Rhode Island stands out as one of the most captivating states in the USA. Conveniently accessible for a day trip from either New York City or Boston, this small state boasts a rich tapestry of attractions. From its expansive coastline adorned with lively beach bars to the dynamic urban life and thriving culinary scene, Rhode Island may be compact, but it delivers an impressive array of experiences. Compiling this list has been a labor of love, but the effort is well worth it. Here are the ultimate additions to your Rhode Island bucket list—essential destinations and activities that embody the spirit of this remarkable state.

Year-round Activities

1. Newport Cliffwalk


Newport-Cliff-Walk

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Cliff Walk, renowned for its scenic beauty, draws both tourists and locals to its path. This iconic trail starts at Easton’s Beach in the north and stretches southward to Reject’s Beach. As you meander along this picturesque route, you will encounter several of Newport’s most illustrious and historic mansions, set against the stunning backdrop of waves gently crashing against the cliffs. Although the weather is most favorable from late spring to early fall, venturing here in the off-season rewards you with fewer crowds.

The trail itself presents a mix of smoothly paved sections and rugged, rocky paths. The latter may require more careful navigation, especially for those with children. The duration of the walk is typically two to three hours, varying with how many stops you make to capture the breathtaking views on camera. Offering one of Rhode Island’s premier free attractions, the Newport Cliff Walk is an unforgettable journey through natural beauty and architectural grandeur.


2. Newport Mansions

Marble House, one of the Newport Mansions, with green laves in the foreground.

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

Exploring the Newport Mansions is an essential experience for anyone visiting Rhode Island. These grandiose homes, once the summer retreats of America’s wealthiest families like the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Morgans, offered a lavish escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Now open to the public, these mansions provide a fascinating glimpse into the opulent lifestyles of their former occupants, the intricate lives of their servants, and the captivating stories behind their architectural grandeur and beautifully landscaped gardens.

The ideal time for a visit is between May and October, although several mansions welcome visitors throughout the year, with special Christmas tours available in December. Notable mansions such as the Breakers, the Elms, Marble House, and Rosecliff are among the most popular and each warrants at least an hour for a thorough exploration. Immersing yourself in the luxury and history of these magnificent residences is a must-do activity that richly adds to the Rhode Island experience.


3. Prospect Park

Prospect Park in Rhode Island during sunset.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Prospect Park, nestled on the East Side of Providence along Congdon Street, is a charming oasis known for offering sweeping views of the city’s skyline. At its heart stands a statue of Roger Williams, Rhode Island’s founder, positioned as if gazing across Providence. The park’s westward orientation makes it an unparalleled venue for witnessing the stunning Rhode Island sunsets.

To elevate the experience, consider bringing along a blanket, a bottle of wine, or some of the local craft beer, complemented by gourmet snacks from Venda Ravioli or the Sandwich Hut. This combination sets the stage for an idyllic picnic, allowing visitors to bask in the beauty of the surroundings while enjoying some of the best local flavors. Prospect Park is not just a spot to visit; it’s a venue to experience the serene and picturesque essence of Providence.


4. Roger Williams Park

Cherry Blossoms and bridge over stream in Japanese Garden at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Comprised of more than 435 sprawling acres and offering a variety of recreational and educational activities, Roger Williams Park is a popular place to spend an afternoon in Rhode Island. Within the park you’ll find the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Japanese Gardens, a zoo, as well as the Roger Williams Botanical Center. There are ponds, running paths, public gardens, tennis courts, playgrounds and more. Be sure to check out the Temple of Music and the Casino while you’re there.

The park itself is free, but admission to the zoo and museum requires a ticket purchase.


5. West End of Providence

Seven Stars Bakery in Rhode Island

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The West End of Providence, encompassing the vibrant streets around Broadway, West Fountain Street, and Luongo Square, presents a dynamic blend of residential charm and urban enterprise. This historic neighborhood has witnessed significant rejuvenation, transforming it into a lively hub of community life and culture.

Within its bounds, the West End boasts community gardens that offer a touch of greenery amidst the urban landscape, alongside a selection of vintage shops that cater to those in search of unique finds. The area is also known for its trendy bars and eateries, providing a contemporary dining and nightlife experience. Notably, the neighborhood is home to local favorites such as Seven Stars Bakery and The Classic Café, establishments that embody the culinary spirit of Providence. With its rich tapestry of experiences, the West End stands as a testament to the city’s ongoing revitalization and vibrant community spirit.


6. East side of Providence

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The East Side of Providence stands as a beacon of history and culture, enriched by the presence of prestigious institutions like the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University. This area is a vibrant tapestry of art and heritage, offering an abundance of discoveries for those keen to explore.

Wander through picturesque streets, where historic houses and towering London Plane trees paint a vivid picture of Providence’s storied past. The East Side is also a culinary haven, boasting a wide array of exceptional restaurants that cater to every palate. Amidst these gastronomic delights, a variety of independent coffee shops offer cozy corners for relaxation and conversation. Home to a diverse community of academics, professionals, and families, the East Side represents a harmonious blend of Providence’s intellectual vigor and familial warmth, making it a quintessential part of the city’s identity.


7. Wickaboxet State Park

Where: West Greenwich, Rhode Island

For those yearning to immerse themselves in the tranquility of the woods away from the hustle and bustle, Wickaboxet offers the perfect retreat. With your loyal four-legged companion by your side, you can delve into approximately ten miles of interconnected trails weaving through the forest. The journey is dotted with massive granite formations that invite adventurous climbers to scale their heights for a commanding view of the canopy below.

Dogs are warmly welcomed in Wickaboxet, provided they are kept on a leash to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors. It’s important to be aware that the area is open to hunting during the designated season. To ensure visibility and safety, adorning yourself and your furry friend in bright orange, including an orange vest for your dog, is strongly recommended. This careful preparation allows everyone to enjoy Wickaboxet’s natural beauty and serenity with peace of mind.


