Providence is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a mix of history and modernity. The city is full of colonial-era buildings, including the State House and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
But it’s also home to a vibrant arts scene, with plenty of galleries, theaters, and music venues. And of course, no visit to Providence would be complete without taking a walk along Waterfire, the iconic series of bonfires that line the city’s riverfront.
Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find something to love in this city, and to help plan your trip here is our list of the best things to do in Providence, Rhode Island.
1) Rhode Island State House
The Rhode Island State House is the capitol building of Rhode Island and is located in the city of Providence. It is the seat of the Rhode Island General Assembly, the Legislative body of the state.
The current State House, built between 1895 and 1901, is the fourth building to house the General Assembly and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Rhode Island State House is one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States and features a magnificent central rotunda capped by a stained-glass dome.
The exterior of the building is clad in marble and granite, and the interior features a grand staircase, marble floors, and murals depicting scenes from Rhode Island history. Visitors to the State House can take a self-guided tour or attend one of the many events held in this beautiful building.
2) Federal Hill
Federal Hill is a neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island that is known for its Italian-American heritage.
The area was first settled by immigrants from Italy in the late 19th century and has since become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Federal Hill is home to a number of restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as a number of historical landmarks.
One of the most notable landmarks is the Providence Place Mall, which is the largest shopping mall in New England. Other notable landmarks include the Rhode Island State House and the WaterFire art installation.
Federal Hill is also home to a number of colleges and universities, including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
3) Roger Williams park zoo
Roger Williams Park Zoo is located in Providence, Rhode Island and is home to over 100 animals representing 30 different species.
The zoo is open year-round and offers a variety of educational programs for children and adults. Visitors can learn about the natural history of the animals on display and the efforts being made to conserve their populations in the wild.
The zoo also offers opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals through behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters. Whether you’re a lifelong animal lover or just looking for a fun day out, Roger Williams Park Zoo is sure to offer a unique and memorable experience.
4) Rhode Island School of Design Museum
The Rhode Island School of Design Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums of art and design in the United States. Founded in 1877, it has a collection of over 100,000 objects spanning a wide range of periods and styles.
The museum is located on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. It is open to the public year-round and offers a variety of exhibitions, educational programs, and events.
Visitors can explore the museum’s collections of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, textile, and decorative arts. The museum also has a library and archives that contain over 300,000 books, manuscripts, and photographs.
The Rhode Island School of Design Museum is an important cultural institution in the state of Rhode Island and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in art and design.
5) Waterplace Park
Waterplace park is an urban oasis in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island. The park features a one-mile long riverwalk that winds through the city, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding skyline.
In addition to the riverwalk, the park also features a playground, picnic area, and public art. Waterplace park is the perfect place to take a stroll, have a picnic, or simply relax and enjoy the view.
WaterFire is a temporary sculpture installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The fire is contained on floatable braziers anchored to the river bottom and is lit using long poles.
The structure includes over eighty braziers in total, with half of them being active at any given time during a WaterFire event. The sculpture was created by artist Barnaby Evans in 1994 and has been installed annually since 1997. WaterFire events are free and open to the public, typically occurring on weekend evenings from May through October.
During a WaterFire event, music is played throughout downtown Providence and vendors sell food and drink along the riverfront. For many visitors, WaterFire provides a unique and memorable experience of art in public space.
7) Steven Hopkins House
The Steven Hopkins House is a historic house in Providence, Rhode Island. Built in 1708, it is one of the oldest surviving houses in the city.
It was the home of Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and it is now operated as a museum by the Rhode Island Historical Society. The house features original furnishings and artifacts from the Hopkins family, and it is open to the public for tours.
Visitors to the Steven Hopkins House can learn about the lives of early American colonists and see firsthand how they lived. The house is an important part of American history, and it is well worth a visit for anyone interested in learning more about our nation’s past.
8) Brown University Campus
Brown University is a private research university located in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764, Brown was the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of their religious affiliation.
The student body is diverse, with students coming from all 50 states and more than 80 countries. Brown offers over 80 undergraduate majors and concentrations, as well as a number of graduate programs.
The university is also home to a number of world-renowned research centers and institutes, including the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Brown’s campus is located in the heart of downtown Providence, near a number of historic landmarks and attractions.
The main campus covers more than 146 acres, and includes a variety of green spaces and historical buildings.
9) Providence Children’s Museum
The Providence Children’s Museum is a museum in Providence, Rhode Island, dedicated to providing children with interactive experiences that promote learning.
The museum has three floors of exhibit space, and each floor is designed to engage children in different ways. The ground floor is focused on active play, with exhibits that encourage physical movement.
The second floor is focused on arts and culture, and features exhibits on music, dance, and visual arts. The third floor is focused on science and technology, and features exhibits on the natural world, astronomy, and engineering.
