Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and its most populous city. The religious exile Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636 and his presence can be felt around the city. There are many statues throughout the city of Roger and even a university named after him (Roger Williams University). Once a major hub for maritime and manufacturing activities, Providence, like most of New England, eventually shifted to a service-based economy with a strong emphasis on higher education and the arts. In the second half of the 20th century, Providence developed a bad reputation for being a dangerous place wrought with organized crime; but in the past 20 years Providence has cleaned up and become a bastion for young artists. It has become a popular place to take a day trip or spend a weekend.
Activities in Providence:
Arts & Entertainment:
- AS220 Main Gallery – Located on Empire Street, it is one of the more popular art galleries in Providence. There’s always an interesting exhibit to check out.
- AS220 Printshop – An art studio where the public can come and use their incredible machinery to create works of art of their own or take a class to hone their skills.
- Belly Dancing at India Restaurant – Every Friday and Saturday night, starting at 7 PM, India restaurant puts on a belly dancing show. Grab dinner or sit at the bar and enjoy the performance.
- First Baptist Meeting House – This is the very first Baptist church to be built in all of America. Both guided and self-guided tours are available for this piece of important history.
- First Unitarian Church of Providence – A beautiful church located downtown that is almost 200 years old. You can take both guided and self-guided tours of the interior.
- Gallery Night – On the 3rd Thursday of the months of March – November (5 PM – 9 PM), more than 20 art galleries scattered throughout the city allow free entrance to the public.
- John Hay Library – This historic library is part of Brown University and contains a unique collection of books, manuscripts and tomes. It is open to the public and not just Brown students.
- Museum of Art at RISD – The Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art hosts an extensive collection of art from around the globe. It’s an inspiring sight.
- Providence Art Festival – An annual festival on Westminster Street that showcases many of the local artists. It’s a free event, be warned if you’re on a diet, the smell of the food carts will be hard to resist.
- Providence Children’s Museum – Host to many kid-friendly activities, this museum is a great spot if you have children. The activities and events are interactive and encourage kids to think creatively.
- Providence Ghost Tour – An interesting walking tour around the East Side. Covers the strange deaths surrounding some of Providence’s most notable figures such as Edgar Allen Poe and Roger Williams.
- Rhode Island State House – This historic building is a great spot for pictures. If you plan ahead you can also get guided tours of the inside.
- Roger Williams Park Zoo – Featuring over 100 different species of animals, the Roger Williams Park Zoo is one of the most popular activities in Providence.
- The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Library – On Hope Street, this library has the most extensive collection of documents relating to Rhode Island’s history.
- WaterFire – An annual event Downtown that’s filled with entertainment. The rivers of Providence are illuminated with bonfires, live music fills the streets, food cart aromas fill the air. Admission is free, so check it out.
- Westminster Arcade – This building was the first ever indoor shopping center in America. New renovations are underway to restore this building to all its beautiful galleria glory.
Restaurants & Dining:
- India Restuarant – This fantastic restaurant located on Hope Street offers great food, great drinks and interesting live entertainment.
- Small Point Cafe – A coffee bar that also serves pastries. The atmosphere is great, I wish there were more of these independent coffee shops around.