Top 10 RI Attractions & Events
Exploring Rhode Island
Moving from a tiny town to the big city of Providence, RI, I was so in over my head. Besides being completely terrified of city life, I had no clue how to get around, had absolutely zero friends, and nowhere to go. Thank goodness I had Scott, who had spent most of his childhood growing up with his father in the area. Now that I’ve learned my way around the city (as well as many other beautiful parts of the state), I’ve fallen in love.
…Yes, I’d prefer to live in a better neighborhood…yes, I’d prefer to have more than a 10×10 foot square of grass for my puppy to pee…yes, I’d rather not fight for parking in my own home, but that’s the reality of cheap, city living. The state offers plenty to make up for those small grievances. While this list could honestly go on and on, I’ve included my top ten Rhode Island destinations below.
Top 10 RI Attractions
Located along Newport, RI’s eastern coast, Cliff Walk features incredible ocean views and picturesque mansions. It’s even kid-friendly, being a relatively easy hike! Be careful though…appropriate footwear and careful steps are necessary on the rocky cliff’s edge. I love being able to enjoy Newport without all the summer crowds…the 3.5 mile hike ensures that you’ll have plenty of space to take in the sights. The surrounding area has some great places to eat, explore, and enjoy as well. Boutiques, nightlife, seafood, boating, beaches…Newport truly has it all!
I absolutely LOVE attending Waterfire every summer. Located across the street from Providence Place Mall, the event is pretty self-explanatory. Over 100 braziers are set on fire from a number of gondolas (boats) on the Blackstone River. It really is an incredible sight. A number of local breweries and bars set up drinks stands, along with snacks and toys for the kiddos. There’s even live music and performers! I do, however, have to be realistic. I have a few complaints about the event, many of which are simply part of the experience.
The crowds are insane… you can hardly walk, and if you’re short like me, you can find yourself struggling to catch a glimpse of the river. If you’re patient enough, however, spots may open up on the bridge or down the stairs to the waterfront. Parents may find themselves struggling to help young children see, maneuver a stroller, or keep track of children in the crowds, though kids tend to love the event. For those unfamiliar with the city, parking can be a bitch, so pay attention! Park right across the street at Providence Place Mall for $2/car. It’s perfect on those hot summer days; if it gets too hot, run into the mall for some shopping, arcade fun at Dave and Buster’s, or check out the IMAX movie theater on the top floor.
Providence Performing Arts Center
Being a HUGE theatre geek, the Providence Performing Arts Center has easily become my favorite part of the city. Seating over 3,000 people in a beautifully ornate theater, PPAC hosts a number of touring Broadway shows as well as other contemporary pieces throughout their season. Tickets start at around $75 for the Broadway shows. I normally pay around $150/each for great seats about 10-15 rows from the stage. So far, I’ve seen Wicked, the Lion King, and Rent, all incredible, and I just bought tickets for Les Miserables this September! So excited!!
Providence Childrens’ Museum
For those of you with kids, Providence Childrens’ Museum is the place to go! This place is seriously incredible, and much cheaper than Boston’s museums and aquarium ($9/person). I love taking the kids I nanny here. We could easily spend the whole day just in the water room. Filled with giant tubs of water and interconnected tubes for pouring and passing along steam, the water play area is always a favorite. I’ve included descriptions of their many exhibits below. (Disclaimer: these descriptions and pictures are taken from the Providence Childrens’ Museum website–I do not claim to have written/taken them myself). Make sure to check out their website today, and book your tickets here!
This summer, Providence Children’s Museum hosts Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival, a traveling exhibit that explores the culture of Vietnam. The immersive exhibit invites children and caregivers to engage with the traditions of Tet, the most important celebration of the year for Vietnamese families.
Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival was created by Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, and is part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit Series, funded by The Freeman Foundation and administered by Association of Children’s Museums.
Water Ways – Explore ice, mist and discover the swirling, whirling ways of water in an all-new water play environment!
Play Power – Send objects soaring through air tubes and construct magnetic mazes in an environment that celebrates the power of children’s play.
The Children’s Garden – Explore a garden of native plants, a perfect place for a picnic lunch and for active outdoor play.
The Climber – Wriggle and stretch through an artful two-story-high climbing maze.
