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.
Attractions, Galleries and Museums:
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.
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.
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. The RISD museum is one of my personal favorite free things to do in Providence, RI.
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.
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Historical Society Research Library – Located on Hope Street, this library houses the most extensive collection of historical documents relating to Rhode Island.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.
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.
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. Its official address is 184 Pratt Street, but it can also be accessed via Congdon Street. The Providence Ghost Tour also begins (and ends) in this park. Of my entire list of free things to do in Providence, this is my number 1 most recommended.
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).
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.
Historical and Scenic Walks:
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.
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.