As one of the original 13 colonies, Rhode Island is bursting with history, adventure, and things to do. Whether you take to Providence or Narragansett Bay, Newport Harbor or Ninigret Park, there is plenty to discover here. Here are 50 of our favorite things to do in Rhode Island.
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Sail around Fort Adams State Park at sunrise
Enjoy a sunrise from the calm waters around Fort Adams State Park in Providence Rhode Island. Landlubbers can get a free sailing lesson and rent a boat from Sail Newport, and all visitors will enjoy the many free concerts and activities in the park as well as the beautiful beach. Fort Adams State Park is one of the most beautiful places in the area, so don't miss out on a visit.
Learn about food history at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts Museum
Wander through the educational exhibits at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts Museum in Providence. You can learn about the rise of the American diner, see oven evolution, and read through the menus of presidential banquets and dinners from Washington to Obama. Make sure to check out Benefit Street while in the city as well!
Go birdwatching with the Audubon Society Environmental Education Center
Stop by the Audubon Society Environmental Education Center and see the habitat displays and interactive exhibits, where you can learn about the local birds and wildlife. Then, grab your boots, trail guide, and binoculars and explore the 9,500 acres of wood and costal landscapes that a plethora of local, migrating, and rare birds call home.
Find a treasure at the East of the River Nile Trading Company
Block Island, RI
Tucked away in a quaint street on Block Island, the East of the River Nile Trading Company is a charming shop stuffed full of trinkets, treasures, and unique gifts that can't be found anywhere else. With everything from jewelry to clothing, handbags, fossils, furniture, and décor, you're sure to find the perfect souvenir at this quiet shop to commemorate your Rhode Island trip.
Learn how to surf with Peter Pan Surfing and SUP Academy
Get out on the water with Peter Pan Surfing and SUP Academy and learn a new skill on the Narragansett Bay. You can take a private surfing lesson or enroll in skimboarding camps, stand up paddleboard trips, and more in the beautiful city of Narragansett. Peter Pan Surfing provides all the equipment and wetsuits, so all you need to do is show up.
See the Rosecliff Mansion and other Newport Mansions
Take a tour of the beautiful turn of the century architecture and décor of Rosecliff Mansion. Here, you'll step into Newport history as you explore one of the most grandiose mansions in the state and the expansive grounds, which have been featured in numerous films and documentaries. The gilded age of architecture in Newport is at your fingertips! For further history in Newport, head to Thames Street as well, and if you’re intrigued by the architecture of the area, visit other Newport Mansions such as the Marble House, the Hunter House, and the Breakers.
Observe local wildlife at the Norman Bird Sanctuary
With more than 300 acres and seven miles of trails, there are plenty of hiking opportunities for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts at Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown Rhode Island. The park is home to dozens of kinds of birds throughout the year, including migratory birds, and plenty of local wildlife as well.
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Try some delicious sweets at Pastiche
Originally opened in 1983, Pastiche is an intimate European cafe that features homemade desserts and delicious drinks. Pastiche prides itself on offering only the best sweets that are made from scratch in the kitchen for some of the most delicious foods in Providence.
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Shop at the The Providence Arcade
Built in 1828, The Providence Arcade is renowned as the nation's oldest indoor shopping mall and is instantly recognizable by the white columns and the history surrounding the building. Originally closed in 2008, it was remodeled in 2013 and reopened with a series of micro apartments on the top floors and several retail spaces on the bottom so customers can still enjoy shopping in this historic location.
Photo Courtesy of The Fantastic Umbrella Factory
Browse the gardens and handcrafted wares at The Fantastic Umbrella Factory
Visitors can explore the gorgeous gardens and park and pick up a handmade treasure or chat with local artisans at The Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charlestown Rhode Island. This artsy marketplace offers a range of stores and wares selling everything from T-shirts to handmade candles, imported musical instruments, decorative plants, local artwork, and everything in-between.
Shop the quaint storefronts of Historic Wickford Village
North Kingstown, RI
Experience the quaint 1700s New England at the historic waterfront shopping district in North Kingstown. Wickford Village is home to a variety of businesses including bookstores, galleries, outdoor cafes, and gift shops set along the quaint waterfront where couples can linger to feed the ducks or watch ships sailing in the harbor.