8. Charlestown BreachwayCharlestown Breachway in Rhode Island, showing both sides of the channel.

Where: Charlestown, Rhode Island

Rhode Island, aptly nicknamed ‘the Ocean State,’ is renowned for its plethora of stunning beaches. Yet, during the bustling summer months, these beaches often become thronged with visitors, searching for their spot under the sun.

Charlestown Breachway stands as a serene alternative, nestled further down Route 1, away from the more frequented shores. Here, the likelihood of encountering large crowds diminishes significantly, especially if you opt for a weekday visit. The Breachway prides itself on its cleanliness, boasting expansive waves, ample parking, and convenient bathroom facilities. Unlike the bustling food and drink pavilions found at beaches like Narragansett or Scarborough, Charlestown Breachway offers a more undisturbed setting. Simply bring along a cooler, and you’re set for a day of relaxation. While photographs may showcase its rocky perimeters, don’t be misled—sandy expanses and excellent swimming conditions await. Charlestown Breachway is your gateway to a tranquil beach day, embodying the serene beauty Rhode Island has to offer.


9. Historic WakefieldHistoric Wickford Village, one of the best things to do in Rhode Island

Location: North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Nestled within Wickford Harbor in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, lies the enchanting Historic Wickford Village. This area, established as a trading post in the 17th century, continues to thrive as a vibrant part of Rhode Island’s rich tapestry. Its allure draws visitors from Newport and Providence, compelling them to carve out time to explore Wickford, and for good reason.

The charm of Wickford Village is manifold, with its picturesque harbor setting, diverse array of eclectic shops and antique treasures, and inviting waterfront dining options. Whether you’re looking to leisurely browse unique stores, savor a meal with a view, or simply soak in the quaint atmosphere, Wickford offers an abundance of activities to fill an afternoon. This small, pedestrian-friendly village is a treasure trove of experiences, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking to capture the essence of Rhode Island’s historic charm.


10. Audubon Bird Watching

Barn Owl at Audubon in Rhode Island.

Where: Statewide

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island presents a wide array of experiences for nature enthusiasts, especially those with a keen interest in birding. From bird-watching excursions to guided tours, the society caters to a variety of interests, including special events that spotlight birds of prey and raptors. While the notion of attending events with captive animals, such as raptor shows, might not appeal to everyone, the Audubon Society also offers more ethical and sustainable alternatives.

Their Wednesday morning bird walks, urban birding adventures, and private birding tours are designed to provide an immersive experience in observing and learning about the region’s native bird species in their natural habitats. These activities not only foster a deeper appreciation for wildlife but also adhere to principles of ethical engagement and sustainability, ensuring that your exploration contributes positively to the environment and its avian inhabitants.


11. Providence Athenaeumathenaeum

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Providence Athenaeum, a beacon of knowledge and culture, has graced Benefit Street since 1838, although its doors first opened in a different location two years earlier. This esteemed institution was born from the aspirations of Rhode Islanders who, eager for knowledge yet hindered by the cost of importing books from abroad, sought a solution. Through a modest subscription fee, they gained access to a treasure trove of literature within the Athenaeum’s walls. Named in honor of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, the library’s collections span a diverse array of subjects, from natural history and fiction to children’s literature.

The Athenaeum is not just a library but a vibrant cultural hub, hosting a variety of events with esteemed authors and speakers, alongside conferences, parties, and other social gatherings. However, in response to the ongoing pandemic, the library has adapted its services to ensure the safety of its members and staff, currently offering curbside pickup and exclusive in-person browsing for its members. This adjustment underscores the Athenaeum’s commitment to its community’s well-being while continuing to serve as a sanctuary of learning and connection in Providence.


12. Norman Bird SanctuaryNorman-Bird-Sanctuary-RI

Where: Middletown, Rhode Island

The Norman Bird Sanctuary stands as a testament to the beauty and diversity of nature, encompassing over 325 acres of varied ecosystems and offering seven miles of meticulously maintained walking trails. This wildlife reserve and ecological education center invites visitors to immerse themselves in the splendor of the natural world throughout the year.

With activities and sights to enjoy in every season, the sanctuary encourages guests to bring their binoculars and embark on a journey along its trails. These paths lead through a tapestry of wildlife habitats, where one can observe a wide range of wildlife species, both local and migratory birds, as well as an assortment of plant life. The changing seasons bring about new discoveries, ensuring that each visit offers a unique glimpse into the sanctuary’s ever-evolving landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or simply seeking a peaceful retreat into nature, the Norman Bird Sanctuary provides a perfect backdrop for exploration and learning in the heart of the natural world.


13. Thayer Street

thayer 1

Big thanks to, Kris Hansen, for this photo!

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Thayer Street, nestled in the vibrant heart of College Hill, serves as a bustling hub for students from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University. This lively street is renowned for its wide array of dining options, ranging from casual gyro shops and pizza parlors to more upscale sit-down restaurants. The energy of the area is palpable, with talented buskers often adding a soundtrack to the bustling street scene, showcasing their skills to passersby.

RELATED  5 Things to do in Downtown Memphis

The street is also a shopper’s haven, boasting popular destinations like the Brown Bookstore, Berk’s Shoes, Urban Outfitters, and Spectrum India. Each of these establishments contributes to the unique charm of Thayer Street, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the dynamic atmosphere of College Hill. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite, a leisurely meal, or a shopping spree, Thayer Street offers an enticing slice of local life that’s always full of surprises.


14. Take a Class at the Steel Yard

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Steel Yard stands as a unique cornerstone of the community, dedicated to the celebration and education of industrial arts like blacksmithing, welding, ceramics, and jewelry making. This eclectic space welcomes learners of all skill levels, offering an array of classes that range from single-day workshops to weekend-long immersions. Participants have the opportunity to engage in hands-on experiences, crafting items such as their own bottle openers or intricate metal roses out of copper and steel, among other creative projects. With day classes beginning at $90 per student, The Steel Yard makes exploring the world of industrial arts accessible and enriching for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned artisan or a curious beginner, this vibrant community space provides a perfect setting to discover new talents and express creativity.

