Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Cranston, RI

  • Published 2022/12/21

Cranston in Providence County is the second largest city in Rhode Island.

Located in the Providence metropolitan area, it was previously known as Pawtuxet as it sits on the northern portion of the Pawtuxet River.

The Town of Cranston was originally established in 1754 as part of Providence, eventually becoming a city in 1910.

It’s boarded on the south by the City of Warwick and the towns of Coventry and West Warwick and the west by the Town of Scituate.

Roger Williams purchased the land where the present-day Cranston is as part of the Pawtuxet Purchase.

The origin of its name is widely debated, with some historians believing it was named after the longest-serving Rhode Island governor Samuel Cranston while some claim it was named in honor of then-Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives Thomas Cranston.

Today, it is one of the state’s most important cities.

Here are the best things to do in Cranston, Rhode Island:

Walk around Pawtuxet Village

Welcome sign of Pawtuxet Village

Wangkun Jia /

Pawtuxet Village is located in the cities of Warwick and Cranston.

It’s one of the oldest American settlements, dating back to 1638.

Sitting on the point where the Pawtuxet River flows into the Narragansett Bay and Providence River, the village offers scenic harbor views and quaint downtown specialty shops.

It’s pedestrian-friendly, so you can walk around and discover hidden coffee shops, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Ice cream parlour at Pawtuxet Village

Wangkun Jia /

Detour some side streets and find old homes and gorgeous harbor views.

As the sun sets, breathe in the fresh coastal breeze and marvel at the boats parked at the marina.

Note that there’s no lodging and restaurant with waterfront views, so you’ll have to walk around Pawtuxet Village to enjoy harbor views.

Crepe corner at Pawtuxet Village

Wangkun Jia /

Conquer Your Fears at Haunted Labyrinth

On Dyer Avenue, Haunted Labyrinth is Rhode Island’s longest-running haunted house.

A non-profit organization runs it, with adult volunteers designing the Haunted Labyrinth as early as February through July.

The Halloween attraction opens from the last weekend of September until the 31st of October.

If you happen to be in the city on those dates, you shouldn’t miss the impressive set design and the realistic makeup and costumes of the actors.

There are special effects and sounds that level up the haunted element.

The labyrinth has themed rooms with secret passages that add to the challenge of finding your way out of the house.

If you’re looking for a good jump scare and want to be in the Halloween mood, visit the Haunted Labyrinth.

Feast on Authentic Italian Dishes at Marchetti’s Restaurant

Marchetti’s Restaurant is the place to be if you’re craving authentic Italian dishes.

Located on “Restaurant Row” on Park Avenue, it’s been a staple in the Knightsville area since 1982.

Brothers David and Donald Marchetti founded this family-owned restaurant which has been voted the Best Italian Restaurant by the Providence Journal on multiple occasions.

Marchetti’s Restaurant boasts home-style Italian cooking with large portions, so be ready to take home leftovers!

Their Chicken Parmigiana, which comes with three types of sauces, is a crowd favorite, as well as the Pink Vodka Penne.

Their calamari wasn’t voted the Best Calamari for four years in a row for nothing.

Try the Fried Calamari or the sinful Calamari Siciliano tossed in garlic butter and white wine sauce.

Go Bowling at Lang’s Bowlarama

Feeling like going back to the 1980s for a night?

Then go bowling at Lang’s Bowlarama!

Located on Niantic Avenue, this Cranston institution has been an entertainment spot for all ages since the 1960s.

Salesman Ed Lang put up the bowling center in 1960, and today, it’s under the management of his grandsons, Rich and Dave Lang.

Lang’s Bowlarama features quality and modern bowling lanes that players of all skill levels can enjoy.

A snack bar offers pizza, chicken wings, and beer if you want to much on something after a game.

Lang’s Bowlarama is the perfect location for 1980s-themed parties, with disco lights completing the retro vibe and an in-house catering menu offering set meals and big platters.