Take a beachfront horseback ride with C and L Stables
Hear the waves lap at the beach shore as you ride across the sand on horseback. Anyone can visit the beach, but enjoying it from horseback is an entirely different experience. Rent a horse, get lessons, and enjoy a leisurely ride on the beach with your own personalized guide from C and L Stables.
Have a meal at the White Horse Tavern
One of the oldest taverns in the country, the White Horse Tavern was originally built in 1673 and has been providing delicious meals to locals ever since. This tavern specializes in just-picked produce, artisan cheese, fresh fish, and clams. Proper dress, including a collared shirt, is required at this classy establishment.
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Rent a scooter from Scooter World to explore the city
Instead of renting an expensive car and burning tons of gas and money, rent a scooter from Scooter World and zip around Newport Rhode Island in style. Both affordable and fun, scooters will make the city more accessible and also save money.
See the stunning WaterFire display
Enjoy an evening of light, music, and art at the incredible WaterFire Providence display. This permanent sculpture consists of more than 100 braziers which, when lit, cast warm light and dancing reflections across the calm water. The Providence WaterFire lighting events often feature live music and other local entertainment.
Photo Courtesy Hans Spinnermen
Tour the Musée Patamécanique—if you can find it
Designed for the truly curious among us, the Musée Pataméchanique is a possibly imaginary museum which conducts tours May through October. The private museum opens its doors at sunset to small groups of friends and soon-to-be-friends for an unforgettable, unusual, strange, and wondrous experience full of "What if?"
Check out the rare book collection at the John Hay Library
From letters from H.P. Lovecraft to a book bound in human skin, the John Hay Library features a rare book collection that book lovers really shouldn't miss. The library also features a number of rotating exhibits and is part of Brown University.
Photo by Thad Closson, Courtesy of Gaspee Days Committee
Explore Revolutionary War history at Gaspee Days
The burning of British schooner, HMS Gaspee, has been recognized as the first bloodshed of the American Revolution, and every spring the town of Warwick comes together to celebrate the beginning of America's move towards freedom at Gaspee Days. During this three-week celebration, visitors can take part in a number of activities including a parade, 5K, arts and crafts fair, live concerts, and kids activities. Don't forget to check out Gaspee Point when you're visiting too and head to Gaspee Days for some unforgettable fun!
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Ride a gondola with La Gondola
Experience a taste of the Renaissance by boarding an authentic Italian gondola with your sweetheart and floating down the waterways of Rhode Island. La Gondola offers 40 minute gondola rides through Providence, complete with live music and a gondolier wearing the signature outfit.
Ride the Block Island Ferry
Block Island is one of the most easily overlooked spots in Rhode Island, but this adorable island is filled with beaches, stores, galleries, and activities. Take the Block Island Ferry over and spend a day on the island, then cruise back and relax on the mainland that evening. No matter what kind of adventure you are looking for, you are bound to have an amazing time on Block Island!
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Take a tour of Watson Farm
Experience farm life when you spend the day exploring the fields at Watson Farm. This working farm has been in operation since 1796 and visitors will enjoy strolling past grazing sheep, playing with barn cats, viewing seasonal farm activities, and simply enjoying a taste of the simple life.
Tour the Rhode Island State House
Home to the governing bodies of Rhode Island, visitors can explore the beautiful paintings, architecture, and history of the Rhode Island State House. Take a self-guided tour of this neoclassical building and explore at your own pace, or schedule a guided tour for some additional history and insight. For those who are looking to explore the vast history of this eastern state, this is the place to be.
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Have a meal on the patio of The Black Pearl
The Black Pearl, named after the former owner's favorite yacht, has been recognized as one of New England's top restaurants. From the elegant décor in the Commodore's Room to the spacious seating in the Waterside Patio & Bar portion, the Black Pearl is home to some of the most delicious fine dining in Newport.
