933, Pompilios Restaurant in Newport, Kentucky is a mainstay. Feasting on a memorable meal at Pompilios is one of the top Newport, KY things to do!
Inside, patrons are treated to classic Italian fare served in a historic setting – and at the back bar, the best Kentucky bourbon lines the shelves. Meanwhile out back, locals gather for games of bocce ball.
Through the years, the iconic corner Newport, KY restaurant has seen a slew of celebrities, gangsters and lifelong locals. It is said that Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe dined at Pompilios in the 1950s and, in the 1980s, Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman filmed the ‘Toothpick Scene’ for the move Rainman inside the famous restaurant.
#3 Shop, Sip and Sit Back and Relax at Newport on the Levee
A retail, dining and entertainment complex, there are many things to do in Newport on the Levee. It is a hub of activity and one of the top city attractions.
The Newport shopping center opened in 2001 as part of the city’s revitalization project. Inside, guests will find locally owned concept shops on the first floor and well-known store brands throughout the mall.
In addition to the shops, there is a movie theater, bowling alley and video arcade – all of which are excellent things to do in Newport, KY when the weather doesn’t cooperate!
Our favorite part of the Newport Levee, however, is Bridgeview Box Park, an outdoor, river-facing container ship park that features local food and drink establishments, live music and chill vibes.
#4 Walk along the Newport Riverwalk
The Newport Riverwalk is an elevated pedestrian and bicycle path that provides exceptional views over the Ohio and Licking Rivers and Cincinnati area.
Part of a longer path, called Riverfront Commons Trail, that connects several Northern Kentucky cities, the Newport Riverwalk is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll and take in the view of the Cincinnati skyline and the bridges that span the Ohio river.
#5 Drink a Local Brew at Wooden Cask Brewing Company
A family-owned brewery, Wooden Cask Brewing Company is a welcoming neighborhood bar. Located right in the heart of Newport on York Street, Wooden Cask Brewery is housed in a historic, renovated building – long ago the notorious Flamingo Club.
The comprehensive lineup of beers at Wooden Cask covers a range of styles, although they focus on traditional Irish, Scottish and English style beers. That said, we thought their IPA was very tasty!
In addition to their 18 beers on tap, they offer a variety of local spirits – and on Wednesdays, they feature $5 whiskey pours.
#6 Cross the Purple People Bridge
The Purple People Bridge – officially the Newport Southbank Bridge – is one of several bridges that cross the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati.
Opened in 1872 to accommodate trains, the bridge was reconstructed through the years to be traversed by horse and cart, street cars and automobiles. In 2001, however, it was closed to vehicular traffic, painted purple and became a pedestrian-only bridge.
The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
#7 Attend a Community Event
Looking for free things to do in Newport, KY? Look no further than the event calendar. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the free entertainment on the Purple People Bridge and along the waterfront Newport Festival Park.
In fact, one of the best times to visit Newport, Kentucky is the summer festival season! The city’s event calendar is jam packed in the summertime with fun, outdoor Newport, KY festivals.
Top events in Newport are the annual Gliers Goetta Festival, Italianfest, Riverfest and Oktoberfest.
#8 Feel the Vintage Vibe at York Street Cafe
Funky and fun, York Street Cafe is one of the unique places to go in Newport, Kentucky for a meal and a good time.
Comprised of a restaurant, a lounge and an art gallery spread over three floors, York Street Cafe is a feast for the senses.
The vintage decor and local artwork provide the ambiance, and the house made desserts take the cake!
#9 Cruise the Ohio River
Cruising the Ohio River on a classic paddlewheel boat is ranked as one of the top Newport, Kentucky things to do. The red and white paddleboats are a sight to see floating on the water – and even more fun to be aboard.
Departing from Newport’s Riverboat Row, BB Riverboats host passengers on a variety of themed boat trips – from romantic dinner cruises to spectacular sightseeing cruises. Additionally, BB Riverboats set sail for special event cruises – such as wine tastings, specialty brunches and firework cruises. Whether you are seeking romantic things to do in Newport or on the search for family fun in the city, a riverboat cruise is a solid option!
#10 Learn All About Bourbon at New Riff Distilling
One of the fun things to do in Newport, KY is to take a tour at New Riff Distillery.
It is no secret that Kentucky likes its bourbon – but what isn’t widely understood is what exactly bourbon is…or how it differs from whiskey.
