Monday, July 7, 2014

Discover Beautiful Rhode Island: Fort Adams

Dear Em,
When you enter our quaint, little state, there used to be signs that read "Welcome to Rhode Island." They've recently been replaced by large "Discover Beautiful Rhode Island" signs. As weird as I think it is to have a corny catch-phrase welcoming newcomers to our state, I guess discovering "Beautiful Rhode Island" is one of my favorite things to do. It's amazing to me how small this state is, but after almost 13 years of living here, I feel like I'm discovering new & beautiful parts of it all the time (like our favorite beach that we discovered two years ago).

With my family visiting, I thought about new Rhode Island adventures we could take. Fort Adams is a place I have heard about a lot but had never actually toured. I'm a total history nerd. While many people at URI took sailing classes, my fun college electives were always history classes. My dad is a little bit of a history buff (maybe I got it from him), & after being in the Navy, it seems like he especially enjoys learning about military history. A tour of Fort Adams seemed like it would be the perfect adventure for history nerds. It is also mainly outdoors & on the water, which made the tour perfect for my mom. As it turns out, they started the tour by telling us we can touch anything along the tour, which made it the perfect tour for you as well.

Fort Adams is the largest coastal fortification in the United States. After the war of 1812, the nations fortification needs were reviewed, & it was decided that the very large fort would be built. The fort was under construction from 1824 to 1857 (33 years) & was an army post for over 100 years. During that time, the fort was active in 5 major wars but never "fired a shot in anger." It primarily stood as a deterrent for invasion, because of the mastery in how it was built to withstand attack from water & land.

In the early 1990s a trust was formed to oversee public programs & restoration of the fort, & in 1995 the fort became open for tours from May-October each year. Proceeds from the tour go toward the restoration and maintenance of the fort. There are two ways to tour Fort Adams. You can be led on a general guided tour or walk around on a self guided tour. While the guided tour is double the price, it is definately worth it because it provides narrated access to areas that are not open to those taking self guided tours (like the quarters where officers lived, atop the Fort where there is a gorgeous view of Newport Harbor & Narragansett Bay, & in the underground tunnels). There are discounts available for military, AAA members, college students, & children. I actually completely forgot to ask about the discounts & was so grateful when the ticket teller asked me if any of the discounts applied before charging us for our tickets.

It took us 45 minutes to drive from our house, through the heart of downtown Newport, & to the state park that Fort Adams stands on. We arrived 15 minutes after the first tour began (10am). We bought tickets for the 11am tour, which gained us entrance to the fort from then until 4pm when the fort closed. However, we decided to head outside to wait for our tour, where there are gorgeous panoramic views of Newport Harbor & the Newport Bridge. People were walking & jogging along the Bay Walk. There was a large grassy field with picnic tables. I was so excited to learn that these areas are all free to the public (had I realized this, I would have packed food & we could have enjoyed a picnic after our tour). This just became on of my favorite RI spots. We'll definitely be back for future picnics & walks.

We enjoyed the fresh air & open water views before heading back toward the fort to begin our tour. We started the tour outside of Fort Adams, taking in the massive structure. You beamed when you were told that you could touch anything. You certainly took advantage. You touched cannon balls. You touched the cool, large walls. You hung on gates. You picked flowers in the grassy fields. You climbed on cannons to your heart's content. It's a great day for you when nothing is off limits (although there was a flower-picking injury).

I loved exploring the numerous defense designs of the fort. The planning that went into building the defenses for the fort made my head spin. A fort that never fired on an enemy seemed like a waste of a fort, but it made me wonder if Fort Adams wasn't there as a deterrent what invasions Newport may have seen. I enjoyed learning about how soldiers (& sometimes their families) lived & worked as we visited the different areas of massive Fort Adams.

The last part of our guided tour took place in the underground tunnels. There were miles of tunnels built under the fort so that soldiers could hear if an invasion was coming from underground. The tunnels are long, dark, & cool. Even with the flashlights they provided, it was a little frightening how dark the underground of Fort Adams is. Some of the tunnels were less than 5 feet tall. We all walked hunched over so as not to bang our heads- except for you. You walked seamlessly through the tunnels, which made you a perfect leader. We followed you until we made it back above ground. Our tour guide thanked you for being a great leader & then let you pass out "tunnel rat" stickers to our tour group. You beamed with importance.

As we let the fort for lunch & a little bit of Newport boutique shopping, you looked up at me all smiles. "That was a really good tour, mom." I agreed. It was a perfect little Rhode Island adventure. Maybe you'll be a history nerd right along with me. Who knows what other fun historic spots we can explore together. I just hope they will allow you to touch everything.

I love you so,


  1. Sounds like a wonderful family outing!

    "they started the tour by telling us we can touch anything along the tour"

    This line made me smile. I'm always so grateful for kid-friendly places.

  2. It was a special treat! The outdoor location was also ideal. Thanks for stopping by.


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