In addition to the exhibit space, the museum also offers a variety of programs and classes for children. These include drop-in art classes, science workshops, and musical performances. The Providence Children’s Museum is a great place for families to explore and learn together.
10) Roger Williams Park
Roger Williams Park is one of the most popular parks in Providence, Rhode Island. Spanning 435 acres, the park is home to a wide variety of amenities, including a zoo, an art museum, and numerous playgrounds and walking trails.
Located in the heart of the city, Roger Williams Park is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Visitors can explore the park’s many gardens, take a scenic stroll through its wooded areas, or enjoy a picnic lunch beside one of its picturesque ponds.
With something for everyone, it’s no wonder that Roger Williams Park is one of the most beloved destinations in Providence.
11) Providence Athenaeum
The Providence Athenaeum is a historic membership library located in Providence, Rhode Island. It is the third-oldest library in America and the oldest in Rhode Island.
Founded in 1753, the Athenaeum began as a small reading room for members of the Providence social club known as the Nonesuch Club. In 1769, the Library Company of Philadelphia lent the Nonesuch Club its collection of books, and the Athenaeum officially became a library.
Over the next few years, the Athenaeum’s collection continued to grow, and in 1791 it moved to a larger building on Benefit Street. Today, the Providence Athenaeum remains an important cultural institution in Providence, with a collection of over 200,000 books and manuscripts.
It is also home to a number of special collections, including the John Hay Library and the Calculating Instruments Collection. The Athenaeum is open to the public for research and borrowing privileges are extended to members only.
12) Benefit Street
Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island is often referred to as the ” Mile of History” due to the large number of historic homes and buildings that line the street.
The street runs from College Hill down to the Waterfront district and is a popular tourist destination. Many of the houses on Benefit Street date back to the 18th century and are beautifully preserved. The street is also home to several museums, including the RISD Museum and the Redwood Library.
Benefit Street is a wonderful place to learn about America’s history and architecture, and it is definitely worth a visit!
13) John Brown House
The John Brown House in Providence, Rhode Island was built in 1788 by noted merchant and trader John Brown. It is a fine example of Georgian architecture, and it was one of the first brick houses built in the city.
The house was home to several generations of the Brown family, including John Brown’s son Nicholas, who served as Governor of Rhode Island. The house was later donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society, and it is now open to the public as a museum.
Visitors can tour the house and see authentic furnishings from the Brown family, as well as learn about the family’s role in the early history of Rhode Island. The John Brown House is a National Historic Landmark, and it is an important part of Providence’s architectural heritage.
14) DePasquale Plaza
DePasquale Plaza is a public park located in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island. The park is named after Vincenzo DePasquale, an Italian immigrant who owned a grocery store near the site of the park. DePasquale Plaza is home to a number of sculptures and monuments, including a bust of DePasquale himself.
The park is also a popular gathering place for concerts and other events. In recent years, the plaza has undergone a number of renovations, including the addition of new benches, trees, and flowers. As a result, DePasquale Plaza has become one of the most popular attractions in Providence.
15) Governor Henry Lippitt House
The Governor Henry Lippitt House is a historic home located in Providence, Rhode Island. Built in 1862, the house was designed by architect James Bucklin in the Second Empire style.
It is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the state and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built for Governor Henry Lippitt, who served as governor of Rhode Island from 1875 to 1877.
After his death, the house remained in the family until 1972, when it was sold to a private owner. Today, the house is used as an office building and is not open to the public. However, its exterior can be viewed from the street.
16) Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History in Providence, Rhode Island is a great place to learn about the natural world. The museum has a wide variety of exhibits, ranging from dinosaurs to geological formations.
In addition, the museum offers several interactive programs, such as educational walks and hands-on activities. The Museum of Natural History is also home to a planetarium, which offers visitors the opportunity to view the night sky in a unique setting.
The Museum in Providence, Rhode Island is another excellent option for those interested in learning about the natural world. This museum focuses on the history and culture of Rhode Island, with an emphasis on the state’s Native American heritage.
Visitors can explore exhibits on the state’s early settlers, see replicas of historic buildings, and learn about the river that runs through Providence. The Museum in Providence also offers a variety of educational programs, making it an ideal choice for families or groups interested in learning about Rhode Island’s rich history.
Recap of the Best Things to do in Providence, Rhode Island
- Rhode Island State House
- Federal Hill
- Rodger Williams Park Zoo
- Rhode Island School of Design Museum
- Waterplace Park
- Rhode Island State House
- Steven Hopkins House
- Brown University
- Providence Children’s Museum
- Roger Williams Park
- Providence Athenaeum
- Benefit Street
- John Brown House
- DePasquale Plaza
- Governor Henry Lippitt House
- Museum of Natural History
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