I always wanted to see Blithewold Mansion and Gardens in Bristol, Rhode Island. So when I began looking into a day trip to Blithewold I uncovered that the town of Bristol has a lot to offer.
We made Blithewold our first stop. Built in the mid-1890’s for Augustus and Bessie Van Winkle (he, a coal magnate), the mansion boasts wide-open views to Narragansett Bay. On its massive grounds is an impressive arboretum that includes a Giant Sequoia, and a variety of gardens where we lost all sense of time exploring each one. Spending a few hours at Blithewold is like visiting an old friend. Our self-guided tour of the mansion was welcoming. This was not a Newport mansion. It was more down-to-earth. You could imagine yourself lazing on the porch. In fact, it felt as if the family still lived there and was going to invite us for a walk in the gardens or a swim in the bay.
Leaving Blithewold, we made our way to the downtown. Downtown Bristol is pedestrian friendly and listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The smattering of historic homes is remarkable. One of them, Linden Place, a federal-style home, is open for tours. And, to top it off, the town has the oldest annual July 4th parade in the nation which draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the country! Bristol has a fitting nickname, “America’s most patriotic town.”
Later that day, we were able to fit in a visit to the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame – the Herreshoff family built most of the winning America’s Cup boats in the early 1900’s – and the Audubon Society with its exhibit and nature trail. However, we needed a second day to see more of what Bristol offers: Coggeshall Farm Museum, Mount Hope Farm, Colt Park, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, and the East Bay Bike Path to name a few.
For more information on Bristol, RI, check out www.discoverbristol.com.