15 Best Things to Do in Pawtucket, RI

Pawtucket, RI
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Pawtucket is a small yet pleasant city in Providence County, Rhode Island.

Its location also makes it an ideal weekend getaway from the bustling capital for those who want a change of scenery.

The city is also known for its vibrant arts scene, filled with art galleries, local studios, and a highly-anticipated annual arts festival that draws in plenty of crowds.

If this city is right up your alley, here are the best things to do in Pawtucket, Rhode Island:

Learn Local History at Slater Mill

View of Slater Mill
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The Slater Mill is one of Pawtucket’s most important historical sites and one of North America’s first water-powered cotton spinning mills.

Today, visitors can go back in time and discover its significance at the Slater Mill Historic Site.

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Located within the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Slater Mill is now a museum, educational center, and events place containing textile machines, equipment, and other artifacts.

Aside from Slater Mill, check out Wilkinson Mill and the Sylvanus Brown House to get a deeper insight into the area’s industrial heritage.

After touring the mills, guests can explore other historic districts and sites included in the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

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EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Chill Out at Slater Memorial Park

Near the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border, Slater Memorial Park provides visitors with a temporary respite from the tall buildings and billboards of the city.

Also known as Slater Park, it is named after Samuel Slater.

The park offers 197 acres of green spaces and recreational facilities, including playing courts, biking trails, a dog park, and a Looff Carousel.

One of the highlights of Slater Memorial Park is the Daggett House, the oldest standing house in the city and one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rhode Island.

Explore the park, go fishing and biking, or enjoy the lush greenery surrounding you.

On select days, guests can watch live performances and attend seasonal events.

Grab a Hearty Meal at Modern Diner

Front view of Modern Diner
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If there’s one restaurant one must try in Pawtucket, it has to be Modern Diner, located at the heart of the city.

As a city icon, the Modern Diner is the first restaurant on the National Register for Historic Places.

Customers can enjoy various meals at this restaurant, from breakfast to dinner, with daily and seasonal menus available.

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You can also find daily specials on the wall when you enter the restaurant.

All-day breakfast includes omelets, sandwiches, and breakfast specials like eggs with bacon, ham, sausage, or corned beef hash.

In addition, you can order classic diner food like burgers, French toast, pancakes, and crepes with mascarpone cheese.

Celebrate the Pawtucket Arts Festival

The Pawtucket Arts Festival happens every September to celebrate the city’s art and cultural heritage.

The festival invites local and international partners to present music, dance, theater, film, traditional arts, and other art forms that pay tribute to Pawtucket’s communities.

Participants can join photo contests, purchase from hundreds of artisans and crafters, create flower bouquets, and even judge a pizza-making contest.

For families, the festival has child-friendly activities like face painting booths, giant inflatable slides, and food trucks.

Other festival highlights include live performances from the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, stand-up comedy shows, and a dazzling fireworks show.

If you plan on visiting the city later in the year, don’t miss the Pawtucket Arts Festival.

Shop for Antiques at Rhode Island Antiques Mall

Located near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border, Rhode Island Antiques Mall is a popular establishment frequented by locals and tourists.

The antique shop spans 20,000 square feet and has two floors that house hidden gems and bargain finds, perfect for avid collectors and window shoppers.

In addition, the mall sources items from over 200 dealers and hundreds of consignors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, providing fun and exciting things straight from their attics, barns, and personal collections.

You can find anything and everything at Rhode Island Antiques Mall: 14K gold brooches, a crystal decanter, a leather knife box, a hand-blown glass vase, and statues.

You can also score good deals on collectibles like vinyl records, brass buttons, and old coins.

Discover various paintings, sculptures, and other works of art at Candita Clayton Gallery, which showcases fine art from new and established artists in New England.

With 12 years under its belt, it is also one of the most visited galleries in the city and holds significant influence on Rhode Island and New England’s art scene.

Candita Clayton dedicates her time to discovering and promoting local artists to make art accessible to the public.

Check out the art or purchase some of these one-of-a-kind creations to add to your collection.

Besides public gallery shows, Candida Clayton Gallery also partners with interior designers to style and renovate spaces highlighting fine art as the main design element.

Join a Tasting Session at Rhode Island Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room

Taste premium Rhode Island spirits at Rhode Island Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room.

The distillery offers unique spirits made from gluten-free and organic botanical ingredients from local farmers, helping the economy and distinctive products.

Some spirits from the distillery include Rhodium-brand vodka and gin, as well as unique liqueurs like botanical gin, limoncello, grapefruit cello, red vodka, and coffee & black walnut vodka.

Visit Rhode Island Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room and sample some of its world-class liqueur in a tasting session.

Sip on a glass of gin, vodka, and liqueur cocktails, channel your inner bartender and craft your signature cocktail.

Taste Italian Dishes at Spumoni’s

Satisfy your Italian food cravings at Spumoni’s, a casual Italian restaurant with a strategic location along Newport Avenue.

Since 1978, the restaurant has served traditional dishes and home-cooked specialties using fresh and premium ingredients.

From classic pizza and pasta dishes to mouthwatering seafood and desserts, Spumoni’s has a wide array of Italian dishes.

Savor a delicious eggplant parmigiana, shrimp scampi, or a baked stuffed lobster followed by a slice of limoncello mascarpone cake or a traditional tiramisu.

