Rhode Island’s capital city offers an array of diversions perfect for family travel.
History & Culture: Founded by dissident preacher Roger Williams in 1636, Providence’s historic credentials are legit — plus some. Its past as a vital port city and trade center is celebrated at numerous historic sites throughout the city. There’s also a brilliant arts community, and Providence is home to both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Visit the RISD Museum, which houses an impressive collection of arts and crafts.
Culinary: Go on a culinary outing with Rhode Island Red Food Tours, and sample outstanding farm-to-table fare, fresh Atlantic seafood and more. Food trucks are popular, including Championship Melt and Fancheezical, both devoted to the fine art of the grilled cheese. Don’t forget to sample quirky, only-in-Rhode Island treats including quahog stew (a kind of shellfish), Johnnycakes and cabinets — a delicious milkshake with a Rhode Island twist. An absolute must is the state’s official drink — coffee milk: milk mixed with sweet coffee syrup. The syrup is sold in local supermarkets so you can stock up before heading home.
Active: Like Rome, the city features seven hills, but they’re manageable. The city is perfect for a self-guided, themed walking tour of the historic downtown, East Side or West Side. The free, downloadable Rhode Tour app makes planning your route super simple.
Wellness: At the Providence Biltmore, luxurious treatments and body therapies can be enjoyed in a historic, 1922-built structure that belongs to both the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America. Butter Day Spa on the city’s East Side is set within a lovely 19th-century Victorian estate, and has an excellent menu of massages, facials and body treatments.
Romance: Head downtown to Waterplace Park, located on the banks of the Providence River, lined with parks and walkways. The flickering spectacle of WaterFire’s 100 art-fire installations can be viewed from multiple locations on the waterfront. Take a daytrip to nearby Newport to tour the iconic collection of period mansions including The Elms, Rosecliff and Marble House, where you can also have tea in the replica Chinese Tea House overlooking the sea. Plan a tour with the Providence River Boat Company or charter your own sunset cruise.
Family Fun: Head to Roger Williams Park for a full day of activities spread over 427 acres, including a 40-acre zoo and Carousel Village. A recent addition to the park is the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, found in the park’s Explore and Soar area with zip lines 115 feet above the ground. Elsewhere on the grounds, explore the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium and the Botanical Center. For ice skating, Alex and Ani City Center has seasonal outdoor skating; at the Providence Children’s Museum, hands-on, interactive programs for all ages delve into art, history, culture and science in exhibits that include “ThinkSpace,” “Discovery Studio,” “Underland” and “The Children’s Garden.”