What is providence rhode island famous for
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We may earn a commission from affiliate links. At the northern tip of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island’s capital city is wonderfully compact, diverse, and eccentric. Its long history, from its founding by dissidents escaping Puritan Massachusetts to its colorful contemporary politics, may explain the eccentricities. These combine with its wealth of historic sights entire neighborhoods are designated historic districts and artistic highlights to make Providence fun to visit.
Visitors who love architecture will be happy in Providence, whose old downtown called Downcity here is filled with priceless period architecture. Art Deco and Beaux-Arts buildings and late Victorian terra-cotta facades were spared the ravages of urban renewal and retain beautiful and astonishingly well-preserved decorative details. Downcity’s granite icon, The Arcade , was America’s first shopping mall, built in Filled with locally owned boutiques and galleries, it’s still a favorite for shopping.
People here take their restaurants seriously, so be sure and ask locals for dining suggestions — you’ll always get an informed opinion.
For more ideas on things to see and do, read our list of the top attractions in Providence, Rhode Island. Roger Williams Park. The acre Roger Williams Park Zoo is not only one of the oldest zoos in the country, but it’s a paragon of modern zoo design and concept. At this kid-friendly and largely cage-free place, you can meet a snow leopard, giraffe, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, alligator, kangaroo, and red panda, and small-fry can climb into the treehouse or go for a camel ride.
If you don’t like the notion of caged animals and want to learn something about them and their habitats instead of just parading past, this is the zoo for you. Seasonal activities such as the October “Spooky Zoo” and pumpkin spectacular make it even more fun for kids. The Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park is New England’s largest public indoor display garden, with 12, square feet of gardens that include two main greenhouses and three smaller ones, as well as an outdoor garden.
Roger Williams Park has a lot more, and it’s easy to see why it is one of the city’s favorite places to visit for families. Covering acres with gardens and a lake, the park has a bandstand, an amphitheater, the Betsy Williams Cottage , and a children’s area with a carousel and trackless train rides. Also in the park is a Museum of Natural History with insects, minerals, fossils, and the state’s only planetarium. At least twice a month between mid-May and late November, braziers in the middle of the river are filled with bonfires that light Downcity Providence.
The four-acre Waterplace Park and Riverwalk become a festival of arts and music during WaterFire, as young and old alike enjoy their city’s revitalization and cultural vibrancy. This and other festivals are among the best free things to do in Rhode Island. Whether your artistic passion is for French Impressionists or Japanese prints, or your design tastes run to ancient Egyptian, early American, or cutting-edge contemporary, you’ll find enough to keep you happy in the depth and breadth of this museum’s collections.
Needlework and textiles, sculpture from ancient to Rodin, Asian art, videos, furnished Federal period rooms, and galleries of priceless paintings comprise dozens of individual collections. So many outstanding works are here that each of its separate collections would be enough to make a museum of its own. Official site: www. Rhode Island State Capitol. A Providence landmark, the white marble Rhode Island State Capitol dominates the city with the world’s fourth largest self-supported dome.
You can visit the building on your own or with a free guided tour. There’s also a gun from the battle of Gettysburg and a replica of the Liberty Bell. Federal Hill statue in Providence, Rhode Island. Atwells Avenue crowns Federal Hill, the hill that rises to the west of Downcity, and is the vibrant heart of Providence’s large Italian American community. Today, Italian cooks shop in its delis and bakeries to find fresh-made mozzarella, tangy pickled cherry peppers, imported cured meats, and golden panettone.
Come here to eat an Italian meal, whether it’s spaghetti and red sauce called simply “gravy” here in elbow-bumping conviviality or northern Italian dishes served in a linens-and-crystal setting. Waterplace Park. People still have trouble pronouncing the names of the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket, two narrow rivers that wind through Providence, but at least they can see them now.
This was not always true – for decades they were hidden by what may have been the world’s widest bridge, until they were once again revealed in the s. In a major revitalization of the entire area, the rivers were uncovered and their banks lined with walkways, benches, gardens, and trees in a riverside corridor known as WaterPlace Park and Riverwalk.
Instead of a solid bridge of highways and traffic congestion, the rivers are now spanned by graceful bridges patterned after those in Venice. During Waterfire, centered in WaterPlace Park, the river is alight with bonfires, and from spring through late autumn, the area is alive with walkers, bikers, joggers, people enjoying the summer concerts, and public art installations.
You can explore these waterways in the daytime, on a sunset cruise, or during WaterFire in an open-air boat ride that gives a new perspective on the city and some interesting sidelights to its attractions and history. Tours include the rivers and the upper parts of Narragansett Bay, revealing some new views of the city’s architecture and skyline. You can also ride in La Gondola, an authentic Venetian gondola ; especially in the evening or during WaterFire, this has to be one of the most romantic things to do in all Rhode Island.
The stunning Beaux Arts theater was designed by George and C. Rapp of Chicago, who designed many of the most opulent theaters of the time. The interior is as sumptuous as it was when it opened in , with marble columns, detailed plaster work, a richly ornamented ceiling, and crystal chandeliers.
Periodic renovations have modernized its facilities without losing the opulent interior. The highly respected Trinity Repertory Company is another venue for plays, musicals, and films, with two theater stages. Historic building on Benefit Street. On this mile-long street traversing the steep hillside that rises from the river to the Brown University campus, you can see an architectural history of Providence.