 

15. Rustic Drive-inRustic-Drive-In

Where: North Smithfield, Rhode Island

While the “golden age of the automobile” may be behind us, the timeless charm of a Drive-In theater still captivates many with its nostalgic allure. The drive-in offers a unique cinematic experience where a family of four can enjoy a double feature from the comfort of their car, offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional movie-going since payment is per vehicle, not per person. This setting eliminates the distraction of nearby conversations, allowing for a more immersive viewing experience. Guests are encouraged to bring along a picnic or even Chinese take-out, along with lawn chairs or a blanket, to create their own personal movie night under the stars. Additionally, in the era of COVID, drive-in theaters provide a perfect opportunity to maintain social distancing while still indulging in the joy of a big-screen film.

The Rustic Drive-In, Rhode Island’s last remaining drive-in theater, typically operates from April to October. However, in response to increased demand and the unique circumstances of the past year, it extended its season, hinting at a possible early reopening for future seasons. This enduring attraction offers a slice of Americana and a safe entertainment option, making it a treasured venue for movie lovers seeking a blend of nostalgia and comfort.


16. Learn to Surf

Surfing in Narragansett, Rhode Island

Where: Southern Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s coastlines, particularly in Narragansett and Deep Hole, are a surfer’s haven, offering waves that beckon enthusiasts all year round. For those new to the sport, there’s no need to feel daunted; southern Rhode Island is home to numerous surf schools ready to introduce you to the exhilarating world of surfing. These establishments cater to all levels, providing both private and group lessons. For younger enthusiasts or families spending the summer in the area, several schools also organize youth summer camps, making for an unforgettable seasonal adventure.

Starting at an accessible rate of $60 per session for the most basic lessons, these schools often offer discounts for booking multiple sessions in advance. Among the notable surf schools in Rhode Island, Warm Winds, Narragansett Surf and Skate, and Rhody Surf stand out for their quality instruction and commitment to helping newcomers and seasoned surfers alike master the waves. Whether you’re looking to catch your first wave or refine your surfing skills, Rhode Island’s surf schools offer the perfect starting point.


17. Discover Rare Books and Artifacts at John Hay Library

John Hay Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

Where: Providece, Rhode Island

The John Hay Library on the campus of Brown University stands as a guardian of literary and historical treasures, hosting an astonishing collection of rare books, documents, and an array of remarkable items. With over three million items in its Special Collections, the library reflects the intellectual rigor and global reach of one of the world’s leading universities. Visitors can journey through time, from ancient Babylonian clay tablets and Egyptian papyri to contemporary books and publications.

Among its many wonders, the library houses several items of significant historical and cultural value, such as Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask, the last known photograph of Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman’s personal copy of “Leaves of Grass.” These pieces not only offer a tangible connection to pivotal moments and figures in history but also provide a profound insight into the human experience. The John Hay Library is a testament to the university’s commitment to preserving knowledge and fostering discovery across generations.


18. Rhode Island State HouseRhode-Island-State-House

While in-person tours are temporarily paused due to COVID restrictions, adding this experience to your Rhode Island bucket list for when they resume is highly recommended. It stands out as one of the prime activities in Rhode Island for those looking to deepen their understanding of the state’s rich history. In the interim, the availability of virtual tours twice daily on weekdays ensures that you can still explore and learn from the comfort of your own home. This adaptation offers a unique opportunity to engage with Rhode Island’s heritage, making it a must-do for residents and visitors alike, eagerly awaiting the day when the tours can be experienced firsthand once more.


19. Gondola Ride

Gondola ride in Providence through Waterplace Park.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Embarking on a gondola ride along the Providence River adds a romantic flair to any date night, making it an especially charming activity for those visiting Rhode Island. LaGondola Providence presents 40-minute journeys that glide you through serene waters, offering various packages with ‘extras’ to customize your experience according to different price points. With prices starting at $89 for two, it’s an intimate and memorable way to explore the city’s scenic beauty. Booking in advance is recommended, as gondoliers might not be available for impromptu walk-ups, ensuring your special night is as magical and seamless as planned.


20. See a Show at the Columbus Theatre

Columbus-Theater

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Columbus Theater, which first illuminated its screens in 1926, carries with it a storied past. Initially serving as a venue for the latest Hollywood releases and Italian cultural performances, reflecting the neighborhood’s ethnic composition, it eventually ventured into more provocative territory. The theater saw its first foray into sexually explicit films, a venture that proved profitable and soon led to the exclusive showing of adult films on both its screens. This phase lasted until 2001, marking a significant shift when the theater embraced art house programming.

In its current incarnation, the Columbus Theater hosts an eclectic mix of events, from concerts and community theater productions to a variety of performances, showcasing its versatility and commitment to cultural enrichment. Despite its tumultuous history, the theater remains a cherished cultural icon within the city, celebrated for its resilience and contribution to the arts. The Columbus Theater’s evolution from a classic movie house to a beacon of art and community engagement underscores its unique place in the city’s cultural landscape.


21. International Tennis Hall of FameInternational-Tennis-Hall-of-Fame

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Even if tennis isn’t particularly to your taste, for enthusiasts of the sport or those curious about its rich heritage, this destination holds significant appeal. The organization is dedicated to commemorating the history of tennis and honoring its most distinguished players, celebrating the illustrious careers of various international legends. Within its confines lies a museum richly stocked with artifacts, photographs, and publications, alongside detailed accounts of the sport’s evolution. This repository of tennis history not only serves as a tribute to the game’s past achievements but also as an educational resource, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of tennis’s global impact and legacy. For anyone with even a passing interest in tennis, this venue offers a unique and special opportunity to delve into the sport’s storied past


22. Go Crabbing at Galilee Breakwater

Breakwater at Galilee State Beach in Rhode Island.

Where: Narragansett, Rhode Island

Galilee, affectionately known as Salty Brine State Beach, most distinguishing feature is the lengthy breakwater extending from the shore, delineating the channel frequented by fishing vessels and the Block Island ferry. This area is a haven for fishing enthusiasts and a playground for those curious about marine life, thanks to the tide pools nestled among the large rocks, teeming with sea creatures.

