Providence skyline and Rhode Island capitol building at dusk

Things to do in  Providence

History, but make it hip

Providence brims with history and heritage—but the Rhode Island capital is anything but antique. A small city with outsized energy, Providence is New England’s cultural hotbed, with dining, art, and music to rival far bigger locales. Students power much of that creative spirit, their presence thrumming from the Brown University campus to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. Whether you’re strolling alongside WaterFire crowds, sampling Italian cuisine in Historic Federal Hill, or touring the Providence Athenaeum, the best things to do in Rhode Island start here.

All about Providence

When to visit

New England’s four classic seasons transform Providence from spring blossoms and sunny skies to autumn foliage and wintertime ice skating. The biggest event of the year takes place between April and November, when the WaterFire festival brings flaming art installations to the city’s three rivers. In June, local mansions open their doors (and elegant gardens) to the ticket-holding public for the Festival of Historic Houses.

Getting around

Come to Providence by plane, train, or even boat. Warwick’s Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) is just 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) away; Amtrak commuter trains link Providence to Boston, New York, and many other cities; from June through September there’s a passenger ferry to Newport. Getting around the compact city is easy: Buses by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) go nearly everywhere, plus there’s a scooter- and bike-share program.

Traveler tips

Providence is the place to try Rhode Island’s beloved “hot weiner,” also known as a New York System weiner. They’re nothing fancy: thin hot dogs served in a steamed bun. But order one “all the way,” and your dog will come topped with an only-in-Rhode Island combo of celery salt, chopped onions, meat sauce, and yellow mustard. You can find classic versions in Providence at the Original New York System, Olneyville NY System, and Sam’s New York System restaurants.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
EDT (UTC -5)
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People Also Ask

Is it worth visiting Providence?

Yes, it’s worth visiting Providence. The city has many attractions, from the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art to Historic Federal Hill, the Roger Williams Park Zoo, and the Providence Athenaeum. Lining cobblestoned Benefit Street are some of the best-preserved colonial-era houses in the US.

What is Providence best known for?

Providence is renowned for world-class educational institutions, which you don’t have to be a student to explore. Stroll the elegant Brown University campus with its ample green space and historic buildings. Or, head to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, whose collection spans ancient artifacts and contemporary sculpture.

How should I spend a day in Providence?

Start the day at Roger Williams Park Zoo to catch the animals at breakfast, then go to Benefit Street to see its 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) of colonial-era homes. After pausing at the Rhode Island State House, continue to the Historic Federal Hill neighborhood for an Italian-American feast.

What are the top attractions to visit in Providence?

The best things to see in Providence span art, wildlife, history, and culture. Top Providence attractions include the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Brown University, Historic Federal Hill, and the sprawling Roger Williams Park Zoo. To see a remarkable collection of colonial-era homes, head to Benefit Street.

How many days do you need in Providence?

You need at least two days to experience Providence—just enough to take in famous attractions such as Benefit Street, Historic Federal Hill, and Roger Williams Park. Since Rhode Island is compact, Providence also makes a great starting point for exploring nearby destinations such as Newport, Narragansett, and Pawtucket.

What are the most popular things to do in Providence with kids?

Providence bursts with family-friendly activities. A favorite with many kids is the Roger Williams Park Zoo, among the oldest zoos in the United States. After checking that out, visit the Providence Children's Museum, see giant foam puppets at Nazo Lab, or head to the Providence River for a gondola ride.

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