Try Indian Pale Ale at Buttonwoods Brewery

Located on Wellington Avenue, Buttonwoods Brewery is known for its Indian Pale Ale (IPA) and barrel-aged beers.

Brewer Morgan Snyder founded it in October 2017.

Aside from well-hopped IPAs, it’s also famous for its sophisticated Lager, which is part of its rotating menu of carefully crafted beers.

Local food trucks are parked on the property grounds, serving beer-match food you can enjoy with your drinks.

Games of cornhole, Hungry Hungry Hippo, and Cards Against Humanity are available in the brewery to keep patrons entertained.

Watch out for themed nights like Wednesday Trivia Nights, Vinyl Nights, and Movie Nights.

Drive by Buttonwoods Brewery for your regular fix of ice-cold beer.

Get Gourmet Chocolates at Sweenor’s Chocolates

If you have a sweet tooth, swing by Sweenor’s Chocolates on Hillside Road.

This chocolate shop has been producing gourmet chocolates since the 1950s.

Walter Sweenor, from a family of candy makers in Massachusetts, founded it.

Walter started making sweets in the basement of his kitchen before eventually putting up Sweenor’s Open Fire Candies in Garden City.

Today, Sweenor’s Chocolates offers specialty chocolates made from high-quality cacao.

It also has seasonal and themed chocolates that kids and kids at heart will love.

Sweenor’s chocolates are the perfect gift for your loved ones, as you can customize a box and choose different flavors.

See Civil War Cannons at the Governor Sprague Mansion

Exterior of the Governor Sprague Mansion

Swampyank, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Governor Sprague Mansion, located on Cranston Street, was the birthplace of former Rhode Island governors William Sprague III and William Sprague IV.

The house was originally built in the 1790s and underwent a major expansion in 1864, with Col. Amasa Sprague adding a hall and a grand staircase for his social events.

It’s been listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 because of its significance to the state’s history.

Inside the Governor Sprague Mansion carriage house are two restored civil war cannons from the 1840s used by Sprague’s regiment.

These were originally displayed at Cranston’s Rolfe Square in 1924 until they were transferred to the mansion in 1991 to prevent them from rotting.

Play Golf at the Cranston Country Club

Whether you’re a beginner, recreational, or professional player, Cranston Country Club offers a tour-level course for your golfing needs.

Located on Burlingame Road, this 18-hole golf course has green fairways lined with lush maple and oak trees.

It hosts the annual Cleveland Golf Tour and some tournaments organized by the Rhode Island Golf Association.

A full bar overlooking the golf course offers drinks and snacks for players and spectators.

If you’re just starting to learn the sport, there are adult lessons conducted by a PGA Member using the latest golf technology and state-of-the-art hitting bay.

Improve your strokes at the Cranston Country Club!

Indulge in a Spanish-Themed Dinner at Spain Restaurant

Located on Reservoir Avenue, Spain Restaurant boasts an amazing atmosphere and traditional Spanish dining experience.

Established in 1987, the restaurant fuses authentic Spanish flavors with modern cooking styles and techniques to create new dishes.

It prides itself on elegant presentation and great ambiance.

Stuffed Salmon is one of the crowd favorites, along with the Premium Black Angus Filet Mignon.

There’s a wide selection of wines to pair with your mains, but craft beers and specialty cocktails are also available.

To cap off the night, get a slice of the Tres Leches or a Pera Riojana, made with Argentinian pear poached and marinated in raspberries, Rioja, and merlot wine and topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Enjoy a Spanish-style dinner at Spain Restaurant to conclude your trip to Cranston.

Satisfy Your Cravings at Antonio’s Trattoria

Antonio’s Trattoria is a casual Italian restaurant located on Cranston Street.

It serves traditional Italian dishes and an extensive collection of wines.

Antonio’s is known for its Chicken Parmigiana and Eggplant Trattoria, but the Stuffed Artichoke is also a crowd favorite.