Visit Champlin’s Seafood to pick up raw, fresh squid to use as bait for crab fishing along the breakwater. With just a piece of string, a bucket, and some squid, you can spend countless hours engrossed in this simple pleasure, always ensuring the crabs are returned to their habitat. For those venturing onto the breakwater, especially with children, caution is advised due to the slippery rocks and sharp barnacles that pose potential hazards. 


23. BlithewoldExterior facade and gardens of Blithewold Mansion in Rhode Island.

Where: Bristol, Rhode Island

Blithewold stands as a magnificent 33-acre estate, gracing the shores of Narragansett Bay with its breathtaking landscapes. This summer residence is celebrated for its extraordinary assemblage of rare and exotic plants, distinctive trees, an all-season greenhouse, and unique stonework that together craft a setting both whimsical and modern. The essence of Blithewold is one of enchantment and sophistication, offering an experience found nowhere else.

Visitors have the opportunity to delve deep into the estate’s beauty through both private and group tours, which illuminate the most remarkable aspects of the mansion and its expansive gardens. Each tour is an invitation to explore a world where nature’s elegance is harmoniously intertwined with human creativity, making Blithewold a quintessential destination for those seeking inspiration and tranquility amidst nature’s splendor.


24. Trinity Rep or PPAC

Interior of Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

For lovers of the performing arts, Rhode Island boasts two premier venues that are must-visit destinations: Trinity Rep and the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). These institutions host a diverse array of performances throughout the year, ensuring that there’s always something captivating to experience.

Trinity Rep is renowned for its annual rendition of “A Christmas Carol,” a tradition that has become a cornerstone of local culture. It also shines a spotlight on smaller, local productions, offering a more intimate setting and connection to the community. On the other hand, the Providence Performing Arts Center serves as a grand stage for major touring productions, including Broadway hits like “Hamilton,” bringing a slice of New York’s famed theatre scene to Rhode Island.

Whether you’re drawn to the cozy ambiance of Trinity Rep or the grandeur of PPAC, both venues are celebrated for their commitment to excellence in the performing arts. Depending on your preferences for scale and type of performance, each offers its own unique experience, making them essential stops for theatre enthusiasts exploring Rhode Island.


25. PVD Flea

Woman bending over a table at a flea market displaying handmade jewelry.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The PVD Flea quickly became a cherished component of the Providence landscape, offering a vibrant gathering place for an eclectic array of vendors. This market is a treasure trove for those in search of unique finds, featuring items that range from African antiques and vintage clothing to handcrafted jewelry and artisanal hot sauces. To complement the shopping experience, food trucks and coffee trucks are conveniently stationed onsite, providing delicious refreshments for shoppers as they explore.

Seasonally adaptive, the PVD Flea flourishes outdoors during the warmer months, offering a sunlit backdrop for its diverse offerings. In contrast, the holiday season sees the Flea moving indoors to a local high school, ensuring that the festive spirit continues regardless of the weather.

Reflecting on personal experiences, the PVD Flea holds a special place in the hearts of those who have contributed to its vibrant community, including myself, with memories of selling handcrafted jewelry there before embarking on life’s next adventures. Despite the humble quality of photographs that might capture these moments, the memories they represent are priceless, evoking a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for the unique community space that the PVD Flea has created in Providence.


26. East Bay Bike PathEast Bay Bike Path at sunset in Rhode Island.

Where: Throughout Rhode Island

The East Bay Bike Path offers a picturesque and accessible journey across nearly 15 miles of Rhode Island’s landscape. Beginning at India Point Park in Providence, this paved path extends across the Seekonk River, weaving its way to Bristol, paralleling the scenic coast of Narragansett Bay. Ideal for those seeking to combine daily exercise with the exploration of Rhode Island’s natural and urban beauty, this bike path provides an inviting route for cyclists of all levels.

With its relatively flat terrain, the East Bay Bike Path presents an enjoyable experience without the challenge of steep inclines, making it perfect for leisurely rides or more vigorous cycling sessions. For those without their own bicycles, rental options are readily available, with Pedego Bikes in Bristol and Dash in Providence offering a range of choices to get you on the path. This bike route not only encourages physical wellness but also opens up a world of sightseeing opportunities, allowing cyclists to immerse themselves in the stunning landscapes and vibrant communities along the Narragansett Bay.


27. Fort AdamsFort-Adams

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Fort Adams State Park, nestled in Newport, Rhode Island, stands as a historic gem, once serving as a US Army post since its establishment in 1799. Today, it has been transformed into a vibrant hub of outdoor activities, offering breathtaking views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Since its demilitarization in 1950, the Fort has become a focal point of cultural and recreational life, especially during the bustling summer season.

RELATED  20 Enjoyable Day Trips from New York City

Visitors to Fort Adams can indulge in a variety of experiences. The park plays host to the renowned Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, drawing music lovers from all corners. Additionally, the Yachting Museum and Newport Sailing Center provide a deep dive into the maritime heritage of the area, while guided tours offer a closer look at the fort’s historical significance. Beyond these attractions, the park invites guests to enjoy simpler pleasures such as fishing, picnicking, sports activities, kite flying, and honing photography skills, all set against the picturesque backdrop of the Fort’s grounds. While admission is generally free, special events like the Festival weekends may require tickets. Fort Adams State Park thus offers a rich tapestry of activities and sights, ensuring a memorable experience for all who visit.


28. Beavertail State ParkBeavertail State Park in low light in Rhode Island.

Where: Jamestown, Rhode Island

Beavertail stands out as a jewel in Rhode Island, captivating visitors with its stunning coastal vistas that are among the most breathtaking in the state. Beyond its famed panoramas, Beavertail is dotted with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. While many are drawn to the iconic lighthouse, the picturesque spots for picnics, or the prime fishing locations, the true magic lies off the beaten path.

Venturing through the winding trails that meander along the coast and through the trees, explorers can stumble upon secluded mini beaches. These private havens offer a tranquil escape from the more populated areas, providing a serene spot to relax and soak in the natural beauty. Reaching these secluded beaches involves navigating the cliffs, requiring a degree of physical fitness and adventurous spirit.

