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For such a tiny state, Rhode Island sure does offer a lot of options for travelers to see and do. This is a Northeastern destination filled with inspiring arts and cultural experiences, lovely outdoor landscapes, impressive historic homes, and museums galore. Here are some of the best things to do in Rhode Island for your next vacation.
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You certainly don’t have to be an artist or professional designer to appreciate the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum. This is one of the best things to do in Providence, boasting a collection of sculptures, photography, paintings, and other types of modern and historic art. You’ll find over 100,000 art objects here that highlight the works of various cultures, historical periods, and types of media. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10am to 5pm and on the third Thursdays of each month until 9pm.
The city of Newport has some beautiful coastal landscapes that are definitely worth visiting during your time in Rhode Island. The Cliff Walk here is a public walking path that stretches about 3.5 miles along the rocky shorelines with views of the crashing waves. It’s free to take a walk here and soak up the scenery of nature and the nearby mansions. Most of the walk features easy walking conditions, but a small portion passes over rough trail and rugged landscapes. Just be mindful of the 70-foot drop-offs and poison ivy that grows here during rainy summer weather.
We also love heading to the Providence Performing Arts Center to watch a concert, musical, or theater performance while in Rhode Island. This art center has been open since 1928 and can seat up to 3,100 people. Check the venue’s website before your trip to Rhode Island to see what’s playing at that time.
The Narragansett Bay is a wonderful place to visit for beaches in Rhode Island, near the communities of Narragansett and South Kingstown. Some of the popular beaches in this region are Scarborough State Beach, Narragansett Town Beach, Matunuck Beach State Park, and Roger W. Wheeler State Beach. In this area you can visit small resort towns, lighthouses, historic districts, and excellent restaurants. These are perfect places to spend a warm summer’s day.
Another great reason to spend time in Providence is to check out the famous WaterFire installation. This modern art experience involves floating bonfires that are lit by volunteers to light them while sailing down the river. It’s a unique water display set to soothing music. You can check out WaterFire for free on evenings in the summer and fall, and each event is a bit different from the last. The nonprofit arts organization posts its seasonal schedule on its website to inform visitors of what time the lightings will take place and musical details.
It’s also fun to visit Block Island, which is a ferry ride away and about ten miles off the shore of Rhode Island. Top sights to see here are the coastal cliffs of the Mohegan Bluffs, the Southeast Lighthouse, the North Lighthouse, and dining at New Harbor. It’s a laid-back getaway destination that has a fascinating Victoria past and lots of charming quirkiness. This is also a great place to go birdwatching because many species of birds migrate through here in the fall.
Tennis fans from around the world will enjoy visiting Newport’s Tennis Hall of Fame during a visit to Rhode Island. Come here to see the huge collection of rackets, learn about how the game of tennis has evolved over the years, and perhaps even make a reservation to play on one of the competition grass courts that are open to the public. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is open year-round from 10am to 5pm (10am to 6pm from July through Labor Day) and offers public tours at 11am and 2pm.
This historic park was established in the early 1870s and sees over 1.5 million visitors each year. The park features public gardens, historic buildings, ball fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Don’t miss out on seeing the rose gardens, Japanese garden, monuments, sculptures, boathouse, and urban wildlife. The park is also home to the local Museum of Natural History and a large indoor botanical garden. While you’re in this area, check out the Roger Williams Park Zoo to see over 100 species of animals. The zoo spans about 40 acres of parkland and is one of the oldest zoos in America.
The Breakers is a popular Rhode Island attraction in Newport because of its impressive architecture and immaculate design. The mansion was built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt as a summer cottage and has 70 rooms that are lavishly decorated. It has an Italian Renaissance-style design and is open to public tours. Preservation Society of Newport County operates tours of this mansion, as well as The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer, Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, Chepstow, Hunter House, and Green Animals Topiary Garden.
A final top thing to do in Rhode Island that we’ll mention here is Fort Adams State Park. This fort was a military base for over 100 years but now is a hub for outdoor recreation. During World War II, this fort mounted over 400 cannons and served nearly 2,500 troops. Come here today to have a picnic, fish, sail, enjoy seaside views, and learn about local history. You can take an hour-long guided tour of the park, or consider the “Behind the Walls” Tour featuring the “Lost” Fortress.