At one end are the restrained and elegant Federal period homes, beautifully restored with their doorways in a neat row close to the street, and as you walk farther, you’ll see grand homes set back on their lawns, and later Victorian, even Arts and Crafts-style residences. You can get details on the various buildings from an excellent Benefit Street walking tour booklet from the Providence Preservation Society.
Brown University. The Brown University campus crowns College Hill and has since ; its oldest building and still the center of the campus is University Hall, which served as a barracks and hospital during the Revolution. The impressive Van Wickle Gates open only twice a year, on the first day of classes and for the commencement procession in May. Stamp collectors will want to see the complete collection of US postage stamps in the John Hay Library ; the John Carter Brown Library has a collection of rare early maps.
The free David Winton Bell Gallery has excellent changing exhibits of contemporary and historic art. For student-led campus tours, visit the Corliss-Brackett House. Here’s a secret you probably won’t hear about on the tour: Brown’s Environmental Center has a conservatory on Waterman Street, a glass house with a jungle of plants and exotic flowers thriving inside through the coldest of winter days. Few know about it, but the center advises that “Artists, gardeners, tinkerers, dreamers, readers, thinkers, general plant lovers, and green and brown thumbs are encouraged to visit.
Stephen Hopkins House. He added the two-story house at the front, leaving the original building as an ell. The eight-room house is furnished authentically to Hopkin’s period, and contains original artifacts and family pieces. In addition to the house full of antiques, visitors will see a room where the family’s slaves lived, and the bedroom where George Washington slept on his visits to Providence. A gallery displays a fine collection of 18 th -century embroidered samplers.
The restored parterre garden is open, even when the house is not, and offers good views of the city from its terraces. A large green dragon looks down from the roof, alerting passersby that this is no ordinary brick building. Inside are original and creative ways for children ages 1 to 11 to explore the worlds of science, art, technology, physics, architecture, botany, engineering, and world cultures. The hands-on play exhibits are designed not only to entertain as they teach, but to stimulate each child’s curiosity and creativity, whatever their abilities or learning style.
Other exhibits explore the immigrant experience, teach the use of common tools, and use puzzles to explore shapes and spaces. One of the oldest libraries in America, the Atheneum is not only a delight to those of a bookish nature, but a pilgrimage site for devotees of Edgar Allen Poe.
The poet courted Sarah Whitman in its secluded alcoves. Collections include rare medieval manuscripts from the s, rare editions of works by New England’s best-known literary figures, a complete folio of Audubon’s Birds of America , and even early children’s books.
Rare books are displayed in changing exhibits. Although it is a membership library, anyone can join, and the public is welcome to browse and read here. The Atheneum has a full schedule of literary, musical, and other cultural events, including programs with well-known authors and leading cultural figures. Boats in Providence, RI. You can explore the rivers on a Providence River Boat Tour in the daytime, on a sunset cruise, or during WaterFire in a passenger open-air boat that gives a new perspective on the city and some interesting sidelights to its attractions and history.
Maritime history fans will enjoy the tour of Green Jacket Shoal, Rhode Island’s largest ship graveyard, guided by an underwater archaeologist who has discovered 26 wooden-hulled vessels there. Or you can take the Seastreak as far as the stop in Bristol to explore its shops and historic Main Street.
Swan Point Cemetery. The largest green space in the city of Providence, the acre Swan Point Cemetery was established in , but redesigned in as a cemetery park. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The landscape varies from open lawns shaded by mature trees to wooded groves and bosky paths bordered by laurel, rhododendrons, and azaleas.
The land slopes, steeply in places, to the river. Throughout the cemetery are elaborate tombs, vaults, Victorian and Art Nouveau figural sculptures, simple early stones, and large family plots walled and landscaped like little gardens. Fans of Gothic fiction seek out the tomb of H. Lovecraft , the greatest master of the horror tale since Poe.
His grave is inscribed “I am Providence. President John Quincy Adams described the home of merchant John Brown as “the most magnificent and elegant mansion that I have ever seen on this continent. That he was a man of taste, as well as wealth and prominence is clear from the house, with its French wallpapers, finely worked decorative detail and moldings, and original Brown family furniture.
For an unparalleled view of 18th-century life for the Providence aristocracy, as well as a look at some of the best pieces by Rhode Island cabinetmakers that you’ll find anywhere, don’t miss this magnificent home. Governor Henry Lippitt House. Even in this posh neighborhood of grand old homes, the mansion of Governor Henry Lippitt stands out.
The ornate woodwork, original family furnishings, and mechanical systems that were revolutionary for the midth-century combine to make it a museum of Victorian interior decoration and a window into the life of a prosperous Victorian family.
Generations of the Lippitt family — they were heirs to a RI textile manufacturing fortune – lived in the house for years, and their story comes alive in the excellent guided tours, the only way you can see the exuberant interior.
Changing year-long exhibits delve more deeply into some aspect of life in the Victorian era, going behind the scenes to explore the role of household staff, etiquette, and social customs of the times.
Apart from those in Roger Williams Park, the top tourist attractions in Providence are within walking distance of Downcity, where many of the hotels are located. If you’re planning a trip to Providence in the spring, be aware that lodging is very tight in May, when several colleges hold their commencements.
– 5 Best Things to Do in Providence, Rhode Island | Yankee Magazine
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