For those planning a visit to Rhode Island and intrigued by the allure of Beavertail’s Secret Beaches, I’m more than happy to share insights on how to uncover these hidden treasures. Beavertail is not just a destination; it’s an invitation to explore and experience the natural wonders that Rhode Island has to offer.


29. Sleep at Haunted Rose Island Lighthouse

Haunted Rose Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island with American flag flying.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Rose Island Lighthouse carries with it tales that transcend the ordinary, shrouded in the mystique of the supernatural. It’s said that the spirits of those who were once exiled here during cholera outbreaks, alongside the ghost of a former lighthouse keeper named Charles Curtis, still roam its halls. Visitors who brave an overnight stay in the lighthouse often report eerie encounters, from disembodied voices to unexplained footsteps echoing in the night. Photographs captured at the site occasionally reveal anomalies, hinting at the presence of something—or someone—beyond our understanding.

For the intrepid at heart, the Rose Island Lighthouse offers more than just a stay; it promises an adventure into the paranormal. It’s a place where history and mystery intertwine, captivating the imagination of all who visit. The lighthouse’s intriguing reputation even caught the attention of the popular TV series “Ghost Hunters,” which featured it in an episode, further cementing its status as a must-visit for those fascinated by the unexplained. If you’re drawn to the thrill of the unknown, the Rose Island Lighthouse awaits your discovery.


30. Slater MillHistoric Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Where: Pawtucket, Rhode Island

In the northern reaches of Rhode Island, Historic Slater Mill in Pawtucket stands as a beacon of American industrial heritage. With roots stretching back to 1793, this venerable site is celebrated as a cornerstone of the American Industrial Revolution, marking the dawn of the nation’s cotton milling era. It proudly holds the title of the United States’ first cotton mill to employ the Arkwright system of water power, a pivotal innovation that fueled industrial progress across the country.

Today, Slater Mill has been transformed into a museum, offering a window into the past with its extensive collection of textile machinery from the late 18th century. The mill itself is a testament to historical preservation, with its original beams and frames standing as silent witnesses to centuries of industrial activity. Visitors are invited to meander through the grounds, which offer a serene setting for reflection and exploration. Whether you’re interested in the intricacies of textile manufacturing or simply looking for a peaceful afternoon stroll amidst historical surroundings, Slater Mill provides a unique and enriching experience, connecting the past to the present in the heart of Rhode Island.


31. Big Nazo

Big Nazo puppets are popular in Providence, Rhode Island.

Big Nazo has cemented its place as an iconic feature of Rhode Island’s cultural landscape, particularly within Providence, where it is celebrated for its extraordinary puppet performances and masked musical acts. These imaginative creations bring to life performances and characters that are nothing short of epic, captivating audiences with their uniqueness and artistic flair. The Big Nazo puppets often steal the show at various Providence festivals, becoming a must-see attraction for attendees.

Beyond the public performances, Big Nazo also invites curious minds and aspiring creators to its storefront, situated conveniently across from Providence City Hall. This space serves a dual purpose: it is both an exhibition area where visitors can marvel at the detailed craftsmanship of the puppets and a workshop venue where people can learn about the art of puppetry. Whether you’re drawn to the spectacle of their performances or interested in the creative process behind these fantastical creatures, Big Nazo offers a glimpse into a world where imagination knows no bounds.


32. Urban Sweat at Raffa

Where: Cranston, Rhode Island

Raffa stands out not only as a premier yoga studio in Rhode Island but also for its comprehensive schedule of classes that cater to every level and style of yoga practice. Beyond the array of yoga classes, Raffa enhances the wellness experience with a suite of spa services, including massages and infrared therapy, ensuring a holistic approach to health and relaxation.

However, the crown jewel of Raffa is Urban Sweat, an innovative concept that offers a sanctuary for those seeking deep relaxation and rejuvenation. Urban Sweat features an array of therapeutic rooms designed to cater to various preferences and wellness needs. From the detoxifying embrace of the Black Charcoal Sauna and the refreshing Eucalyptus Steam Room to the traditional Finlandian Sauna, the purifying Himalayan Salt Grotto, the revitalizing Urban Hamman, and the soothing Yellow Turmeric Room, each space offers a unique environment for relaxation and healing.

Whether opting for a full day of unwinding or a shorter 4-hour evening pass, visitors can tailor their experience to fit their schedule and relaxation needs. Raffa, with its innovative Urban Sweat and comprehensive wellness offerings, provides a unique and enriching escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, inviting guests to embark on a journey of relaxation and rejuvenation.


Seasonal Activities, Events, & Festivals


33. Wicked Tulip Farm

Close-up of tulips in a field.

Where: Johnston, Rhode Island

In 2015, the vision of a Dutch-American couple blossomed into reality with the founding of Wicked Tulips Flower Farm, becoming a beacon of natural beauty and tranquility. With its gates opening each spring, the farm quickly turned into a beloved destination for weddings, photoshoots, and regular visits, captivating visitors with its picturesque landscape.

Adding a unique touch to the experience, my friend Taylor conducts yoga classes amidst the vibrant hues of Wicked Tulips throughout the season, offering a serene blend of physical wellness and natural beauty.

Wicked Tulips stands out as the sole destination in New England where visitors have the unique opportunity to pick their own tulips. The farm invites you to roam its expansive fields, immersing yourself in the stunning array of colors and the enchanting fragrance of countless blooms. This immersive experience allows guests to connect with nature in a profoundly personal way, creating lasting memories amidst the farm’s floral splendor.


34. Newport St. Paddy’s Day Parade

Newport-St.-Paddys-Day

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The annual St. Paddy’s Day Parade in Newport holds a special place in the heart of Rhode Island, celebrated as one of the state’s most cherished festivities. This vibrant event takes place on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, unless the holiday itself falls on a Saturday, in which case the parade joyously unfolds on the day.

