Atop the junction of the Providence, Moshassuck, and Woonasquatucket Rivers, Rhode Island’s capital town offers some of the most exquisite urban strollings in New England: throughout Brown University’s historic campus on 18th-century CE College Hill, accompanying the landscaped Riverwalk trail, and into Downtown’s handsome lanes and streets with their art-house theaters, hip cafes, trendsetting bars, and fusion restaurants.
Once doomed to become an industrialized relic, Providence’s fate was forgiven when Buddy Cianci, its then-controversial two-time Mayor, rolled out a proposal to revitalize the city core by rerouting rivers, restoring historic facades, and reclaiming land.
Providence’s rebirth after the Mayor’s forward-looking steps has devised new attractions and parks and brought emphasis back to its historical roots. Historic vistas, downcity events, eclectic districts such as Federal Hill and College Hill, and outstanding nightlife make Providence an excellent tourist destination.
Top Attractions in Providence
Rhode Island State House
Designed by Mead, McKim, and White in 1904 CE, the Rhode Island State House arises above the Providence horizon, visible from miles around. Fashioned in part on St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, it has the fourth-largest self-supporting marble roof. It is home to one of Gilbert Stuart’s paintings of George Washington, which you may want to relate to a dollar bill from your wallet. Inside the halls are the legendary battle flags of Rhode Island military units and an infamous Civil War cannon, which sat here for a century packed and ready to blast until someone thought to check whether it was disabled.
Overlooking the top of the College Hill community on the East Side, Brown University’s campus radiates Ivy League grace. University Hall, a 1770 CE brick tower used as a barracks during the Revolutionary War, sits at its center. To explore the college, begin at the wrought-iron gates at the junction of Prospect St and College St and walk across the green toward Thayer St.
One of the most striking structures on Benefit St, the Greek Revival Providence Athenaeum, was outlined by William Strickland and built in 1838 CE. This is a library of the old school with oil paintings and plaster busts filling in spaces not filled by books. Edgar Allen Poe used to train ladies here. Pick up a book for a self-guided Raven Tour of the building’s architecture and artwork.
Positioned east of Providence’s Downtown, you’ll see College Hill, where you can explore the town’s Colonial history reflected in the 18th-century CE houses that line Benefit St on the East Side. These are primarily individual homes, but many are available for tours one weekend in June during the Festival of Historic Houses.
Top Things to do in Providence
- Festivals: Providence is a land of festivals, period. Don’t forget to attend “The Stroll.” It is a twice a year event, in October and June, where you can walk Federal Hill and sample 11 boutiques and shops and 22 restaurants. Foo Fest is a downtown street party hosted by AS220 during the summer months. It highlights numerous art installations and games, with artists showcasing their massive creations. New Year Festival features hundreds of the most reputable local actors, singers, acrobats, dancers, clowns, magicians, and musicians to honor Rhode Island’s most important cultural asset — its performers.
- Art And Theater: In Downtown, Providence Performing Arts Center is Rhode Island’s headquarters for Broadway productions, kid’s shows, and entertainment. AS220 is a neighborhood art center hosting poetry slams, musical performances, and other events. Trinity Repertory Company presents various premiere plays.
- Nightlife: Numerous nightclubs are situated Downtown, especially along Richmond St. Visit Club Therapy to explore perhaps the world’s most fantastic theme nights.
- Park Hopping: Roger Williams Park, in the south portion of the town, is a beautifully landscaped 427-acre park that contains seven lakes and many museums and other draws. You can go there, enjoy the site of clean lakes, and learn more about the American Civil War by exploring the museum.
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