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Vacation Providence, Rhode Island

Tourist Guide

Divine Providence
Historic Meets Hip in the Renaissance City

Providence, Rhode Island is dotted with historic homes
Historic homes in Providence


Spend today exploring Providence's historic East Side, home to the Brown University campus as well as Benefit Street, the "Mile of History" that includes the most unspoiled collection of 18th- and 19th-century homes in the United States. Start your day at The Coffee Exchange on Wickenden Street, a popular local hangout that features more than two dozen varieties of coffee, from the everyday to the exotic. For a heartier breakfast, stroll into the cheerful Brickway On Wickenden, which serves up a wide variety of omelets and offers a popular brunch on weekends.

Wickenden Street makes a nice starting point for a walking tour of the East Side; you'll find specialty shops like Round Again Records, home to a vast collection of vintage LPs, and a variety of art galleries and antique stores. Wickenden Street meets the southern end of Benefit Street, lined with 200 pristine Colonial homes. As you stroll along the brick sidewalks, you'll pass the city's old Arsenal (circa 1840) and the old State House (1762); the First Baptist Church in America (1775), aptly named as the nation's oldest; and the Providence Athenaeum (1753), a historic library with a stately Greek Doric temple design whose stacks were once the haunt of Edgar Allan Poe. Also nearby, a block north on Power Street, is the John Brown House, a Georgian mansion owned by the founders of Brown University and now open for tours.

The Rhode Island School of Design in Providence
Rhode Island School of Design

The RISD Museum, at 224 Benefit St., is a must-see; the Rhode Island School of Design's collection includes over 80,000 works of art spanning more than two millennia, from paintings and sculptures to ceramics and furniture. Most of the collection is housed at the $34-million Chace Center, a stunning glass-and-steel addition to the staid Brown campus that has 43,000 square feet of exhibition space.

For lunch, walk uphill a few blocks to Thayer Street, the nucleus of Providence's college community. Catering to the students of Brown and RISD, Thayer Street is an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants, vintage clothing stores, specialty shops and the Avon Cinema, a popular art house that features midnight screenings of independent and foreign films.

It's worth the drive to the edge of the Seekonk River to enjoy the New American cuisine at the Waterman Grille, an intimate restaurant in the former gatehouse of the historic Red Bridge. For late-night dining, the kitchen at the Mediterranean-inspired Café Paragon stays open until midnight, as the dinner crowd slowly gives way to to a nightclub atmosphere. Hope Street is home to Providence's best French restaurant, Chez Pascal.

On a sunny day, rent a bicycle or some in-line skates and head over to the East Bay Bike Path, which starts on Providence's waterfront at India Point Park and follows an old rail line for fourteen miles along the edge of Narragansett Bay to the former shipbuilding center of Bristol.

Water Place Park in Providence
Water Place Park

Providence's most celebrated restaurant, Al Forno, located on South Main Street at the edge of the East Side, is famous for its gourmet grilled pizzas. Surf and turf fans will find both at 10 Prime Steak & Sushi, a lively, upscale restaurant in Downcity. For something more casual, head to Caserta's, also on Federal Hill, for a bit of Providence's best traditional pizza — loaded with tangy sauce and flavorful cheese. Angelo's Civita Farnese is a no-nonsense, no-frills Italian restaurant that perfectly captures Providence's down-home sensibilities. Entrées here are inexpensive, plentiful and delicious.

For jazzy dance music, check out Olives on North Main Street or the lively Whiskey Republic on the Providence waterfront. The nearby Jewelry District is home to a number of restaurants and bars suitable for a nightcap, notably Rick's Roadhouse, local restaurateur John Elkhay's inspired interpretation of a roadside barbecue joint. For a late-night bite, there's nothing more quintessentially Providence than Haven Brothers Diner. Located in a truck parked next to City Hall and open only from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., this classic greasy spoon offers burgers, fries and the like — a living tribute to the city where the diner was born in the 1870s.

Continue to Day 3


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Providence, Rhode Island

*Images from Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.

(Updated: 04/09/12 NW)

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