19 Free Things to Do in Providence, RI


Providence, RI is full of great shopping, dining and entertainment, but maybe you’re broke or bored and you need something to do that won’t cost a lot. These great free things to do in Providence, RI offer a fun way to fill any trip to the city without touching your wallet.

Free Attractions, Galleries and Museums in Providence:

First Unitarian Church of Providence – This gorgeous church is over 200 years old and has many interesting stories surrounding it. Free, guided tours are offered once a month, but self-guided tours are available during non-service hours.

First Unitarian Church of Providence is an important, historic building that is both beautiful and fascinating.

The First Unitarian Church of Providence is a beautiful, historic building. Free tours of this great structure are offered. Photo by Mr. Ducke

Gallery Night – On the 3rd Thursday from March – November from 5-9 pm, over 20 art galleries open their doors and allow free entrance. Find a full list of participating galleries here.

John Hay Library – Brown University’s John Hay Library houses an extensive collection of rare tomes, manuscripts and books. It is open on weekdays until 5 PM (6 PM during the academic school year). An interesting note: it is a stop along the Providence Ghost Tour due to its strange collection of books.

The John Hay Library is open to the public and has a varied array of manuscripts and books.

The John Hay Library at Brown University has a large selection of odd and unique manuscripts and books.

Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) – This museum participates in Gallery Night but it also offers free admission every Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm.

Providence Children’s Museum – On the third Friday of every month, The Providence Children’s Museum hosts MetLife Family Friday which offers free admittance from 5 pm – 8 pm.

Rhode Island State House – Free, guided tours are offered Monday – Friday throughout the year. Tours are 50 minutes long and must be scheduled beforehand.

Inside of the Rhode Island State House you will find this impressive room called the Rhode Island Senate Chamber

The impressive Rhode Island Senate Chamber inside of the Rhode Island State House.

Roger Williams Park Zoo – The first Saturday of each month is free for Providence residents, proof of residence must be shown at the counter.

The Providence Athanaeum – This huge library and cultural center is free to enter. They are open most days and even offer special events that are open to the public. While it is free to enter, you are encouraged to sign up for a membership to help support this great institute.

The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Library – Located on Hope Street, this library houses the most extensive collection of historical documents relating to Rhode Island. This library is free to Rhode Island residents, but costs for out-of-staters.

Free Events in Providence:

Providence Art Festival – This annual festival showcases the best of Providence’s art community. Most of Westminster Street is closed down and artists set up booths and showcase their work. This festival takes place the first Saturday in June.

Providence Art Festival - Vendor Booths that stretch down Westminster Street - one of the best free things to do in Providence, RI.

The Providence Art Festival showcases many talented local artists. Westminster Street is closed to all but foot traffic, so take your time strolling down this amazing bazaar.

WaterFire – Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of WaterFire. This annual event features live music, performers, art booths, food vendors and – the highlight – 100 bonfires along the major rivers in Providence. It is free to enter.

Bonfires along the river at WaterFire in Downtown Providence, RI - a great free activity

The lit bonfires illuminate the river at WaterFire. Listen to the live music and enjoy the other great activities at this annual celebration.

Free Parks in Providence:

Prospect Terrace Park – My favorite park in all of Providence. This park features a pristine, open greenspace with amazing views of the Providence skyline. There is also a statue of Roger Williams in this park marking his tomb. It is located off of Congdon Street. The Providence Ghost Tour begins (and ends) in this park.

Prospect Terrace Park on the east side of Providence RI is a great place to get views of the city.

The sun setting over Prospect Terrace Park on the east side of Providence. Notice the statue of Roger Williams overlooking the city.

Roger Williams National Memorial – Located at 282 North Main Street, this beautiful park features 4 acres of pristine park and includes a freshwater spring. It is open year-round until 4:30 PM (5 PM during the summer).

Roger Williams National Memorial Park offers a great place to take a walk and great views of the city.

Roger Williams National Memorial Park offers a manicured greenspace that is both a pleasant retreat and an impressive memorial to Roger Williams.

South Main Street Park – Located on 54 South Main Street, this park features Greek style statues and an open area that’s great for taking a break and watching the river flow by. During WaterFire, performing artists put on shows in this park.

The Best Places to Take a Free Walk in Providence:

Atwells Avenue – Located in the famous Federal Hill district (Little Italy), Atwells Avenue is the main strip housing many of the restaurants. It will feel like a trip through an Italian village. Stop in at DePasquale Square and view all the outdoor cafes and the beautiful fountain.

Benefit Street – Benefit Street is a mile long cobblestone road that features many Colonial and historic buildings. In fact, it is considered one of the densest areas of Colonial buildings in the whole country.

A view of a historic church located along Benefit Street in Providence, RI.

This is just a peek at some of the amazing, historical buildings located along Benefit Street in Providence.

Blackstone Boulevard – Located on the historic East Side, this street features a pedestrian path down the center. Take a stroll down this pristine boulevard and marvel at the beautiful, stately homes along the road.

Thayer Street – One of the hippest areas in all of Providence. This street features lots of boutiques, cute coffee shops and interesting restaurants.

Westminster Street – This pedestrian-friendly street is home to some of the best restaurants in the city. It also features many small shops and stores. During the first weekend in June, Westminster Street transforms into an artist’s paradise with the Providence Art Festival.

What are some of your favorite free things to do in Providence, RI?

Comments

  1. helpful article about Providence and awesome photos as well. love the last and the second to the last photo. :)

  2. Thanks for the tips. Very useful for any traveler.

  3. such a useful post!

  4. The children’s museum is free? Wow, if we manage to get there soon I will make sure to take my kids there. They will have so much fun.

  5. Great list! I hope to go to Providence this fall as a weekend away from NYC. It looks beautiful. Any recommendations on where to stay?

    • Providence is a very walkable city, which is great, because they don’t have a subway system. Anywhere you stay in Providence proper will be close enough to all the best activities – so don’t stay North, South or East Providence as it’s too far outside the city and there’s nothing really there, it’s mostly residential. For hotel chains, the Marriott is close to downtown and more affordable than the other chains. If you’re looking for a boutique hotel, try Hotel Dolce Villa, it’s located in the heart of Federal Hill. Hope that helps! Have a great time in Providence :)

  6. It’s good to see that Ri has so much to offer in terms of free attractions. For me, Prospect Terrace Park would be a perfect place to jog, relax and read a good book.
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Trackbacks

  1. [...] We did run into one problem from getting there so early though, we ended up ordering and finishing our meals even before the dancers came out. We wound up nursing a drink and picking at the remnants of our dinner – even though we were stuffed – just so we could stay at our table longer. I’d say making a reservation for 6:30 PM is a safe bet. If you need to kill some time beforehand, check out my list of free things to do in Providence. [...]

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