Underland – Discover an imaginative subterranean world of roots, worm tunnels and critters’ burrows.
Iway – Tackle bridge-building challenges and plan a city in an exhibit about solving problems.
NEW! Coming to Rhode Island – Embark on an interactive time-traveling adventure to meet people who immigrated to Rhode Island from around the world and explore history, culture and diversity through stories.
ThinkSpace – Experiment with shapes and spaces through hands-on puzzles and challenges.
Littlewoods – Climb into a tree house, swoop down a slide and crawl through a bear cave in an enchanting woodland environment. Just for infants to 4-year-olds and their caregivers.
Discovery Studio – Explore a different activity each week in a vibrant program space designed for science and nature exploration and art experimentation.
Strings Attached – Bring marionettes to life and learn about the artistry of two Rhode Island puppet masters.
Being broke and in college, I have to satisfy my wanderlust with “stay-cations”. That means Block Island. The ferry over starts at $22/adult, $11/child (plus additional costs if transporting your vehicle as well). The island truly has something for everyone. Featuring 17 miles of free beaches, kayaking, hikes, boating, water sports, and even horseback riding, Block Island is the ultimate outdoor destination. It also has over 50 restaurants and boutiques, as well as a spa, for all you ladies out there like me who like to shop ’til they drop, and finish off the day with a relaxing massage!
The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo
One of my favorite parts of RI, the Roger Williams Pumpkin Spectacular features thousands of locally grown pumpkins, all cut into jack-o-lanterns. Over 125 pumpkins are cut by local artists, creating beautiful works of art. Guests have the opportunity to walk through the entire zoo, checking out the pumpkins, and enjoying pretzels and pumpkin beer. Kids love the toys sold that help light up the dark trails. Last year’s exhibit, titled “American Treasures,” celebrated US history and culture, especially in the form of commemorative postage stamps. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit paid tribute to the many amazing icons we lost in 2016, including Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan, and Gene Wilder. While totally kid-friendly, the exhibit doesn’t open until dusk, so make sure your kiddos get their naps in! Remember to buy your tickets online, the event sells out quick.
Lincoln Woods State Park
Being from New Hampshire, I absolutely love hanging out at a nice lake. No salty or chlorinated water, no seaweed, no SHARKS… It took me a year and a half to find a lake in Rhode Island. Seriously. When I finally did discover Lincoln Woods, I was thrilled. Located in Lincoln, RI (about 15 minutes north of Providence), Lincoln Woods features a beautiful lake with multiple public and private beaches AND an incredibly yummy concessions stand! Fishing is extremely popular, as is playing ball in the large field available. Hiking, jogging, and horseback riding on the beautiful nature trails are some of the other options offered. My favorite part of the park is the Eastern Mountain Sports kayak school. For $25, I can rent a kayak for three hours (which is more than enough!) and spend the afternoon on the water.
Providence Place Mall
For all of my shop-a-holics out there… Providence Place Mall is the place to go! FIVE stories of stores, as well as an incredible food court and full restaurants available. Fire & Ice and the Melting Pot are the most unique and popular choices in the mall, featuring yummy sauteed dishes and fondue! On the sixth floor, Dave & Busters and a full IMAX movie theater keep kids entertained year-round. With both designer and commercial stores, Providence Place truly has something for everyone.
Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House
Alright. This recommendation comes with a safety warning. Seriously. Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House is one of RI’s most famous landmarks as well as the oldest beach stand in RI (built in 1924). Each and every time I go there, I literally eat myself sick. Their clam cakes and doughboys are to DIE FOR, but there’s no having just one. So sugary sweet, the doughboys are unfortunately an instant stomach ache for me. But please, don’t let that deter you! The extra thousand or so calories and tummy pain are so worth it! Head down to the coast to try out the best fried dough and clam cakes in the Ocean State!
Ice Skating at Kennedy Plaza
While only available during the winter months, ice skating at Kennedy Plaza is a must-do activity when visiting RI. Surrounded by the beautiful lit-up skyscrapers of downtown Providence, the skating rink is an incredible holiday activity. Scott and I have made it our tradition to skate every New Years Eve. With a large projector playing Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve, Kennedy Plaza is the perfect, romantic spot to watch the ball drop and have your New Year’s kiss!
Anything I forgot? What are your favorite places in the Ocean State?
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