See a show at Columbus Theatre
Take part in the performing arts scene of Rhode Island at the beautifully-restored Columbus Theater. Once a 1920s vaudeville theater, visitors can take a seat in the red velvet chairs of the auditorium and enjoy a fantastic and unique music experience in downtown Providence.
Have a sundae on The Ice Cream Train
Board The Ice Cream Train with Conductor Kalbfus and enjoy a scenic 45-minute ride around Newport while dining on a delicious ice cream sundae. This moving 1950s style ice cream parlor offers build-your-own sundaes and some delicious lunch options as you cruise around Newport.
Tour the Touro Synagogue
Once home to some of the earliest Jewish immigrants, the Touro Synagogue is open for tours a few days a week, working around worship times and holidays. This magnificent structure features many exhibits on Jewish history in the United States and plenty of religious significance as it is one of the oldest synagogues in the state.
Rock out at the Newport Folk Festival
Located at Fort Adams State Park, the Newport Folk Festival is a three-day event which features more than 50 artists of both national and local fame. Headliners have included Norah Jones, The Alabama Shakes, Flight of the Conchords, Ryan Adams, Father John Misty, Frightened Rabbit, and The Strumbellas to name a few. Be sure to bring a chair and be ready to dance your weekend away! As well as the Newport Folk Festivall, kids are sure to have an amazing time exploring the park itself.
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Explore the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
Lighthouse lovers won't want to miss walking through the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, located in the third oldest lighthouse in the United States. Here, guests will be able to explore nautical history and the naval industry of Rhode Island. Be sure to leave time to visit the gift shop and the Beavertail State Park adjoining the lighthouse site.
Photo courtesy of erbphoto.com
Enjoy some Rhode Island clams at George's of Galilee
George's of Galilee started out as a tiny lunch stop and has grown to become the largest waterfront restaurant in Rhode Island. Known for its delicious fresh seafood and friendly service, no trip to the beaches of Rhode Island is complete without a visit to this iconic New England restaurant.
See the famous art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum
Take an afternoon and stroll through the galleries at the RISD Museum, which features exhibits on 18th and 19th-century American art as well as Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and European art. There are always new exhibits and displays to see, so whether you are visiting for the first time or take a trip frequently here, there’s always something new.
Tour the historic Slater Mill
The historic Slater Mill is recognized as the "birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution" and was one of the first operating industrial museums in the United States. Visitors can tour the three historic structures on site, including the mill itself, and see a period demonstration.
Explore the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium
Originally opened in 1896, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Providence houses more than a quarter million objects and displays its artifacts on a rotating basis. Visitors will enjoy walking through this child museum and exploring the natural history of Rhode Island and the rest of the world. It's a great stop for kids and adults alike! Don’t forget to explore Westminster Street Historic District or downtown Providence when in the area for some more learning! There is so much to discover.
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Get some fresh food at the Mount Hope Farm Farmer's Market
There's nothing like a good farmer's market, and the Mount Home Farm Farmer's Market has some of the freshest food (try a clam cake while there) straight from Mount Hope Farm in addition to handmade soaps, lotions, cleaning products, potted plants, and more. The market often features live music and the farm itself boasts acres of trails to explore. So whether you are looking to treat yourself or find the perfect gift for that special someone, Mount Home Farm Farmer’s Market is the place to be!
Enjoy some diner food from Haven Brothers Diner and Food Truck
You can't go to Rhode Island without having a meal at Haven Brothers Diner and Food Truck. Originally served out of a horse-drawn carriage, this Providence tradition has been serving the community tasty food since 1888. The food truck is usually parked at the Providence City Hall in the evenings and stays open all night long.
Photo courtesy SVF Foundation
Watch a sheep shearing at the Swiss Village Farm Annual Visitors Day
Spend an afternoon taking a self-guided tour of the Historic Swiss Village and learning about livestock at the Swiss Village Farm Annual Visitors Day. This event is free to the public and features talks on heritage breeds, live animals, sheep shearing demonstrations, kids learning activities, and a rare view inside the state-of-the-art facilities at Swiss Village Farm.
