Rhode Island actually has a lot more to offer than most people think. It often gets skipped on most New England travel itineraries, but it definitely should not be missed. Here are 9 awesome things to do in Rhode Island!
1. WANDER AROUND DOWNTOWN PROVIDENCE
From downtown Providence, you can walk to basically anywhere of interest in less than 20 minutes. Walking around the city will also allow you to see a ton of beautiful buildings and walk over the bridges that cross the river.
One thing you must see in Providence is the iconic State House, which is perched on a hill next to downtown and stands well above every other building in the city. The dome is actually the fourth largest self-supporting marble dome in the world, after St Peter’s Basilica, Taj Mahal, and the Minnesota State Capitol.
There’s also a ton of amazing street art in downtown. The Avenue Concept is an urban art group who have commissioned a bunch of murals in the downtown area, all of which are impressive. Find them in and around the Washington Street parking lot.City guide: 10 best things to do in Providence
2. LOOK AT OLD COLONIAL BUILDINGS
Benefit Street is a 1.2 mile stretch of historic colonial buildings in Providence. It’s basically an outdoor museum and is a great place to spend an afternoon. Visit Rhode Island has dubbed Benefit Street as ‘The most impressive concentration of original Colonial homes in America’. It actually is a really cool place to check out!
3. HIT UP THE BEACH
Rhode Island isn’t widely known as a beach state, but it totally is. Even when it’s not warm enough to go swimming, there are still plenty of people walking along the sand. A few popular beaches to hit up Narragansett Town Beach, Easton’s Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and Roger W. Wheeler State Beach.Where to stay: Aqua Blue Hotel Narragansett
4. DRIVE ALONG THE COAST
Rhode Island actually borders the Atlantic Ocean, and has some damn spectacular coastline. We took a drive along the Narragansett coast to Point Judith Lighthouse, and then later along Ocean Ave in Newport and out to Brenton Point State Park. This spot was super pretty and peaceful, with rocks jutting out into the ocean and people flying kites in the park.
5. SEE THE MANSIONS
The mansions of Newport are really more like palaces. These mansions are truly excessive, as the upper class of the 1800s lived a truly decadent and wasteful lifestyle.
There are 11 mansions owned by the Preservation Society that are open to the public. The Breakers is arguably the largest and most popular, and Marble House is pictured above. You can get single tickets for each mansion, or discounted tickets to visit 2 or 3. See our Newport guide for more info.Destination guide: A perfect day trip itinerary for Newport RI
6. EXPLORE NEWPORT
Newport is a super cute little tourist city. Take a walk around Bowen’s Wharf for restaurants and gifts, then along Thames Street in either direction for boutique stores and more restaurants.
There are a lot of colonial buildings left in Newport, so have your camera battery charged because you will definitely get snap happy in this place.Where to stay: Newport Bay Club and Hotel
7. EAT, EAT, EAT
Rhode Island actually has a great foodie scene. In Providence, Federal Hill is a hotspot for Italian cuisine, and the downtown area has a surprising number of amazing restaurants (you can find our favorite restaurants in our Providence city guide).
Newport is known for its seafood. Here you can find a huge choice of restaurants serving lobster, clams, fish, and oysters. Stop in at the Castle Hill Inn restaurant for lunch, which has an amazing view over the ocean and is known for its seafood dishes.Where to stay: Castle Hill Inn
8. VISIT A MUSEUM OR TWO
If you’re into modern art, you’ll love the RISD Museum (part of the Rhode Island School of Design), which has exhibitions ranging from fashion to ancient fabrics to cubism.
The John Brown House is another notable museum in Providence. Built in 1788, this historic house sits on the hill overlooking the city and is a great place to learn about the local history.
9. STAY FOR A FESTIVAL OR EVENT
There are so many festivals going on in Rhode Island. In Providence, the Waterfire festival happens approximately once a month (where rows of small bonfires are lit in the river to bring people into the downtown area).
There’s also PVDfest in June, which is fairly new but is definitely set to become the next big thing. This arts & culture festival involves parades, exhibitions, street food, and community events. Seriously, check it out if you can. It’s a great time to be in Providence.
The Federal Hill stroll is another popular event, where you get to sample dishes from all the local restaurants which are mostly Italian influenced. There’s also Pridefest Parade for the LGBTQ community, and the Newport Folk Festival for those who want to listen to some tunes.Where to stay: The Dean Hotel