If you feel like loading up on carbs, there’s an excellent selection of pasta dishes you can choose from.

The Lobster Ravioli is a must-try with its pink vodka sauce, as well as the Shrimp Scampi made with jumbo shrimp and fine Italian white wine.

Pair your dish with a glass of wine or a pint of local or imported beer to round out the flavors.

Visit Antonio’s Trattoria for excellent Italian food and wine.

Get a Slice of Pizza at The Big Cheese & Pub

The Big Cheese & Pub is located on Reservoir Avenue and has been serving home-style food since 1968.

The restaurant began as a neighborhood pizza shop with a few booths.

It’s now a full-service eatery with the same hearty dishes that have drawn locals and tourists for over 50 years.

It’s known for giant calzones and handmade pizza slathered in homemade sauce.

If you’re looking for healthier options, Big Cheese has a house made salad dressing that pairs well with fresh greens.

However, the star of the show is the hand-tossed pizzas with fresh toppings and original recipe tomato sauce.

You can also build your pizza at The Big Cheese & Pub and choose your toppings!

Other Things to Do Nearby

See Animals from around the World at the Roger Williams Park Zoo

Elephants at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Joe Trentacosti /

The Roger Williams Park Zoo is located on Elmwood Avenue in Providence, a seven-minute drive from Cranston.

It’s the third oldest zoo in the U.S., having been established in 1872.

The zoo first opened as a menagerie for small animals, including rabbits, squirrels, guinea pigs, and peacocks.

Flamingoes at Roger Williams Park Zoo

ayhanmustafa /

Over the years, it has expanded to include a sea lion exhibit, a penguin exhibit, and many more.

Today, it’s home to more than 150 species of animals from all over the world.

The Roger Williams Park Zoo is divided into different sections and habitats, including the Fabric of Africa, where zebras, cheetahs, and other native African animals are housed, and the Feinstein Junior Scholar Wetlands Trail, where the natural wetland of Rhode Island is depicted.

Giraffe at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Susilee Dean /

Take the Whole Family to the Providence Children’s Museum

The Providence Children’s Museum is the only hands-on museum in Rhode Island for children and families.

Located on South Street in Providence, the museum is just 11 minutes from Cranston.

Here, interactive displays are used to promote learning through play and exploration.

There are themed rooms where kids can play and learn at the same time.

The Providence Children’s Museum is the perfect place to bond with your kids while teaching them about arts, science, and technology.

Visit New England’s Largest Indoor Display Garden: Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

A flower at Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

Abeselom Zerit /

Located on Floral Avenue in Providence, just nine minutes from Cranston, is the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, which boasts the largest indoor garden in the New England region.

It comprises two connected greenhouses with over 23,000 square feet of indoor display.

There are more than 150 plants at RWPBC, including 17 species of palms.

The greenhouse maintains 70-degree temperatures throughout the year to mimic the tropical climate where most of the plant species originate.

There’s also an outdoor garden that highlights plants native to New England.

Plant lovers will surely enjoy a trip to the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center.

Learn about the Natural World at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

Seven minutes outside of Cranston is the Museum of Natural History.

Located on Elmwood Avenue in Providence, it is Rhode Island’s only natural history museum and home to the state’s only public planetarium.

The museum has exhibits showcasing life on Earth, including the Circle of the Sea: Re-Visited and Re-Imagined, which highlights the natural history of Oceania through clothing, instruments, and its diverse wildlife.

The planetarium is a dome theater equipped with a Zeiss projector that reproduces an accurate image of stars and other astronomical objects.

Tour the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium if you want to learn more about life on Earth and beyond.

Final Thoughts

Cranston’s unique location gives it the flair that every adventure-seeking person craves.

The city has something to offer everyone, from delicious restaurants to historical spots and museums.

On your next vacation, try these best things to do in Cranston, Rhode Island, and discover what this city has in store for you.

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