Providence is Rhode Island’s state capital for very good reasons. Its easy access to the water made it an ideal seaport and attractive to entrepreneurs. Early Providence industrialized and became one of the first major hubs for the textile, machine tool, jewelry, and silverware industries in the colonies. Merchants and craftspeople flooded the area to fulfill the demands of armies and foreign trade.
The city flourished and as it grew many stately buildings rose with it. You can still tour many of these today, such as the Rhode Island State House and the Providence Public Library.
Today’s Providence celebrates the waterways that led to its growth. The scenic Riverwalk with cobblestone walkways meanders along the water’s edge, flanked by plants and flowers. Venetian bridges link downtown Providence with the East Side, and you can even travel the river in a gondola.
The WaterPlace Park amphitheater provides the ideal spot for an outdoor concert or you can take in the spectacular bonfire art installation along the Providence River, WaterFire. The Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art offers an impressive collection of paintings, furniture, and ancient art. You can also take in a live show at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
Providence is rich with history. It offers three self-guided walking tours on the downtown, east and west sides. You can also stroll along Benefit Street lined with historic houses, or venture up to pedestrian-friendly Federal Hill with great local shops and restaurants.
Providence also has several house museums you can visit to get a feel for Providence’s “Golden Age.” John Brown House Museum and Lippitt House Museum are both open for tours. John Brown is the namesake of Brown University. He was a merchant, politician and slave trader, and also one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the colonies. Henry Lippitt’s money came from textile manufacturing. The Lippitt House is an elaborate Victorian home and a National Historic Landmark.
If you’re looking for family fun, The Roger Williams Zoo is a great place to visit. It is one of the oldest zoos in America and covers over 40 acres. The updated Tropical Rainforest Building has a jungle environment where monkeys roam freely. You can also ride a camel and see a Komodo dragon and an American eagle.
If you want to shop, Providence Place mall has over 170 shopping, dining, and entertainment options under one roof. If you want to see something unusual, try the Culinary Arts Museum on the Johnson & Wales University campus. It showcases everything from vintage cookbooks and ancient prep tools to curious kitchen gadgetry.
Sports lovers may want to head north towards Pawtucket. McCoy Stadium is home to home to the Pawtucket Red Sox. And make sure that you stop for a delicious lunch at KG Kitchenbar. They feature fresh, flavorful comfort food at very affordable prices.
Don’t forget to wander through The State House in downtown Providence. You can take a 50 minute tour of this historic building and you might even spot a local politician, as it is the active seat of Rhode Island’s government. One thing is certain – Providence isn’t boring.