Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Providence, RI

  • Published 2022/09/18

Providence is a fantastic holiday destination thanks to its unique collegial atmosphere and many engaging activities.

The city is also home to some fantastic architectural monuments that will leave you awestruck.

The domes of the old museums and legendary colonial houses of yesteryear will leave you smiling with nostalgia.

Providence also has plenty for kids to enjoy, making it perfect for a family holiday.

These are the best things to do in Providence, Rhode Island:

View the Awe-Inspiring WaterFire

Water fire in Providence

Scott F Smith /

Located on North Main Street, WaterFire is Providence’s most famous tourist attraction.

Countless visitors come to this place every year to admire its exquisite magnificence.

Crowd enjoying the scene of Water fire in Providence

WFProvidence, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can admire beautiful scenes by glazing across the river at the 80 brilliant bonfires in the middle of the water.

Additionally, smaller WaterFire events occur all around the city.

The area around the Providence Place Mall is especially famous for some of these fire shows.

See the Historical Sights along Benefit Street

Houses in Benefit Streets

Alizada Studios /

Benefit Street is a mile-long stretch by the side of the Brown University campus.

It’s home to some of Providence’s most exquisite classic architecture.

The styles of architecture here range from Federal to Victorian.

William snow house in Benefit Street

Alizada Studios /

You will also find a healthy dose of avant-garde and bold designs with the Art Deco and self-styled buildings, which are plentiful here.

When on Benefit Street, you must check out include the Governor Stephen Hopkins House and the renowned Providence Athenaeum.

The latter is related to the famous horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, and you will feel charmed visiting this building.

Street view of Benefit Street

quiggyt4 /

Geek Out at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium is a beautiful place to spend some quiet hours exploring the fantastic exhibits.

This museum is packed with Rhode Island’s flora and fauna, and you’ll have a blast exploring these natural wonders.

Exterior view of Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Providence’s geology is highlighted in the many precious artifacts here.

Fossils, minerals, and insects are among the items on display.

Display of a rock at Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

Jstuby, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also enjoy fantastic visuals at the planetarium, which is the perfect site for astronomy lovers.

The Museum of National History and Planetarium is located inside the famous Roger Williams Park on Elmwood Avenue.

Tour the Governor Henry Lippitt House

View of Governor Henry Lippitt House

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum is located on Hope Street.

The imposing mansion dates from the middle of the 18th century and has 30 exquisite rooms inside its spaces.

These rooms are built in the beautiful Renaissance Revival style and are a feast for the eyes.

Entrance of Governor Henry Lippitt House

Wangkun Jia /

Rich Italian marbles are the construction materials used here, and you will be flown into another world with the smooth, glazy finish on these pieces of stone.

To further add to the aesthetic delight of this place, you will find unique wooden carvings dotting the site.

If you enjoy classic-style décor, the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum will be a visual heaven for you.

Shop and Dine at The Arcade Providence

Interior of Arcade

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The Arcade Providence was closed down for a few years, but today, it’s back and resplendent in all its old glory.

It was the first-ever American shopping mall built back in 1828.

It’s famous for its fantastic granite work and fusion of the choicest styles of architecture.

Interior view of the Arcade Providence

LnP images /

The buildings were designed by a team of two architects with different sensibilities, and this place reflects that amply in its multiple structures.

You can find The Arcade Providence on Weybosset Street.

Satisfy Your Inner Foodie at the Culinary Arts Museum

The Culinary Arts Museum is the perfect spot for food lovers.

Packed with amazing things related to food, this place will fill you with unique culinary pleasures.

The 250,000 items displayed here include the best items related to food and cooking.

Spot utensils and cutlery of various ages and intriguing styles.

Other amazing collections include replicas of famous dining interiors and memorabilia from the period recipe books.

You can also learn about the eating habits of the ancient Romans at the stagecoach tavern found here.

The Culinary Arts Museum is located within Johnson & Wales University on Abbott Park Place.

Enjoy Authentic Italian Cuisine in Federal Hill

Bakery in Federal Hill

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Providence’s proud Italian American community is housed in Federal Hill.

You can catch a glimpse of Italian-American culture by visiting this neighborhood.

Italian Restaurant in Federal Hill

Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

No Italian place is complete without authentic Italian food, and Federal Hill is no different.

You can taste sumptuous delicacies at the many delicious Italian restaurants found here.

