Every August, Newport’s  already impressive number of summer visitors swells by leaps and bounds thanks to one thing: the global draw of the renowned Newport Jazz Festival. Founded as the first outdoor jazz music festival by pianist George Wein and several Newport socialites in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival is now a magnet for jazz fans drawn to its mix of well-known legends and up-and-coming musicians. Over the decades, everyone from Miles Davis and Duke Ellington to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra has graced its stages.
Usually a three-day series of concerts and events, the Newport Jazz Festival packs in hundreds of performances, from organ trios and vocalists to Brazilian duos and big-band productions, all divided between three primary stages. Performance schedules are always available ahead of time (either by calling the main office at 401/847-3700 or online at www.jazzfestival55.com ).
Tickets are plentiful and can be bought both prior to the event and by showing up in person any time during the event. Regulars strongly recommend booking a hotel ahead of time, as the more desired properties book up months in advance. There is also camping offered nearby in Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth  (401/682-2424).
Most of the Newport Jazz Festival’s action takes place in Fort Adams State Park  on Harrison Avenue, which has strict rules about what attendees may bring. When packing, bear in mind that they allow only one small handheld cooler per person; individual blankets must measure less than 8 by 10 feet; and only low-backed chairs (under 30 inches) are allowed, to ensure good viewing for those around you.
No glass containers, alcohol, pets, bikes, or beach umbrellas are permitted. Children are welcome—and there are plenty of inexpensive kids’ meals sold among the concession stands.
In 1854, Newport Commodore Matthew Perry sailed to Japan and opened trade with the country. Now, every July, Newport  takes on a citywide celebration of that trip, and of Japanese culture, with the Black Ships Festival (401/847-7666, , www.blackshipsfestival.com ).
Meanwhile, the holiday season sees the town’s mansions decked out even more elaborately than usual; heavyweights such as Marble House and the Breakers  are festively dressed in a slew of white lights and Christmas decorations for Christmas at the Newport Mansions (401/847-1000, www.newportmansions.org , late Nov.–early Jan., prices vary for different mansions).
And come spring, every boat lover in New England heads for the Spring Boat Show (401/846-1115, www.newportspringboatshow.com , late May, $5 adults and children, free children under 12), the region’s largest. They come to ogle the new and used vessels, of course, but also to haggle at the stalls of the show’s flea market, which hawks everything from fishing line to used kayak paddles.