One of the best ways to figure out how to spend your time in a place is to ask a local about where they take their out-of-town guests. Here is where I take mine in this beautiful state that I have lived in for over 15 years. Rhode Island is the smallest of the United States, but it has the longest name, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Rhode Island is situated around the Narragansett Bay, so even though you can drive across it in less than 1 hour, it has 400 miles of coastline. Having a large Italian-American and Portuguese-American population lends to its unique flavors. Rhode Islanders are proud of their uniqueness and have their own accents and foods. One thing I love about living in Rhode Island is that it is perfectly located in New England as a gateway to the rest of the area. We are only about an hour from Boston, 2 hours from New Hampshire and four hours from New York City. My suggestion is based an a summer or spring visit, because that is my favorite time here, but there are great things to do here if you visit in the winter or fall as well.
First stop will be Newport, Rhode Island. Newport is a quintessential, seaside New England town with natural beauty, shopping, great food and plenty of historical buildings. On your way into Newport, stop by Allie’s Donuts in North Kingstown for breakfast or Inside Scoop for ice cream.
I would begin our day with a tour of any of the Newport Mansions, which were summer “cottages” for the ultra-wealthy in the early 20th century set on the Cliff Walk of Newport. The grounds and interiors are open for touring. The opulence of the decor is stunning and the audio tours will give you a useful and interesting dose of history. If you are visiting in December, Christmas at the Mansions is a worthwhile excursion. With extra time you could stop by historic Fort Adams, the East Coast’s largest fort.
Then head to lunch on the lawn at Castle Hill Inn. According to the New York Times “this place has the best view in town,” and I couldn’t agree more. The property overlooks the entrance to Narragansett Bay from the Atlantic ocean and the sweeping views are spectacular. It is hard to beat great food eaten under the sun while looking at the Newport Bridge, the town of Newport and the boats sailing by.
Grab a Del’s Lemonade on your way back into Newport to take a walk along the Cliff Walk, a scenic 3.5 mile mainly paved walkway along the cliffs at the foot of the Newport mansions. Del’s Lemonade is an oh-so-good, refreshing, only-in-Rhode-Island frozen lemonade, but don’t expect a straw.
Now it’s time to head into Providence for dinner at our Italian section, Federal Hill. You enter through the arch of La Pigna, or pine cone, which symbolizes welcome, abundance and quality. You can’t go wrong with your choice of Italian restaurant and there is one for any taste. My 101-year-old great-grandmother grew up going to The Old Canteen. What I would recommend trying where ever you go, is brocolli rabe, a bitter green that I had never tried before moving to RI, but is ubiquitous here. Another quick thing to try is a pizza strip, a cheese less red pizza snack, which is also specific to Rhode Island. After you eat, be sure to stroll around the quaint DePasquale Square and people watch by the fountain.
After that head into downtown Providence to enjoy our unique music and art installation along the cities canals Waterfire. This is one of my favorite experiences anywhere in the world. It engages all of your senses and is spectacular. The sound of global jazz and classical music along with the smells of carefully chosen fire woods fills the air, as the heat tickles your skin and you watch the boats gliding on the water refilling the fire pits. It only occurs on certain nights, but I would recommend booking your visit around it- it’s that good! Be sure to walk along the basin as you will find street performers and chandeliers under bridges. For a real treat, book a gondola ride well ahead of time.
Are you tired yet? Definitely a hare day, but super fun!
So, for day two jump on the Point Judith Ferry and make your way to Block Island! The island’s Mohegan Bluffs is one of the most picturesque areas in New England and Bailey’s Beach Club is a really convenient place to spend a beach day. Read A Day in Block Island for more detailed information.
When you return to mainland Rhode Island, go around the corner from the ferry to Champlin’s for a low-key lobster and seafood feast and to watch the sunset and imagine the next time you will be lucky enough to return to this wonderful state. What do you think I missed? What are your favorite things to do in Rhode Island?
Read more about great things to do in Rhode Island here.