Are you celebrating a small event with family or a group?

You can enjoy brunch, lunch, dinner buffet, or a family-style dinner for groups with a minimum of 25 persons.

The restaurant also offers gluten-free appetizers, salads, pizza, burgers, and desserts for conscious eaters or those with special dietary requirements.

Join Workshops at PeaceLove Studios

PeaceLove Studios is a non-profit organization that holds workshops to promote mental wellness and encourage self-expression and storytelling through creative means.

These creative workshops are a fun way for individuals to express themselves freely and without judgment, allowing them to tap into their emotions and empower each other.

Take a break from your schedule and join a workshop for peace of mind and a much-needed break from the stress of daily living.

Workshops at PeaceLove Studios are held in-person or virtually and are conducted by trained mental health professionals.

From drawing three-dimensional collages and gardens to meditative scribbling, participants can learn more about themselves, share their innermost emotions, and create bonds.

Admire the Art at Rhode Island Watercolor Society

The Rhode Island Watercolor Society is one of the oldest watercolor organizations in the country, established in 1896.

Located in Slater Memorial Park, you can stop by the art gallery to make the most of your visit to the park.

The organization has over 300 members and provides artists and visitors to view, buy, learn, and gain a deeper appreciation of water media art.

Visit the Rhode Island Watercolor Society and view various watercolor art from artists around the US.

Aside from viewing the art, visitors can join water media art classes and workshops and attend special events like artist demos, fundraisers, and excursions to nearby museums.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Commune with Nature at Lincoln Woods State Park

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Lincoln Woods State Park is a 627-acre public recreation area in Lincoln, Rhode Island, nine minutes from Pawtucket.

The park is notable for its glacial boulders and stony terrain, which spared it from being used for other developments.

American author H. P. Lovecraft also frequented the park in the summer and wrote about the park’s landscape and ambiance.

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Despite being a smaller state park, Lincoln Woods State Park offers plenty of recreational opportunities for all seasons: biking, hiking, picnicking, boating, kayaking, and more.

In the winter, go ice skating, ice fishing, and snowmobiling around the park.

With its picture-perfect views and tranquil environment, this is the perfect place to visit for those who want a change of scenery.

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Join Cumberlandfest

View of Cumberland
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If you have an extra day and want to explore areas around Pawtucket, spend the day at Cumberland, Rhode Island, located 15 minutes from the city.

The town is the largest in the state and is home to several cultural events, including Cumberlandfest, an annual event held in summer.

View of Cumberland
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Enjoy activities like picking apples or pumpkins at Phantom Farms or biking across the Blackstone River Bikeway.

Join a wine-tasting session and taste Pinot Noir and other fruit wines at Diamond Hill Vineyards, a family-owned winery.

You can also try the locally owned and operated restaurants, bakeries, and cafes in town.

Start your Cumberland trip with Cumberlandfest!

Lace up Your Skates at United Skates of America

Take a short seven-minute drive from Pawtucket to the United Skates of America in Rumford, Rhode Island.

This is one of the best things to do if you have extra time for day trips or if you’re looking for a family-friendly activity around Pawtucket.

The rink spans 10,000 square feet, featuring state-of-the-art lighting and fun music to energize everyone.

United Skates of America offers classic roller skates and rollerblades.

They have adjustable skates and Skate Mates for children and beginner skates.

Besides its rollerblading rink, visitors can also try laser tag, rock climbing, or classic arcade games.

Between skating or playing games, refuel with pizza, soft pretzels, nachos, and other snacks at the in-house cafe.

Spend the Day at Blackstone River State Park

View of Blackstone River State Park
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Blackstone River State Park is a riverfront park with more than 1,000 acres of pristine natural scenery, adventure trails, and historical sites.

This state park is in Lincoln, only a 20-minute drive from Pawtucket.

The park offers many outdoor activities, is pet-friendly, and has wheelchair-accessible facilities.

It’s one of the best family-friendly destinations near Pawtucket.

View of Blackstone River State Park
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Follow the hiking, biking, and equestrian trails that will take you through thickets of trees, riverside pathways, and lookouts that offer sweeping views of the park.

For history buffs, join a historical walking tour along the canal, once used for trading, and learn more about its importance in the American Industrial Revolution.

View of Blackstone River State Park
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Explore the Wolf Hill Forest Preserve

For avid hikers, take a 25-minute trip from Pawtucket to Wolf Hill Forest Preserve in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

The hiking area offers several trails with various difficulty levels, ideal for beginners and those looking for a challenge.

Whether you want to leisurely hike through the woods or find a new terrain to conquer, there’s a trail at Wolf Hill Forest Preserve for you.

If you’re a beginner, take the Mercer Trail, a 2.1-kilometer trail for birdwatching, hiking, and biking.

Meanwhile, the Mary Mowry Trail is better suited for intermediate hikers.

On the other hand, the World War II Memorial Loop has 7.1 kilometers of rocky terrain that passes through historical markers, waterfalls, lush forests, and a scenic overlook.

Final Thoughts

Pawtucket is a charming city near the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

You’ll never run out of fun activities and sights here, from art galleries, historic mills, homegrown breweries, and vintage diners.

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Providence and check out the best things to do in Pawtucket, Rhode Island!

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