With a 325-year history, Bristol Harbor is the classic New England waterfront town. Bristol Harbor boasts a beautiful waterfront that offers both wonderful views of Narragansett Bay and many opportunities for recreation throughout the year. Bristol Harbor is home to many historic and stately homes, historic storefronts, and beautiful tree-lined streets. During the weeks-long Independence Day celebrations each year, Bristol Harbor streets are lined with red, white, and blue, and concerts help build patriotic spirit. On the Fourth of July, the country's oldest and biggest parade is punctuated with downtown water fireworks and a performance by the Navy Band.
Bristol Harbor has a humid continental climate with warm humid summers that can get hot and cold winters than can sometimes be severe. Temperatures in Bristol Harbor range from an average high of 28°C (83°F) in July to an average low of -6°C (21°F) in January. Rain is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, peaking in April at 11 centimeters (4.4 inches) and falling to 8.4 centimeters (3.3 inches) in July. Humidity levels range from about 82% in September to 70% in April. Snow comes to Bristol Harbor from late October until late April, peaking in January and February at 25 centimeters (10 inches).
Visitors to Bristol Harbor will want to visit the Blithewood Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum. The mansion boasts 45 rooms, and there are 33 acres of lawns and gardens. Admission to Bristol Harbor's Blithewood are $11 for adults; $9 for seniors, students, and military; and $3 for kids aged six to 17. A special family fee of $24 admits two adults and two children.
Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle established Bristol Harbor's Blithewood in the 1890s as their summer home, and the grounds were designed by John DeWolf bewteen 1896 and 1913. From the four-hectare Great Lawn nurtures more than 500 types of trees and shrubs and offers wonderful views of the Bay. Surrounding the Great Lawn are several beautiful gardens that include a Rock Garden, the formal North Garden popular for weddings and events, the Rose Garden that features a centenarian Chestnut Rose, and the Enclosed Garden with pathways, a Summerhouse, and a view of one of the East Coast's tallest Giant Squoias. Once a service road to its Bristol Harbor dock, the gravel lane offers a relaxing shaded walk to the Bay. The Gardens and Grounds are open all year from 10am until 5pm, although they are occasionally closed early for special events.
Within the mansion at this Bristol Harbor attraction, each room is as it was before 1910 with wonderful antiques and furniture made of oak cut from the gardens. All but two bedrooms are decorated with the original wallpaper, and the Butler's Pantry holds more than 30 sets of china. Other treats within the mansion include a large collection of dolls, several Tiffany lamps, hand-embroidered linens, and mementos from the family's travels around the world. The mansion is open from mid-April until Columbus Day from Tuesday through Saturday (10am to 4pm) and on Sundays (10am to 4pm). At Christmas (late November to January 1), the home is open for Christmas Tuesday through Sunday from 11am until 5pm.
The Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol Harbor is open from May through October from 10am to 5pm. This yachting museum also has dockage space at the Museum pier available for reservations. It is also home to the America's Cup Hall of Fame that recognizes outstanding achievements in the famous sailing competition and contains a large collection of manuscripts and books related to yachting history and the America's Cup. The museum features the Hall of Boats containing over 60 classic Herreshoff yachts produced by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol Harbor from the early 1880s through 1935. Open only by appointment, the museum's Model Room duplicates the model room and workshop of Captain Nat Herreshoff where he created more than 500 half-models from which his yachts were built, including some of the yachts in the Hall of Boats. The Model Room includes equipment and tools that Herreshoff used. The Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff Room tells the story of the Herreshoff family and the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol Harbor. It also exhibits steam engines, fittings, and small boats.
Colt State Park at Bristol Harbor is a treasure among Rhode Island's State Parks. Open throughout the year, Colt State Park offers a panoramic view of Narragansett Bay, four miles of bike trails, six picnic groves and more than 400 picnic tables, 10 large playfields, 187 hectares of groomed fruit trees, and beautifully manicured lawns surrounded by flowering bushes. The Park is also home to a popular open-air Chapel-By-The-Sea.
The Bristol Harbor Waterfront Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains many outstanding examples of Victorian residences. The historic district in Bristol Harbor was born in the middle 1600s and includes historic businesses in addition to the beautiful homes.