With its extensive waterfront and legendary Fourth of July parade, Bristol rocks in summer. In fall the pace slows: Hotel rates drop, restaurants offer off-season specials, and suddenly there’s plenty of room on the bike path. And once you have gotten the lay of the land (and sea), you’ll be ahead of the game when you return next summer.
STAY Bristol Harbor Inn
(259 Thames St., 401-254-1444, www.bristolharborinn.com
, doubles $95-$249) has a waterfront location with views of the harbor and Narragansett Bay. Kayak and bicycle rentals are available, and the hotel complex includes several retail shops and two restaurants.
Bed-and-breakfasts in the historic district include the Rockwell House Inn (610 Hope St., 401-253-0040, www.rockwellhouseinn.com, $149-$279), a regal white mansion built in 1809 by Giles Luther, the first recorded marshal of the town’s Fourth of July Parade. On High Street, which, like Hope, sports a red, white, and blue stripe down the center, William’s Grant Inn (154 High St., 401-253-4222, www.wmgrantinn.com, $109-$219) offers a quiet location close to downtown. Don’t plan to stop in at these B&Bs unannounced; on a weekday afternoon in September, both were locked up tight, and no one answered either door.
Bristol’s most elegant lodging welcomes adult guests from May through October. Point Pleasant Inn (333 Poppasquash Road, 401-253-0627, www.pointpleasantinn.com, $375-$625) sits on a secluded peninsula nearly surrounded by the bay. Amenities include a pool, fitness center, afternoon tea, and open bar.
French, Italian, Mexican, Portuguese, and German cuisines complement traditional New England fare. Chef Champe Speidel changes the menu daily to take advantage of seasonal produce and other locally sourced ingredients in cozy, elegant Persimmon
(31 State St., 401-254-7474, www.persimmonbristol.com
, $20-$29). Le Central
(483 Hope St., 401-396-9965, www.lecentralbristol.net
, lunch $8.75-$12.50, dinner $11.75-$23) serves lunch and dinner with a French accent and tapas Monday-Thursday from 5-6:30 p.m. There’s one week left to get in on Oktoberfest at Redlefsen’s
(444 Thames St., 401-254-1188, www.redlefsens.com
, lunch $8-$16, dinner $10-$32). On Wednesdays and Thursdays through October, seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. offer a special Oktoberfest menu (entrees $21-$26) and entertainment by Renata M. Adams and the Alpenblumen Bavarian Folk Dancers. You can sing — or yodel — along. In business since 1929, the Lobster Pot
(119 Hope St., 401-253-9100, www.lobsterpotri.com
, lunch $8.50-$24, dinner $9.50-$39) is on the water. Watching windsurfers on choppy seas as you tuck into fried clams or lobster salad is a bonus.
DURING THE DAY Colt State Park
(Route 114, 401-253-7482, www.riparks.com/colt.htm
) is a lush green space offering bicycle and walking trails, picnic areas, and the picturesque open-air Chapel by the Sea, with its white altar and benches atop stone supports. The entire western border of the park is an open panorama onto Narragansett Bay, making it a prime spot to fly kites. Coggeshall Farm Museum
(Poppasquash Road, 401-253-9062, www.coggeshallfarm.org
, adults $5, children $3) depicts Bristol’s agrarian life in 1799 through live interpretation, historic structures, and heirloom plants and animals. Children can help with the farm chores at “Breakfast in the Barnyard,’’ which runs every Saturday morning through the end of November; hearth cooking workshops are scheduled for Oct. 23 and Nov. 13 and 27. Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame
(1 Burnside St., 401-253-5000, www.herreshoff.org
, adults $8, students and children ages 11-17 $4, under 11 free) celebrates the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.’s groundbreaking work in boat design and engineering. The museum is open until Christmas. The hall of fame is closed as it prepares to relocate to a new waterfront site across the street, scheduled to open in 2012. Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum
(101 Ferry Road, 401-253-2707, www.blithewold.org
, adults $10, ages 6-17 $2, under 6 free), encompassing a 45-room English-style manor house and 33 acres of lawns and gardens, chronicles the lives of one family over most of the last century. The mansion closed on Columbus Day, but will reopen Nov. 26 wearing its holiday best for “Christmas at Blithewold 2010 — Tiffany, Tinsel and Toys,’’ which runs through Jan. 2.
AFTER DARK Gillary’s Tavern & Nightclub
(198 Thames St., 401-253-2012, www.gillarys.com
) features music nearly every night, starting at 10 p.m. Aidan’s Pub
(5 John St., 401-254-1940, www.aidanspub.com
) presents an Irish band on Sunday evenings from 5 to 9.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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