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Ride the Watch Hill Carousel
Nestled in the southwestern point of Rhode Island, the Watch Hill Carousel is believed to be the oldest continuously operating carousel in the United States and the only surviving flying horse carousel. Originally built in the late 1800s, this carousel has provided countless peals of laughter and hours of joy to families, making it the perfect stop on your Rhode Island trip.
Photo Courtesy Aldo's Bakery
Get breakfast from Aldo's Bakery delivered to your boat
New Shoreham, RI
While Aldo's Bakery's sweets are delectable and noteworthy by themselves, one of the coolest services this bakery offers is boat-side delivery. Hungry sailors and boaters can have baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, snacks, stuffed clams, and of course, desserts delivered by boat. As well as a unique delivery surface, Aldo's is known for being the bakery to offer homemade ice cream in the city. For a unique flavor found nowhere except Block Island, the Goat Cheese Roasted Cherry should be at the top of your list. Be sure and listen for the signature "Andiamo!" greeting!
Attend the South County Balloon Festival
Take to the sky during this three-day festival filled with a variety of activities and up to 14 hot air balloons flying majestically through the air. Also host to the Rhode Island State BBQ Championship, the South County Balloon Festival is home to delicious barbecue, airborne jugglers, craft vendors, kite flying, magic clowns, inflatable rides, a rock wall, and of course, hot air balloon demos and rides. You definitely do not want to miss out on the South County Balloon Festival and check out the nearby University of Rhode Island for some beautiful architecture!
Browse the interactive International Tennis Hall of Fame which features the history of tennis, a Roger Federer hologram, and plenty of artifacts from various hall of fame inductees over the years. This location was completely remodeled and updated in May 2015 and boasts state-of-the-art facilities.
See the fresco paintings at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center
Dubbed the "Sistine Chapel of America", the St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center features hundreds of gorgeous frescoes painted on the walls, vaults, and ceilings. Created by Italian painter Guido Nincheri, the 475 faces depicted in the frescoes were all modeled from community members, making this relevant to not only artists, but local history buffs as well.
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Try the burgers at Brick Alley Pub and Restaurant
Voted one of the best restaurants in Rhode Island, Brick Alley Pub and Restaurant features a delectable menu with everything from lobster rolls to mouthwatering burgers. The pub also boasts more than 25 beers on tap, a delicious mixed drink and wine menu, and tasty appetizers.
Get lost in a book at The Providence Athenaeum
This book lover's paradise has been a staple of Providence in one form or another since the mid 1700s. Open to both bibliophiles and their pets, the Providence Athenaeum has played host to many famous figures including Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, John Hay, and others.
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See the blacksmith and other craftsmen at the South County Museum
Explore 19th century coastal life at the South County Museum, which features a one-room schoolhouse, carriage barn, carpentry shop, blacksmith forge, print shop, herb gardens, and more. Kids can watch chicks hatch and adults will enjoy the acres of peaceful walking trails around this historic location.
Pick up some fresh clams or a New England Clam Bake at Champlin's
Champlin's features some of the best and freshest seafood in the Narragansett, Rhode Island area. Browse the day's catch at the market and pick up some ridiculously fresh seafood to cook at home, or stop by Champlin's Restaurant and try one of the delicious entrees available like the fried clams, charbroiled swordfish, or lobster.
Experience immigrant history at the Museum of Work and Culture
Learn about the textile industry and the immigrants that moved to Rhode Island around the turn of the century at the Museum of Work and Culture. This impressive interactive museum is filled with artifacts from local families and information about the area.
Stay the night at the Rose Island Lighthouse
You can visit a lighthouse at any coastal state, but at the Rose Island Lighthouse, can you actually be a lighthouse keeper for a day. Stay overnight at the lighthouse, help with the daily activities and gift shop, and enjoy some relaxation time on your own little island!
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Find a new favorite book at Cellar Stories
There's nothing quite like a good bookstore, and Cellar Stories in Providence, Rhode Island is no exception. Stop by and browse the 70,000 volumes housed on site and perhaps find a new favorite book. The shop also occasionally will purchase used books, but make sure to call in advance.