Restaurants at Federal Hill

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In addition, the cafes and specialty shops carry a relaxed and easy vibe.

You can sit around with your cappuccino and relax to your heart’s content.

Visit the First Baptist Church of America

Front view of First Baptist Church of America

Wangkun Jia /

The First Baptist Church of America is also known as the First Baptist Church of Providence.

It’s remarkable for being the oldest congregation in the country, dating back to 1638.

It is now registered as a National Historic Landmark.

The church was used to hold meetings for several years since 1775.

You can attend a tour of this place and enjoy the marvelous construction.

The First Baptist Church of America is located on North Main Street.

Meet the Animals at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Elephants at Roger Williams Zoo

Joe Trentacosti /

Located on Elmwood Avenue, the 40-acre Roger Williams Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States.

It remains well-maintained, and the constant expansions have made it one of the world’s finest modern zoos.

The enclosures in this zoo are different, as they’ve been constructed to be similar to the natural abodes of the animals.

This way, the animals feel at home and go about their lives in their natural style.

Zebras at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Susilee Dean /

The rich wildlife at Roger Williams Park Zoo includes animal species such as giraffes, elephants, and the rare snow leopards.

In addition, there are majestic kangaroos and red pandas.

Flamingoes at Roger Williams Park Zoo

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The zoo has many interactive displays and artifacts, and camel rides are available for children.

Kids can also run around in the many beautiful playgrounds that enclose beautiful treehouses.

Tour the Brown University Campus

Buildings at Brown University

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Brown University was established in 1770, and this historic university comprises several unique galleries and attractions.

You can walk around this reputed university, which draws thousands of students to its hallowed portals every year.

The famous buildings include the John Hay Library, with its extensive collection of beautiful stamps.

Clock tower at Brown University

Wangkun Jia /

In addition, you can catch some rare glimpses of famous maps and enjoy cartography at the John Carter Brown Library.

The David Winton Bell Gallery has many art exhibitions spanning historical to contemporary periods.

Visitors are welcome to tour Brown University with the guidance of one of its students.

Brick building at Brown University

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You can find some peace and serenity at the pristine conservatory located inside.

This place is a calming influence among the commotion of active university life.

Spot French Impressionist Works at the RISD Museum

Interior view of RISD Art Museum

LnP images /

Located on North Main Street, the Rhode Island School of Design is an art lover’s delight in Providence.

The RISD Museum has exquisite artistic exhibits in various styles.

You can find French Impressionist works decorating the walls.

Exterior view of RISD Museum

Wangkun Jia /

In addition, you can catch glimpses of ancient rare Egyptian artwork.

There is also a healthy collection of Asian art here.

Interior view of RISD Museum

LnP images /

The RISD Museum also houses a rich collection of contemporary artworks, including various media such as textiles and sculptures.

Go Back in Time at the John Brown House Museum

Exterior view of John Brown House

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Situated along Power Street, the John Brown House Museum is one of Providence’s star attractions and has a rich, colorful past.

It dates back to 1786 and is considered one of the city’s architectural marvels.

The beautiful construction is a visual feast, and you can spend countless hours admiring its splendor.

The locale around this place is equally magnificent; it’s located along an equally gorgeous hillside.

The natural scenery’s greenery and silent beauty will leave you stunned.

You can tour this house and catch a close look at the ways and lifestyles of the people living in Rhode Island in the 18th century.

The classical touch in this house is unmistakable, and you will have pleasant nostalgic vibes going around it.

The antiques in the house are a sheer delight to see and will leave you marveling at the meticulous craftsmanship that went into creating them.

Other decorative pieces from that era add to the house’s charm.

The Brown family’s belongings iconic reflect the culture of the period.

For those who enjoy the classical touch and sweet romanticism of past eras, a visit to the historical John Brown House Museum should be at the top of your list of things to do in Providence.

Explore the Expansive Roger Williams Park

Gazebo at Roger Williams Park

Ally Cowie /

Spread over 435 acres of lush green grounds and picturesque natural beauty, Roger Williams Park is one of the sites you must visit in Providence.

Exquisite gardens and great lakes adorn this natural paradise.

There are also several impressive greenhouses in this area that make it perfect for spending an enjoyable day.

Swan shaped boats at Roger Williams Park

Summerland /

The place also houses impressive historical buildings that reflect the splendid architecture of those times.

The original bandstand, dating back to the early 20th century, is one of the major attractions here.

