Why a Providence, Rhode Island Visit is Definitely Worth it!

Is Providence, Rhode Island worth visiting? In this Everyday Bucket List Podcast session, my husband and I discuss why we love it. Get a wealth of ideas for restaurants, riverboat rides, street art & more. We also discuss what Providence, Rhode Island is known for, things to do near the colleges and universities, and other areas like Downtown Providence. Think of it as your mini Providence, Rhode Island visitor’s guide.

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Today’s Everyday Bucket List Guest

I’m happy to welcome yours truly and my husband back to the Everyday Bucket List Podcast!

providence rhode island visit

You can also listen to my podcast on Apple Podcasts. Here’s my recent episode about Why a Providence, Rhode Island Visit is Definitely worth it! on Apple and Spotify. I’m also on Stitcher and many others.

Karen Cordaway of KarenCordaway.com

What You’ll Learn About a Providence, Rhode Island Visit

  • Discover what Providence, Rhode Island is known for
  • Though it’s a small state, I explain why it’s worth visiting Providence, Rhode Island
  • Get a variety of suggestions for Providence, Rhode Island restaurants
  • Find a variety of things to do near the colleges and universities

Resources for a Providence, Rhode Island Visit

I highlighted some of the ideas mentioned during the show, but it barely scratches the surface of what you can do there so I included other ideas to give you more resources to choose from.

Downtown Providence Things to Do

WaterFire – This is a big deal. Every year they have multiple events scheduled on different evenings. There are lightings along the river. Think mini bonfire with entertainment stretched across the river to light up the night. Sit on the steps near the River walk or watch from nearby restaurants.

Providence River Boat Company – Take a ride on a river boat and learn historical tidbits about the area, Roger Williams, different buildings and more while cruising along the river.

Street Art Murals – There is street art throughout the city. I noticed a few of the murals downtown while walking and could also view them from the river boat. There are two murals close to each other highlighting Native American heritage in a prominent location. Take a look at a map and walk around informally to see all of the street art.

Roger Williams National Memorial – Check out exhibits to get up close and personal with Aviation History. Also, check out events like Happy Hour with a Historian. Learn interesting info while having a drink.

Rhode Island State House – Check out exhibits to get up close and personal with Aviation History. Also, check out events like Happy Hour with a Historian. Learn interesting info while having a drink.

Historical Tours (Self-guided) – Check out exhibits to get up close and personal with Aviation History. Also, check out events like Happy Hour with a Historian. Learn interesting info while having a drink.

Things to Do Near Providence Rhode Island Colleges and Universities (Brown and RISD)

Thayer Street – Find a variety of restaurants along this street, including familiar favorites like Chipotle, Pokeworks, Starbucks and Shake Shack as well as seafood and ethnic cuisine. There’s an inexpensive parking lot close by too.

Avon Cinema – This historic little cinema had been around since the 1930s and is located on Thayer St. It makes it easy to grab dinner and a movie if you are into foreign and independent films.

Benefit Street – If you love architecture and the look of Colonial homes, Benefit St. showcases original Colonial homes in America. You will find “beautifully restored houses, churches and museums overlook the city’s historic waterfront.” Walk along this street informally or opt for a formal guide from the Providence Preservation Society.

Best Weekend Getaways in New England – Here’s the blog post I mentioned on the show. It includes information about the Botanical Center including the moon gate and some of the other ideas I mentioned on the show.

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5 Epic Reasons You Should Want to Visit Rhode Island

It may be the smallest of all 50 states across the United States, but Rhode Island certainly packs a punch when it comes to an abundance of reasons why you should want to visit this gorgeous state. If you are thinking about taking a trip to North-East USA, why not take some time to visit Rhode Island and experience everything the ‘Ocean State’ has to offer.

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visit rhode island

Rather than simply sharing our opinions on Rhode Island following a very brief visit to the capital city of Providence, we are delighted to offer a more detailed review courtesy of a Rhode Island native who has called this state home for the last 15 years. Jamie Italiane from The Daily Adventures of Me has graciously offered to share her opinions on why she considers Rhode Island to be one of her favorite places in the United States.

Whether you are intrigued by the rich history associated with Rhode Island or simply want to pass through this small state while exploring other nearby states like New York and Massachusetts, there is plenty here to keep you occupied as Jamie highlights.

History

Rhode Island was settled in the 1600s by Europeans escaping religious persecution. Since New England is one of the oldest settled areas in the US, history abounds. One of my favorite historical towns is Newport, RI with its mansions which served as summer homes in the early 1900s to families such as the Vanderbilts.

providence rhode island

You can also learn about the state’s indigenous Indian tribes. As you can see, for the historians out there, Rhode Island has a wealth of history waiting to be uncovered.

