Last Updated November 20, 2020 11/20/2020

9 Best Places to Visit in Rhode Island

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Rhode Island may be America’s smallest state, but it packs a punch when it comes to great places to visit, charming hotels and things to do. When planning your next getaway, consider adding these top destinations in Rhode Island to your itinerary.

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Providence
Experience a unique view of Providence by taking a romantic gondola ride down the river.

Providence

The capital and largest city, Providence was once named America’s Favorite City by Travel & Leisure. It’s a top travel destination in Rhode Island thanks to its world-class institutions, quirkiness and independent nature, as well as its outstanding cuisine, architecture and art. It’s also a legitimate culinary capital, as an increasingly popular destination for food connoisseurs with a number of excellent eateries like Chez Pascal and Nick’s which offer “boat-to-table” seafood direct from local fisherman. It’s home to seven performing arts venues, eight colleges and universities, the Roger Williams Zoo, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art and much more, making it an ideal spot for the culture connoisseur. A must-do for discovering the area’s historical architecture is to follow the two-and-a-half-mile trail that starts at the State House and ends at Brown University.

Newport
Newport, Rhode Island

Newport

With nicknames like “City by the Sea” and “Sailing Capital of the World,” Newport, is the perfect place for visitors who want to spend time on the water. This picturesque city attracts boaters from across the globe with its beautiful beaches, waterfront hotels and New England charm. Whether you’re a sailing enthusiast or not, while you’re here, don’t miss touring the Newport mansions. Newport is renowned for its mansions, remnants of the lavish lifestyles of the country’s wealthiest industrialists in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Breakers is one of the most truly amazing of them all, a Renaissance-style “summer cottage” that was commissioned in 1893 by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and inspired by the palaces of northern Italy. It features Italian marble, ornate gold ceilings, French antique furnishings and fixtures, diamonds, rubies and other precious gems encrusted in the walls.

Visitors can also enjoy shopping on Thames Street, listening to live music while dining on fresh-from-the-ocean seafood at Bowen’s wharf, and checking out the memorabilia of tennis legends. The possibilities here are practically endless, with something for just about everyone.

Bristol
Sailboats in Bristol harbor in Rhode Island

Bristol

Bristol also offers lots to do on the land and the sea. This deep-water seaport is a prime foodie destination, with many fantastic restaurants and a beautiful waterfront. Enjoy windsurfing or kayaking in the sheltered harbor, or bike, walk or rollerblade on the scenic 14.5-mile coastal path. You’ll also find attractive historic architecture and a number of fine museums, like Linden Place Museum, the “crown jewel” of the historic waterfront district. Mount Hope Farm features the 1745 Governor Bradford House, a year-round farmers’ market and 127 acres of preserved open space and hiking trails. Bristol also hosts the Bristol Oyster Festival, the British Motorcar Festival and one of the oldest and most esteemed Fourth of July parades in the nation, dating back to 1885.

Westerly
Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly, Rhode Island

Westerly

One of the cutest beach towns in New England, Westerly is a small beachfront community on the southwestern shoreline of the state, bordered by the Pawcatuck River and Connecticut. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the state thanks to its sweeping, sandy beaches, picturesque parks, boating opportunities as well as the chance to enjoy camping, fishing, golfing, sailing, surfing, swimming and more. In fact, in the summer, its population nearly doubles, with visitors flocking here to take advantage of the warm weather. Westerly is also home to a thriving downtown scene filled with all sorts of shops, great eateries, trendy bars and more. As Mystic, Connecticut is just minutes away, you can also explore the famous Mystic Aquarium to watch sharks get fed, catch a live sea lion show and get up close to the only beluga whales in New England.

Narragansett
Narragansett

Narragansett

Narragansett is another popular town for beachgoers who want to soak up the sunshine and enjoy summer clambakes too. It’s a great place to take a walk along the sand or embark on a cruise – Southland Riverboat offers sightseeing cruises, sunset cruises, autumn foliage cruises and harbor tours. There are art galleries and outstanding museums to explore like the Pequot Museum, one of the world’s largest Native American museums. The South County Museum is devoted to the history and culture of southern Rhode Island and features a living history farm and six buildings devoted to blacksmithing, carpentry, printing and textiles. Be sure to visit the Point Judith Lighthouse, a lovely lighthouse that marks the west side of the entrance to Narragansett Bay. First lit in 1857, it remains an active aid to navigation, and while the lighthouse and surrounding buildings are closed to the public, the grounds are open during the day and offer benches and lawns to enjoy the scenery from.

Block Island
Day at the beach on Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island

Located just over 10 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island, Block Island has just one town, New Shoreham, but it’s well worth a visit. Rent a bike or a jeep and explore the sights, including the beautiful beaches like Ballard’s Beach, which offers the chance to enjoy a party on the sand where you can have frozen drinks delivered right to you. While the sand is arguably the biggest attraction, as the island is free of chain stores, it’s great for local shopping with over 50 stores and specialty shops as well as numerous art galleries. Other activities include sailing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, bird watching, horseback riding and hiking – you can hike all, or part, of the 25 miles of trails enjoying spectacular ocean views. When hunger pangs hit you’ll find restaurants that offer everything from great local seafood served at picnic tables to five-star dining experiences.

Little Compton
Little Compton, Rhode Island

Little Compton

Little Compton was originally occupied by the Sakonnet peoples, which gave the name to the southernmost area in town, Sakonnet Point. It offers a slice of old New England too, thanks to the English that arrived in the late 17th century, with a number of historic homes still standing from the period. This is one of the only places in the state where you can enjoy a scenic walk across a large, grassy farm while looking out at the Atlantic. Other popular activities include strolling the quaint downtown area known as the Commons, and dining on johnnycakes at Commons Lunch, as well as sipping local wine at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard and shopping at Wilbur’s General Store, a classic general store that’s been around for nearly 150 years. Little Compton is also a great spot for cycling thanks to its long sloping roads, lack of hills and traffic.

Middletown
Middletown

Middletown

While Middletown is a fairly small community, it’s big when it comes to natural wonders and charm. You’ll find thousands of acres of nature preserves, miles of sandy beaches and a fascinating history that includes actor Nicholas Cage’s purchases of the “Grey Craig,” a massive home he purchased back in 2007 for over $15 million. The Norman Bird Sanctuary is a great place to visit for families and bird lovers of all types, with more than 300 species of birds as well as deer, fox and nature trails. Sachuest Town Beach, or Second Beach as locals call it, offers outstanding surf and fine, powdery sands. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, a 242-acre refuge, is popular for walks, scenic views, bird watching and saltwater fishing. There are also many great places to eat, with several restaurants serving up fresh, local seafood.

Jamestown
Jamestown

Jamestown

This small town on Conanicut Island, accessible by bridge from the mainland, offers an abundance of shopping, dining and recreation. A coastal gem, you’ll find everything from scenic hiking trails to haunting abandoned military forts and an active lighthouse, along with an interesting history. In the early 14th century, Native Americans made their home here and were the lone settlers through the 1600s when English settlers began to arrive after having made arrangements with the local tribe to use the land for sheep grazing. In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, it was used as a strategic defense point. The remnants of military fortifications can still be seen today. Visitors also come to enjoy sailing, fishing, and kayaking.

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