Enjoy views of it from various vantage points around the place.

Landscape of Roger Williams Park

Joy Brown /

Another famous structure is the Betsy Williams Cottage, constructed in 1773.

Roger Williams Park has fun train rides and a lively carousel to keep children engaged.

Located on Pine Hill Avenue, this park is also home to Roger Williams Park Zoo and the Museum of Natural History.

Visit the Historical Sights in Downtown Providence

Downtown Providence

panparinda /

Downtown Providence is the city’s central historical district.

There are many buildings here that go back a long way.

These have been carefully preserved as essential landmarks of historical significance.

Street view of Downtown Providence

Wangkun Jia /

Some must-visit sites include the beautiful Art Deco buildings and other buildings built in the equally elegant Beaux-Arts Style.

Downtown Providence also houses more historical monuments dating back to the Victorian era.

Fountain at Downtown Providence

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Get a touch of the classical styles of that period with the impressive wooden facades fronting these structures.

You must visit the Beneficent Congressional Church, Providence’s oldest building.

The dome is just majestic to look at, and you will also enjoy the beautiful portico of this ancient church.

Experience a Taste of Italy with La Gondola Providence

Tourist enjoying the La Gondola ride in Providence

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Explore Providence from a new and memorable perspective as you glide along the water in a traditional Venetian gondola.

La Gondola Providence provides a fantastic way to see and experience the city, whether you’re looking for a quiet evening on the river or an exciting day trip with the kids.

Experience the hospitality of skilled gondoliers and musicians throughout the voyage.

Sightsee in style aboard the 28-foot La Gondola Floating Lounge, which features three bistro tables and seating for up to six people.

Enjoy a memorable evening meal while you cruise the city’s waterways.

Inspired by Venice’s outdoor cafes, this boat is available for private dinner cruises, group outings, and the unique WaterFire experiences.

La Gondola Providence offers one of the most romantic experiences in Providence.

Catch a Live Performance at Trinity Repertory Company

Entrance to Trinity Repertory Company

Wangkun Jia /

Located along Washington Street, Trinity Repertory Company is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious resident-performing companies.

They showcase a schedule of world-class premieres and modern and historical performances every year.

The Lederer Theater Center, which has been the home of the theater since its inception in 1963, is a national historic landmark.

Street view of Trinity Repertory Company

Wangkun Jia /

The theater presents productions of well-known shows from around the world.

It runs various programs to foster the development of new talent.

The firm also offers nationwide and international tours popular with fans of all ages.

Trinity Repertory Company provides intensive graduate training for directors and actors.

Its Project Discovery program brings live theater to over 15,000 kids each year.

Spark Your Kids’ Curiosity at the Providence Children’s Museum

The Providence Children’s Museum initially opened in 1976 as the Rhode Island Children’s Museum is the only museum of its kind in Rhode Island.

It’s an ideal destination for kids of all ages to engage in hands-on learning and discovery.

The museum offers activities and exhibits for children aged 1 to 11 that are interactive, play-based, and hands-on.

They may learn about various topics, from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM (the arts, technology, and culture).

You can find the Providence Children’s Museum on South Street.

Check out the Exhibits at the Providence Art Club

The Providence Art Club is located on Thomas Street, near the RISD Museum.

It’s an organization founded to facilitate communication and cooperation between artists and members of the local populace.

The Seril Dodge House, constructed in 1880, is now a venue for its exhibitions and meetings.

Fleur-de-Lys Studios is one of many examples of antique and picturesque homes converted into studios, galleries, restaurants, and even a clubhouse.

Visit the Providence Art Club to take in the lovely galleries and exhibitions and to cheer on the members’ creative endeavors.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Catch a Glimpse of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse

Scenic view of Pomham Rocks Light

Allan Wood Photography /

Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is located on the famous Providence River, 15 minutes away from the city.

This lighthouse was constructed in 1871 and is one of the must-see sights when in Providence.

Aerial view of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse

Wangkun Jia /

Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is still operational today.

It was relighted in 2006 to mark the structure’s historical significance, and it has continued working since that time.

Final Thoughts

Beyond its status as Rhode Island’s capital, Providence, has plenty to offer.

It’s the perfect vacation spot because of its abundance of cultural offerings, lively and varied districts, high-quality lodging options, and acclaimed dining establishments.

Experience what this lovely city has to offer with our list of the best things to do in Providence, Rhode Island!

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