Kicking off mid-morning around 11am, the parade lasts approximately two hours, creating a lively and festive atmosphere. The procession weaves its way from Newport City Hall to Saint Augustin’s Church in the Fifth Ward, painting the town green with a spirited display of culture and community. Spectators can expect to be entertained by Pipe and Marching Bands, Drum Corps, engaging reenactments, and appearances by a variety of regional groups and nonprofits, making it an event with broad appeal.

While the parade is decidedly family-friendly, it also becomes a lively social scene, with plenty of day drinking and revelry to be had. Given the popularity of the event and the significant traffic influx to the island on the morning of the parade, securing accommodation in Newport the night before is advisable for a stress-free and enjoyable experience. The St. Paddy’s Day Parade is not just an event; it’s a Newport tradition that brings together the community and visitors alike in a joyous celebration of Irish heritage and festive spirit.


35. Bristol 4th of July Parade

bristol parade

Where: Bristol, Rhode Island

The Bristol Fourth of July Parade boasts the distinguished title of being the oldest Independence Day parade in the United States, with its inception stretching back to the year 1785. This historic celebration extends over several weeks, from June 14 (Flag Day) through to July, embedding itself in the fabric of the community with a series of events that embody the spirit of American patriotism.

Throughout this festive period, residents and visitors alike can immerse themselves in an array of activities including concerts, races, and even a gala, among other celebratory events. These gatherings build anticipation and communal joy, leading up to the grand parade on July 4th. The rich history and continuous dedication to commemorating Independence Day have rightfully earned Bristol the nickname ‘America’s Most Patriotic Town’.

This extended celebration not only honors the nation’s history but also serves as a vibrant testament to community and tradition, making the Bristol Fourth of July Parade and festivities a cornerstone of American patriotic expression and an enduring symbol of unity and pride.


36. Waterfire

Providence Waterfire in Rhode Island with buildings iluminated during sunset.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Waterfire Providence stands as a signature event of the city, captivating locals and visitors alike with its enchanting display. This unique spectacle, created by artist Barnaby Evans, typically adorns the rivers of Providence every other Saturday from May through November, aligning with the summer and fall seasons. The event is distinguished by 86 glowing braziers floating just above the water’s surface, weaving through Waterplace Park and the heart of downtown Providence, creating a mesmerizing tableau against the night sky.

Attendance at Waterfire is entirely complimentary, allowing all to partake in the experience, with the only potential expense being the various local concessions available for purchase. The event is meticulously timed to occur as the beauty of the sunset merges with the rising high tide, setting the stage for an evening of extraordinary ambiance. The air is perfumed with the aromatic scent of burning wood, contributing to a magical atmosphere that envelops the city.

Waterfire Providence is more than just an event; it’s a transformative experience that epitomizes the cultural and artistic vibrancy of Rhode Island’s capital. If you find yourself in Rhode Island, immersing yourself in the magic of Waterfire is an absolute must, offering a glimpse into the soul of Providence and the creativity that thrives within it.


37. Newport Jazz Festival

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Jazz Festival holds a prestigious place in American cultural history as the pioneering major festival, having first set its stage in 1954. This landmark event, nestled in the scenic embrace of Newport, Rhode Island, marks the rhythms of summer with its rich tapestry of sounds and has been a defining moment for jazz enthusiasts and artists alike.

After a period of relocation to New York City in the early 1970s and an era of bicoastal celebrations in the early 1980s, the festival made a triumphant return to its original Newport roots in 2008. Today, it shares the picturesque Fort Adams State Park with its sister event, the Newport Folk Festival, continuing its legacy of showcasing a diverse array of jazz performances.

The Newport Jazz Festival not only commemorates the evolution of jazz but also celebrates the genre’s enduring influence on the musical landscape. As the first of its kind, it has become an annual pilgrimage for fans and musicians, embodying the spirit of innovation and the communal joy of music.


38. Newport Folk Festival

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Folk Festival, with its inception in 1959, was conceived as the folk counterpart to the already established Newport Jazz Festival, marking its place as a cornerstone of American music culture. After a vibrant decade of annual celebrations, the festival paused in 1969, only to return with renewed vigor in 1985. Since then, it has continued to be an annual highlight at Fort Adams State Park.

The festival has been graced by an illustrious array of headliners over the years, including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, James Taylor, and Elvis Costello, among others. This diverse lineup has not only celebrated folk music’s rich heritage but also its evolving nature, bringing together legendary performers and emerging talents alike. The Newport Folk Festival remains a pivotal event where music enthusiasts gather to celebrate the enduring spirit and innovation of folk music, set against the picturesque backdrop of Fort Adams State Park.


39. Sailingsunset over the newport bridge in rhode island

Where: Newport or Narragansett, Rhode Island

Embarking on a sailing adventure in Newport epitomizes the quintessential Rhode Island experience, appealing to both seasoned sailors and novices alike, as well as those simply seeking a singular venture on the water. Newport, along with Narragansett, is home to numerous companies that offer a wide range of sailing opportunities, from leisurely excursions and weekly group lessons to personalized private instruction, ensuring that every skill level is catered to with utmost care.

RELATED  Visiting Yellowstone National Park with Teens: A Family Vacation Guide by Parents with Teens!

For enthusiasts who possess sailing skills and can demonstrate their proficiency, the exciting option to rent a sailboat presents itself, offering the freedom to navigate the waters independently. These sailing experiences are predominantly available from May through August on a daily basis, extending to weekend adventures through October, allowing sailors to enjoy the beauty of the season on the water.

Sail Newport stands out as one of Rhode Island’s premier and most esteemed sailing institutions, renowned for its commitment to excellence and its comprehensive approach to sailing education. Whether you’re looking to refine your skills, learn from scratch, or simply soak in the maritime ambiance of Newport, the sailing scene in Rhode Island offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with the ocean in one of the state’s most iconic settings.

