Providence was one of the places we stopped on our mega-vacay this past summer. To be honest, the main reason we added this stop is because we didn’t want to spend an entire day driving to our next destination. But we were pleasantly surprised at how interesting Providence is. It feels like a quaint small town and a bustling urban city at the same time.
I’m sharing things we did as well as things that sound fun and would be worth checking out on our next visit.
How to Get Around in Providence, RI
Take advantage of Spin electric scooter and bike share.
What to See and Do in Providence, RI
Time your visit around WaterFire, either to experience it or to avoid the surge of extra people in town. Check the schedule as it takes place often. I haven’t been and struggle to understand exactly what it is other than that it involves over eighty sparkling bonfires. Here’s how the organizers describe it, “WaterFire is a very popular public event where you will join thousands of Rhode Island residents and out-of-town visitors who come to downtown Providence to enjoy an evening out with art.”
Start with a Welcome to Providence Walking Tour or the Discover Providence Guided Signtseeing Bus Tour to get a lay of the land and learn a little about Providence and Rhode Island history, politics, religion, arts, architecture, and culture.
Wander through the College Hill neighborhood, which is home to many historic and cultural sites and residences, as well as the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University.
Spot the Industrial Trust Co. Building. Completed in 1927 and popularly known as the Superman Building because of its resemblance to the iconic Daily Planet building in the television series, it is the tallest and the most iconic building in the Providence skyline.
Visit the Rhode Island State House and the nearby Roger Williams National Memorial. In case you’re as ignorant of Rhode Island history as I am, Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his beliefs and founded Providence in 1636. This colony served as a refuge where all could come to worship as their conscience dictated without interference from the state. Williams is considered the founder of Rhode Island and a champion of the ideal of religious freedom.
Take a Twilight River Cruise and sip Rhode Island-made wine and prosecco, glimpse architectural highlights and landmarks, and savor the tranquil ambiance.
Where to Stay in Providence, RI
We stayed at the Omni Providence Hotel. The location is great, it has a ton of amenities and staff to wait on you hand and foot, but lacks free Wi-Fi.
But here are a few other places that look nice and have good recent reviews.
Historical Home with a Modern Refresh – original colonial wood ceiling beams and floors, charming location outside of downtown.
Luxury Suite on the Brown Campus – quintessential New England charm, downtown bars and restaurants are only a jump across the river.
Hotel Providence – located in downtown Providence’s arts and theater district, artistic atmosphere, and onsite restaurant.
Graduate Providence – bursting with old-school charm, built in 1922, steps from the city’s most exclusive shopping and dining.
Where to Eat and Drink in Providence, RI
For coffee and breakfast:
- I loved the super cozy vibe in Coffee Connection Providence. They also have great coffee, friendly staff, and a ton of breakfast and lunch options.
- Knead Doughnuts serves (relatively) frill-less gourmet doughnuts in traditional, cake, or brioche varieties.
- nicks on broadway also serves a farm-to-table dinner but they’re know for brunch. Expect a wait at this trendy restaurant where you can expect to find blueberry pancakes, poached eggs on a buttermilk biscuit with hollandaise and basil, and other well-prepared brunch fare. Ask for a seat at the counter.
- Olneyville New York System Restaurant is a bit a drive, but totally worth it for its James Beard Award winning hot dogs. Yes, I’m serious.
- Oberlin is a casual yet upscale restaurant serving fresh, creative, quality small plates. It’s apparently versatile enough for a quick drink and light food or for an entire meal shared with friends. Each dish has unique flavors using local ingredients prepared in an expert manner by a James Beard Award nominated chef.
- Don’t miss relaxing in the Trinity Beer Garden. It’s a seasonal outdoor beer garden that offers beer from Trinity Brewhouse, along with wine, other selected beer options, batched cocktails, a rotating variety of local food vendors, and live comedy and music. Every city should have something like this.
- The Malted Barley is a bar know for their soft pretzels. But skip the “handcrafted gourmet pretzels” and go for a few custom flights from their 37 craft beer taps.
For late night:
- The Haven Brothers Diner is not just a food truck, it’s a diner on wheels. Climb aboard and order a hot dog covered in chili or a hamburger with all the condiments.
Itinerary for a Weekend in Providence, RI
From my experience, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for a first visit to Providence. That said, I’m not going to spell out a detailed itinerary for you because you may want to do slightly different things than we did, but hit me up if you want help coming up with your own personalized itinerary. Here’s my Google Map that you can use to start planning your own adventure in Providence, Rhode Island.