Superlatives

Rhode Island is the smallest state in terms of size, the eighth least populous and second most densely populated behind only New Jersey. When you throw in the geographical proximity to some of the nation’s most powerful states, it’s no surprise that Rhode Island is such a diverse and important state.

visit rhode island

Did you also know that the official name of Rhode Island is actually the longest of all US states?

visit rhode island

It may be the smallest in terms of size, but imagine having to write “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” every time you speak about this state. Fortunately, the shortened version of ‘Rhode Island’ is much easier.

The coastal setting of Rhode Island, along with the diverse Italian and Portuguese immigrant populations, give our little state some great food options. Our seafood is fresh and certainly offers some of the finest across the country. Be sure to try ‘stuffies’, a stuffing filled clam, made with our local Quahogs or visit the beach for a seafood boil.

visit rhode island

We also have some of the world’s best donuts, Allie’s and frozen lemonade, Del’s. Our Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill, is a lovely place to walk and have some amazing food.

A unique, diverse array of food offerings make Rhode Island a must-see place if you are aspiring to be a food connoisseur or simply just love to indulge in some of America’s finest dining options.

rhode island cuisine

Waterfire

Waterfire is a music and art installation that takes place on scheduled nights on Providence’s canals. It is a unique multisensory experience that is one of my favorite things in the whole United States.

providence river

This award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans is a spectacular sight in Providence and certainly something that you have to experience. It centers around a series of almost 100 bonfires that illuminate above the surface of the downtown canals and provide a unique experience for visitors to Providence.

visit rhode island

It is a free event that takes place between May and November, so why wouldn’t you want to go out of your way to experience such an amazing experience!

Location

Rhode Island is a great place to visit as a home base or a stopping point when exploring the East Coast. It is within a three-hour drive of New York City, Boston, Cape Cod, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

newport rhode island

I love living here because there are so many day trips to enjoy. In spite of being such a small state, due to the bays and islands, Rhode Island has 400 miles of beautiful coastline to enjoy and its interiors are full of gorgeous wooded forests, great for hiking.

rhode island scenery

Visit Rhode Island – Our Thoughts

We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday morning exploring the capital of Providence before heading north to Massachusetts. Although we didn’t explore everything Providence had to offer, we saw enough to justify a return visit.

providence rhode island

Just taking a casual walk alongside the river that winds through the heart of downtown Providence was a relaxing experience and one that I could certainly get used to every Sunday morning while sipping on my favorite Starbucks drink. The amazing architecture around Providence certainly helps justify why this was rated as one of the best ‘smaller cities’ in the nation.

providence architecture

The charming riverfront is a sight to behold as Venetian-style gondolas idly make their way downstream offering romantic rides to those interested in exploring more of Providence.

providence rhode island

Driving from Hartford, Connecticut to Providence, we were able to explore some of Rhode Island’s off the beaten path locations but we would love to head back and experience more of this beautiful state. Of course, the location makes this a perfect spot to explore more of North-East USA.

Summary

Thanks to Jamie for sharing her thoughts and experiences on her home state of Rhode Island.

In addition to her website highlighted above, you can also follow Jamie on her travels via her social media networks:

As I mentioned, Rhode Island may be the smallest of all 50 US states but that doesn’t mean it’s the least interesting. In fact, as you can see from the above reasons to visit Rhode Island, there is plenty here to keep you occupied rather than thinking about reasons to leave the state.

What are your experiences in Rhode Island? What other towns/cities would you recommend visiting outside of Providence?

One Day in Providence, Rhode Island: Top Things to Do

June 22, 2022 By Gina
Posts on this site may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here .

A Fun and Historic 24-Hour Providence RI Itinerary

Spending a day in Providence provides access to incredible architecture, bridges, river views, and historic buildings.

The capital of Rhode Island, Providence, is one of the oldest cities in the United States with epic history and gorgeous neighborhoods and buildings.

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Even if you just have one day or a weekend to spend in Providence, you’ll have enough time to experience the culture and beauty of the city.

And our detailed Providence itinerary will help you maximize your time while there!

Pathway leading to the Rhode Island State House in Providence.

While Providence is technically one of the largest cities in the region, it is eminently walkable, which helps to make it perfect for a 24-hour or weekend trip.

River scene in Providence, Rhode Island

Often overlooked in favor of its trendier neighbors like Boston or Newport, Providence is bursting with historical architecture, beautiful water views, and mouthwatering eats for all palates and budgets.

Adding to its intrigue, most of the attractions in Providence are free or low-cost, which is a nice extra bonus.

Quick History of Providence

Historic building in downtown Providence in which the fine dining restaurant The Dorrance is located.

Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a Puritan minister who had been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his then-controversial opinions of separating from the Church of England and ceasing the confiscation of land from Native American tribes.

He originally named the city “Providence Plantations,” but Plantations was removed from the name in the 2020 elections due to its historical connotations.

Rhode Island was the first of the 13 Colonies to declare its independence from England in May of 1776, and the state has a wealth of both historical and modern sites to explore.

24 Hours in Providence Itinerary

I Love Providence art mural in Providence, RI

Read on for the ultimate one day in Providence itinerary, plus a bonus idea if you find yourself with a bit of extra time.

1st Stop: Rhode Island State House

Exterior view of the Rhode Island State House in Providence.

If you arrive in Providence by train, the Rhode Island State House is located right next to the train station — you can’t miss it! The gorgeous Neoclassical building rises above the downtown area and is well worth a visit.

Fun fact: the dome is the 4th largest self-supporting dome in the world, preceded only by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, and the Taj Mahal in India.

Visiting the Rhode Island State House is a top thing to do on a trip to Providence, RI.

The State House is topped by a statue called “The Independent Man,” symbolizing the freedom of thought and entrepreneurial spirit of the smallest state in the U.S.

The Independent Man statue on top of the Rhode Island State House in Providence.

The interior, if possible, is even more beautiful!

The original bas reliefs are stunning, and don’t miss the 1663 Colonial Charter, which established Rhode Island as one of the 13 Colonies and granted religious freedom by King Charles II.

Interior view of the dome in the Rhode Island State House.

Free tours are available daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and can be reserved in advance. You can also “DIY” the tour using the self-guided brochure available.

2nd Stop: Downtown Providence

Textured Gear Sculpture in Downtown Providence

Surrounding the State House is the bustling downtown area of Providence. While not large, there is ample shopping, dining, and architecture to admire and it’s fun to dedicate some time to exploring the downtown area during your one day in Providence.

Dome of the historic Old Stone Bank in Providence.

Follow the path of the river, and make sure you don’t miss the Providence City Hall, Customs House, Old Stone Bank, and Providence Performing Arts Center.

Waterplace Park is a lovely place to go for a stroll in Providence, RI.

The Providence RiverWalk and Waterplace Park feature an adorable cobblestone walking path, 3/4 of a mile in length. If you’d like to extend this walk, the Waterplace Park path is about 2 miles long.

3rd Stop: College Hill

Brown University Campus in Providence. The Carrie Tower clock is especially a must-see to add to your 1-day Providence itinerary.

College Hill is where Providence’s academic and historical glory truly stands out. Home to both Ivy League elite Brown University and the acclaimed Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the College Hill area is filled with historic architecture and scholastic scenery.

Brown’s campus is Ivy League glory at its finest and beautiful to walk around.

John Brown House Museum is another historic building you can tour in College Hill.

Also in College Hill, be sure not to miss the Providence Athenæum, a historic library built in 1836 featuring floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (complete with moving ladders!), cozy reading nooks, and beautiful natural light.

Providence Athenæum is a must-see place to visit on your day in Providence.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has a fabulous museum that is really worth a visit, with a lovingly curated collection of all sorts of art, ranging from old-school to modern.

Exhibit room in the museum at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

Another College Hill highlight is the variety of architecture and historic houses, dating back to the 18th century.

Historic buildings with beautiful architecture in Providence, Rhode Island.

Some architectural styles to note include Georgian, Federal, Renaissance Revival, and more. The historic houses are protected by the city and are in outstanding condition. There are also several churches here, also built in a variety of historic styles, that are worth exploring.

One Day Tour Tip: The Discover Providence Guided Sightseeing Tour can help you effortlessly see some of these attractions in just 90 minutes with time to walk around a couple of the destinations, too!

MORE POPULAR TOURS IN PROVIDENCE:

First Unitarian Church of Providence in the College Hill neighborhood, a must-see place to visit during your time in Providence even if you have less than 24 hours.

4th Stop: Federal Hill and Dinner at Los Andes

Federal Hill, historically an Italian-American neighborhood similar to Boston’s North End, is filled with Italian eateries and cute decor.

Spend some time people-watching at the DePasquale Fountain, and perhaps pop into a bakery for an Italian cookie, pastry, or gelato.

However, make sure not to get too full, as Federal Hill is also home to absolutely delicious Peruvian-Bolivian cuisine at Los Andes, where you absolutely should stop for dinner! Be sure to make a reservation, as this restaurant gets packed on weeknights and weekends alike.

Los Andes is an excellent seafood restaurant to dine at during a trip to Providence, Rhode Island.

Los Andes’ seafood platters, ceviche, and grilled meat platters are enormous and bursting with flavor, and its cocktails are unique and flavorful, too. The pisco sour is a particular favorite!