 


40. South County Balloon Festivalsouth-county-balloon-festival

Where: Kingston, Rhode Island

Have you ever fantasized about soaring through the skies in a hot air balloon? This dream can become a reality at the annual South County Balloon Festival in Rhode Island, typically held each July. The festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the thrill of a hot air balloon ride, with options catering to different preferences and budgets. For those seeking a taste of the experience without leaving the ground far behind, tethered rides are available at $15 per person, providing a secure way to enjoy the view from above. For the more adventurous, untethered rides offer an unrestricted journey across the sky, with prices ranging between $200 and $225 per person.

Balloon rides are dependent on the weather, taking place in the early morning or just before sunset to take advantage of the calmest winds and safest flying conditions. This magical experience, set against the backdrop of Rhode Island’s beautiful landscapes, promises an unforgettable adventure that combines the thrill of flight with the serene beauty of the festival’s surroundings.


41. PVD Festpvd-fest-providence

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

PVDFest transforms the streets of Providence into a vibrant canvas of arts, celebration, and community spirit each summer, typically unfolding in June. This annual festival beckons a diverse array of participants, from parade marchers and artists creating large-scale installations to street performers, fire breathers, and vendors, all converging to create an atmosphere teeming with laughter and creativity.

Attendees of PVDFest can immerse themselves in a rich tapestry of experiences, including live music performances that cater to a wide range of musical tastes, an array of food trucks offering culinary delights to satisfy every palate, and a creative takeover that captures the city’s imaginative spirit. Designed to appeal to people of all ages, PVDFest stands as a testament to Providence’s thriving arts scene and its commitment to fostering an inclusive, dynamic community through the power of creativity and shared experiences.


42. Pronk

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

PRONK (Providence Honk! Festival) bursts onto the scene each year as a jubilant celebration of music, bringing together big brass bands, local musicians from Rhode Island and beyond, street performances, and an unforgettable parade. The festival’s Grand Opening Celebration takes place at the iconic Providence Pedestrian Footbridge, setting the stage for even more musical delights with a series of concerts that add to the festive atmosphere.

As a highlight in Providence’s bustling music scene, PRONK! offers a unique experience that showcases the vibrant community spirit and the rich tapestry of sounds that the city has to offer. From the resounding brass melodies to the dynamic street performances, the festival is a testament to the power of music to unite, entertain, and inspire. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, participating in PRONK! provides an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in Providence’s thriving cultural landscape and celebrate the universal language of music.


43. Berry or Apple Pickingblueberry-picking

Where: Statewide

Rhode Island offers a delightful array of pick-your-own fruit experiences, catering to various tastes and seasonal preferences. Whether you’re a fan of juicy blueberries or crisp apples, the state’s farms and orchards provide ample opportunity to harvest your own bounty directly from the source. Blueberry enthusiasts can begin their picking adventures in mid-July, while apple aficionados can look forward to the season running from September through November.

Among the myriad of options, two standout locations are particularly cherished. Rocky Point is famed for its bountiful blueberry patches, offering a picturesque setting for gathering summer’s sweetest berries. For apple lovers, Blanchard Farm presents an idyllic autumnal escape, where rows upon rows of apple trees laden with fruit await. These personal favorites not only offer the joy of hand-picking fresh produce but also the pleasure of spending a day immersed in the natural beauty of Rhode Island’s agricultural landscape.


44. Scituate Art Festival

Where: Scituate, Rhode Island

The Scituate Art Festival, a sprawling three-day celebration, takes place annually over Columbus Day weekend in October, transforming a quaint town in rural Rhode Island into a bustling hub of creativity and community spirit. This beloved event not only draws large crowds eager to explore the artistic talents on display but also plays a significant role in supporting local initiatives. The proceeds from food and raffle sales are generously redirected to fund scholarships and a variety of projects within Scituate, including contributions to the Scituate Health Alliance, the Scituate Scholarship Foundation, and the Scituate Food Pantry.

Each year, over 200 artists contribute to the festival’s diverse and vibrant offerings, ensuring that attendees can find something that caters to every taste and interest. Among these talented individuals is my childhood neighbor, Neil Drobnis, whose booth features some of the most exquisite hand-blown glass pieces imaginable. His work, along with that of many others, highlights the festival’s commitment to showcasing exceptional artistry. Visitors are encouraged to seek out his booth, along with the myriad other artists represented, to fully experience the rich tapestry of creativity that makes the Scituate Art Festival a must-visit event for art lovers and community members alike.


45. Kack O’lantern Spectacular

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular stands as a highlight in Rhode Island’s event calendar, drawing in approximately 140,000 visitors from around the globe each year. Held at Roger Williams Park, this event transcends the ordinary Halloween pumpkin display, showcasing over 5,000 pumpkins that are intricately carved and artistically presented. The level of detail and creativity extends from diminutive, handheld pumpkins adorning the trees to colossal, thousand-pound pumpkins etched with the lifelike visages of beloved celebrities.

This spectacular event offers a mesmerizing experience that captivates visitors with its artistic brilliance and festive spirit. If your travels bring you to Rhode Island in October, the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is an absolute must-visit, promising an unforgettable journey through a glowing wonderland that celebrates the artistry and magic of the autumn season.


46. Fellini’s Thanksgiving PizzaFellini's Infamous Thanksgiving Pizza, only available in Rhode Island one day per year.

Location: Providence & Cranston, Rhode Island

Imagine a pizza that captures the essence of Thanksgiving in every slice. That’s exactly what you get with the special Thanksgiving pizza from Fellini’s, a culinary masterpiece available just once a year. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Rhode Islanders flock to Fellini’s to continue a delicious tradition that has become a staple of the holiday season. This isn’t just any pizza; it’s a labor of love, with every component made from scratch. From the tender turkey to the fluffy homemade mashed potatoes, the rich gravy, and even the tangy cranberry sauce, each ingredient is meticulously prepared to bring the flavors of Thanksgiving to life on a pizza.

This unique creation has not only captured the hearts and palates of locals but has also garnered acclaim on Phantom Gourmet and other prestigious foodie platforms across the nation. Due to its popularity, it’s wise to place your order early, as these coveted pies are known to sell out. If you find yourself in Rhode Island around Thanksgiving, don’t miss the chance to partake in this extraordinary culinary tradition at Fellini’s, where the Thanksgiving pizza awaits to add an unforgettable touch to your holiday celebrations.