Walk through the Providence Art Club Galleries
Said to be one of the oldest art clubs in the nation, the Providence Art Club was founded in 1880 and features three different gallery spaces with rotating exhibits in every style imaginable. All of the Providence Art Club Galleries are free and open to the public.
Build a sand castle at Roger W. Wheeler State Beach
Dig your toes into the sand on the shores of Roger W. Wheeler State Beach. This beautiful State Park features updated beach facilities, an on-duty lifeguard, and miles of white sandy beaches perfect for relaxing or building the ultimate sand castle.
Walk the Newport Cliff Walk
Stroll along the world-famous cliffs of Newport and enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks. The Newport Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile public walkway which meanders past some gorgeous scenery and Rhode Island architecture. The view is well worth the effort, but some parts of the trail are more hazardous than others so visitors should make sure to wear sturdy shoes.
Because there are so many wonderful things to experience in Rhode Island, there just is no way we could fit them all into a 50-item Bucket List! So check out these additional Rhode Island adventures to truly enjoy the spirit of this great state! There is never too much fun to be had.
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Visit Waterplace Park
Head to the beautiful downtown Providence area where you can stroll along the stunning shoreline of Waterplace Park. It’s the perfect way to relax after a day of shopping and exploring the city. Catch the sun as it sets over the sparkling waters of the Woonasquatucket River and make some lasting memories with your loved ones.
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Catch a Pawtucket Red Sox Game
Who doesn’t love baseball? Head to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI to see their amazing minor league team Pawtucket Red Sox play. For kids and adults alike, a baseball game is exciting and provides plenty of action to your Rhode Island adventure.
Photo courtesy of © Daniel Logan / Dreamstime cropped
Visit Goosewing Beach Preserve
Little Compton, RI
Goosewing Beach in Little Compton, RI is the perfect place to get out and enjoy nature with the entire family. This lovely little area is also known as Quicksand Pond and serves as a natural preservation. Because of this, guests will be able to view amazing wildlife, take a cliff walk, and experience the beauty of its rough point rocky beaches.
Take a stroll at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum
For splendid botanical beauty, a trip to the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum is an absolute must. This 32-acre area is bursting with colorful flora and fauna. With over 300 species, the gardens themselves are spectacular. Then, explore the Blithewold Mansion itself and learn about the unique history surrounding Bristol. For further beauty, make sure to also visit Colt State Park!
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Meet the animals at Roger Williams Park Zoo
The Roger Williams Park Zoo is the perfect place for guests of all ages to visit and is located in the Rhode Island capital city of Providence. The zoo is magnificent and offers plenty of learning opportunities for visitors. See stunning creatures such as lions, giraffes, alligators, and more. With extensive exhibits and the Carousel Village, there’s tons of fun found here. Plus, guests who are looking for something unique can visit the zoo during annual events such as the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.
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Take a day trip to Westerly, RI
For some family-friendly fun that all ages are sure to enjoy, head to the stunning city of Westerly Rhode Island. Here, visitors will find plenty of attractions, restaurants, and shopping venues making it the perfect place for a day trip. Relax at Misquamicut State Beach, ride the Flying Horse Carousel, or visit the Westerly Armory Museum to learn about the history of the area. No matter what you choose to do in this unique city, you’re bound to have an amazing time.
Watch the race for the America Cup
Boat races are something of a hot commodity in Rhode Island which has an extensive naval history. When in the area, don’t miss out on seeing the America’s Cup competition or the “Auld Mug”, where competitors compete for the title of Newport’s best sailor. The best of the best are drawn to compete in this competition each year, so if you are interested in boat racing, this is the one you will not want to miss out on!
Grab a bite at Aunt Carrie's Seafood Restaurant
Point Judith, RI
Aunt Carrie's Seafood Restaurant is known to serve up some of the best seafood in Rhode Island! This delicious clam shack features a 1920s-themed dining room. Only open April through September, this seasonal restaurant is both charming and a local favorite. Make sure to try the clam chowder and the clam cakes which are the restaurant’s signature dishes!
What's on your Rhode Island Bucket List? Did we miss something awesome? Tell us in the comments below and don't forget to Like and Share!