On New Riff Distilling tours, not only do they explain the difference, but they also explain their production methods. You will learn how they are “putting a new riff on an old tradition” and then you get to sample the product straight from the source.
#11 Witness One of the World’s Largest Free-Swinging Bells
The World Peace Bell Center aims to raise awareness of world peace and ranks as one of the top Newport, KY attractions.
The 66,000-pound, 12-foot-wide bell hangs from a modern bell tower on York Street. The free-swinging bell – one of the largest in the world – was installed on December 31, 1999 and rang out for the first time at midnight.
In front of the bell is a memorial to the September 11th World Trade Center victims.
#12 Go on Newport Gangster Tour
If you are intrigued by the city’s fascinating mobster past, then one of the items to put on your Things To Do Newport, KY list is the Newport Gangster Tour!
After an introduction and brief history lesson on Newport’s criminal past, the tour guide leads participants into the streets of Newport to see where the most infamous events occurred.
To ensure you get a spot on the tour, book it in advance!
#13 Indulge in Local Eats
Tasting the local cuisine is a fun part of traveling to any new city – and there are plenty of locally owned restaurants in Newport, Kentucky to get a taste of the regional fare! While we have already revealed a few of the must-try eateries, there are a couple local fast-food joints that deserve mention, as well.
A Newport original, Dixie Chili on Monmouth Street has been dishing up Cincinnati-style chili for more than 75 years. It is regularly ranked as one of the best places to eat in Newport. Is it better than Gold Star or Skyline? You will have to do a taste-test and decide for yourself!
Mad Mike’s Burgers
A regional establishment, Mad Mike’s grills up enormous gourmet burgers at a budget price. Go for a unique flavor combination, like the Rockefeller, or pile your burger with your favorite toppings – just be sure to order the fries as well!
#14 Attend a Live Show at The Southgate House Revival
One of cool things to do in Newport, KY at night is to attend a live musical performance – and The Southgate Revival House is a fun place to do it!
Housed in an old brick church that dates to 1866, The Southgate House Revival opened in 2012 with three unique venues inside. Check the calendar for upcoming region acts.
If there are no shows at Southgate House during your visit to the city of Newport, KY, another spot to check out for live music events and theatrical performances is the intimate Falcon Theatre.
Things To Do Near Newport, Kentucky
We have featured some of the best stuff to do in Newport, KY, but we have a few more tips for regional exploration and activities.
If you are seeking more things to do in Northern Kentucky, don’t discount Newport’s next-door neighbor, Covington.
Highlights include the city’s rich historic past, well-preserved neighborhoods, amazing churches, fun eateries and an incredible brewery.
One of the top things to do near Newport, KY is to visit Cincinnati, Ohio. Located on the north side of the Ohio River, Cincinnati is a thriving city that boasts numerous attractions and activities.
Professional sporting events, magnificent museums, pretty parks and historic neighborhoods are just a few of the top things to do.
Newport, Kentucky Map
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive version of our Newport, KY Map.
Where To Stay in Newport, KY
The best place to stay in Newport, Kentucky is on the riverfront near Newport on the Levee and the Aquarium – and there are a few accommodation options right in the heart of the action.
Hotels in Newport, Kentucky
Visitors have the choice of two excellent hotels, both of which are ideally located near the river.
Aloft Newport on the Levee
Our top pick for Newport, KY hotels is Aloft. Modern and chic, Aloft welcomes guests with an on-site fitness center, bar, outdoor garden area and free WiFi. The rooms get high marks for being clean and comfortable. Check price and availability!
Hampton Inn and Suites
A great choice for a hotel in Newport, KY, the Hampton Inn and Suites offers great amenities – like an indoor pool, an in-room microwave and rooms with a view of the Cincinnati skyline. Plus, travelers rate the rooms as clean and the beds comfortable. Check rates and availability!
What You Will Need for Your Trip to Newport, Kentucky
Newport, Kentucky is an incredibly walkable city – but only if you have proper walking shoes. Whether you plan on exploring the city on foot or crossing the Purple People Bridge into Ohio, you will want to be sure to pack appropriate footwear.
Newport, KY experiences all four seasons. Summers are hot and humid and winters can be cold and snowy. Make sure you are prepared for the elements!
We think it is best to use a day pack when visiting Newport, KY so that you can carry your travel camera, keys and umbrella, too! The Osprey day pack is a favorite for travelers, but you can read all of our advice in our blog post, The Best Day Bags for Travel.
We Want To Know: What would you add to our list of things to do in Newport, Kentucky?
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