47. Seal TourSeal-Tour-in-Rhode-Island

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Seal tours in Rhode Island offer a delightful opportunity to observe these charming migratory harbor seals, which grace the coastline from November through April. This period provides a perfect reason to embrace the seaside’s crisp air, celebrating the presence of these adorable marine mammals even in cooler temperatures.

To experience a close encounter with Rhode Island’s beloved state mammal, Save the Bay organizes 1-hour long tours that embark from Bowen’s Ferry Landing in Newport. These tours are thoughtfully designed to respect the natural habitat of the seals, providing guests with binoculars and guided insights to enhance the viewing experience without intrusion. With tickets priced at $22 for adults and $17 for children aged 3-12, seniors, military personnel, and Save the Bay members, this activity offers an ethical and educational alternative to traditional zoos.

Choosing this non-invasive seal tour not only allows for the appreciation of these enchanting creatures in their natural environment but also supports conservation efforts and fosters a deeper understanding of marine life. It’s an invigorating way to connect with nature and witness the beauty of wildlife, making it a must-do for animal lovers and eco-conscious travelers alike.


48. Yawgoo Valley

Where: Exeter, Rhode Island

Yawgoo Valley serves as a charming outdoor haven, welcoming winter sports enthusiasts with its skiing and snowboarding facilities, alongside lessons and snow tubing opportunities. The modest size of the slopes makes it an ideal setting for children to take their first steps into skiing or snowboarding, offering a safe and manageable environment for learning.

As the seasons change, Yawgoo Valley undergoes a magical transformation, shedding its winter coat to reveal a fun-filled water park during the summer months. This versatility makes it a year-round destination for family fun. With ticket prices ranging from $35-45 for adults and $30-40 for juniors, plus equipment rentals available at $25, Yawgoo Valley provides an affordable option for those looking to indulge in winter sports or cool off with summer water activities. Whether blanketed in snow or basked in sunshine, Yawgoo Valley promises a delightful escape into the great outdoors, catering to adventurers of all ages.


49. Ice Bumper Cars

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Bumper cars on ice present an exhilarating twist on winter fun, and the Alex and Ani Center stands out as the pioneering outdoor rink to introduce this innovative form of entertainment suitable for all ages. To join in the excitement, participants are encouraged to make reservations, ensuring a spot in this unique, icy adventure.

In addition to the bumper cars, the Alex and Ani Center also serves as a cherished destination for traditional ice skating during the winter months, offering a quintessential seasonal activity for individuals and families alike. As the seasons shift, this versatile space undergoes a transformation, converting into a vibrant venue for festivals and concerts throughout the summer. This adaptability allows the center to provide year-round enjoyment and entertainment, making it a focal point of community life and a source of endless fun, regardless of the weather. Whether you’re gliding on ice skates or spinning in a bumper car, the Alex and Ani Center promises unforgettable experiences for visitors of all ages.


Museums

50. RISD museumRISD-Museum

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Given the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)’s esteemed reputation as one of the nation’s foremost art schools, it’s only fitting that the RISD Museum houses an exceptional array of art collections. The museum offers a diverse selection of galleries that cater to a wide range of artistic interests. Visitors can immerse themselves in the ancient worlds of Egypt, Rome, and Greece, explore the nuances of Asian Art, and engage with Modern and Contemporary Art. The Decorative Arts and Design Galleries further enrich the museum’s offerings, providing a comprehensive look at artistic evolution across different cultures and eras.

With admission priced at $15 for adults, $8 for students with a valid ID, and free entry for youths under 18, the RISD Museum makes art accessible to a broad audience, encouraging exploration and appreciation of the visual arts. Whether you’re an art aficionado or a curious newcomer, the museum presents a captivating journey through art history and beyond, reflecting the rich educational heritage of RISD and its commitment to fostering creativity and understanding through art.


51. Natural History Museum

Museum of Natural History and Planetarium at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island.

Where:  Providence, Rhode Island

The Museum of Natural History, nestled within the verdant expanse of Roger Williams Park, stands as a treasure trove of natural and cultural wonders. Its numerous exhibits showcase impressive collections that span the breadth of our planet’s history and the diversity of its inhabitants. Notably, the museum also houses Rhode Island’s sole public planetarium, offering a gateway to the stars and beyond, making it a unique educational resource within the state.

With its modest admission fees—$2 for the museum and an additional $3 for the planetarium—this venue provides an affordable and enriching experience for all visitors. Whether for families in search of an engaging educational outing, solo travelers eager to expand their knowledge of the natural world, or couples looking for an insightful and intimate adventure, the Museum of Natural History and its planetarium offer a captivating exploration of Earth’s marvels and the mysteries of the cosmos. It represents one of the finest opportunities in Rhode Island to connect with the wonders of the world and beyond, fostering curiosity and understanding across generations.


52. Museum of Sailing

Where:  Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island, renowned as a sailing Mecca, plays host to the esteemed Sailing Museum, which houses both the National Sailing Hall of Fame and the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. This venue, steeped in maritime history, once served as the Press Room for the iconic America’s Cup, making it a site of significant nautical heritage.

For anyone with even a passing interest in sailing, a visit to the Sailing Museum stands out as a must-do activity in Rhode Island. The museum offers a deep dive into the rich legacy and traditions of sailing, celebrating the legends who have shaped this distinguished sport. Beyond its homage to past glories, the museum engages visitors with interactive educational exhibits that illuminate the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) principles underlying the art of sailing.

This dynamic blend of history, culture, and education makes the Sailing Museum a beacon for enthusiasts and novices alike, inviting all to explore the complexities and joys of sailing. Whether you’re drawn to the tales of legendary sailors, the technical intricacies of the sport, or the sheer beauty of sailing, the museum provides a comprehensive and enlightening experience that connects the past to the present in the world of sailing.


So there you have it. The best things to do in Rhode Island!

Read Next:

16 Best New England Weekend Getaways

26 Best Historic Sites in New England