Read More: Review of Siena Restaurant in Providence’s Federal Hill Neighborhood

5th Stop: Nightcap at the Avery or Ogie’s

In addition to its renowned cuisine, Providence also has a great bar scene, perfect for a nightcap after dinner.

In particular, hip speakeasy The Avery is a must-visit for quirky cocktails and a vintage, “Gatsby-esque” interior, complete with neat stained glass-style Art Deco artwork, wood-paneling, and an inviting menu. The mango lassi cocktail in particular is delicious, and you’ll feel like you’re traveling back in time.

Alternatively, for something very spunky and different, check out Ogie’s Trailer Park, a delightfully kitschy “trailer park-themed” bar with adorable decor reminiscent of the 1950s, complete with inventive cocktails, late-night comfort food, and Americana galore. Their Moscow Mules are very, very good.

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Ogie

Also, if you’re visiting on designated days between May and November, be sure to check if WaterFire is on display that night.

WaterFire is a public art installation of sculptures set on fire on the rivers downtown, and is a breathtaking and spectacular sight. If you have some flexibility about when you visit and are visiting during these months, try to plan around seeing this spectacular show!

Bonus Thing to Do in Providence: Roger Williams Park

If you have some free time in the afternoon, check out Roger Williams Park.

Roger Williams Park is an absolute treasure. Comprising of over 400 acres of prime city real estate, natural splendor abounds here!

Known as “The People’s Park,” you can spend anywhere from an hour or so on one of its walking paths to a full day here, relaxing on a picnic blanket, visiting the Roger Williams Park Zoo, or exploring the botanical center or Carousel Village, with its historic carousel.

Visiting the park is free, but entrance to the zoo (which includes Carousel Village) costs $17.95 for adults.

Getting There and Getting Around Providence

Street scene in Providence, Rhode Island

If you’re already in New England, Providence is super easy to reach by train. As mentioned above, the train station is located right in the middle of the downtown area, and it is the most convenient way to explore the city.

If you’re traveling from Boston, the commuter rail ride from Boston’s South Station to Providence takes less than an hour, with weekend fare discounts often available.

You can also take the Amtrak from other New England cities like Concord, New Hampshire, or Portland, Maine.

If the train schedules don’t align well with your plans, there is regular bus service from companies like Peter Pan between Newport and Providence or Boston and Providence.

If you’d prefer to drive, beware of traffic. Parking is available, but can be challenging during peak periods.

Once in Providence, it is easy to walk all over the city. While Providence doesn’t have a metro, it does have an interconnected series of buses called the RIPTA, as well as a trolley and hop-on-hop-off tour buses for tourists.

Where to Stay in Providence

Providence has a vast array of accommodation options from hotels to B&Bs to vacation rentals. If short on time, staying in the city center is ideal. This handy maps show you hotels and vacation rentals all in one place so you can easily compare.

Exterior of the historic Biltmore Hotel located right in the city center of Providence, RI

The Graduate Hotel is where One Day in a City founder, Gina, stayed while in Providence. However, back then it was called the Biltmore. She loved her stay in this historic hotel which is over 100 years old! The lobby was fantastically gilded with a turn of the 19th century feel.

Historic mailbox and lobby in Biltmore Hotel

The rooms are on the smaller side, which helped to keep the price of the room down. Though the rooms are small, they are well-appointed and comfortable. They were also renovated after the hotel became the Graduate so Gina wants to go back and check them out again! You can check them out now here.

About the Author: Tegan and Alex are travel, hiking, and biking enthusiasts currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. There is nothing they love more than exploring new places by walking, and they have visited over 30 countries together since they met in 2015. Their love for “walking the world” led them to found Why Not Walk, a travel guides site. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest to start planning your next adventure.

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The ultimate guide for spending a day in Providence, Rhode Island, written by a New Englander. Find out the top things to do, see, eat, and drink. Plus, tips on where to stay overnight in Providence. The ultimate guide for spending 24 hours in Providence, Rhode Island, written by a New Englander. Find out the top things to do, see, eat, and drink. Plus, tips on where to stay overnight in Providence.

About Gina

I’m a former travel agency marketing director turned freelance travel writer. My editorial and copywriting work has been published on and in USA TODAY, Travel + Leisure, the Travel Channel Cities app, TripSavvy, and many more online and print publications. I especially love sharing my knowledge of traveling with limited vacation time, making the most of cruise ports of call, and vacationing with kids. I also enjoy sharing my favorite travel gear and products to make traveling easier!

About One Day in a City

One Day in a City: Start Here

Hi! I’m Gina, a former cruise and tour marketing director turned independent travel writer who helps those short on time make the most of their travels, even if you just have 24 hours to spend somewhere. Read More.

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