This is the third post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest starting with the first and second posts from the trip. Because I blog about educational travel, I received admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. A few places we went are free for everyone, while we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states, but it is packed with interesting things to see and do. I really struggled when deciding what to see on this trip and what we would have to save for a future visit. Ultimately, we ended up limiting our time in Rhode Island to its capital city, Providence.
I'm going to jump ahead of myself now and tell you that I fell in love with Providence. It is a vibrant city with tons of history and a great food scene. It's pretty, with interesting architecture, public art, and lots of green space. Education is a huge priority, with seven universities within the city limits. I wanted to stay longer in Providence. We will definitely be back. And when we do go back, we'll see the rest of the Ocean State.
We arrived in Providence in the evening on Wednesday, June 14 after leaving Cape Cod. We checked into the Homewood Suites Providence. I loved the hotel as much as I loved Providence itself. We had a 2-queen studio suite that overlooked the Providence River. The room was enormous and super comfortable. Here's our view:
Breakfast was included and it was sensational. We enjoyed having the option to eat on the patio overlooking the river.
Whenever possible, I like to start a city visit with a guided tour. It's the easiest way to learn about a place and get the lay of the land. Guides often suggest restaurants or attractions we might not have found on our own. The Discover Providence Tour did not disappoint.
Our guide was great. We learned so much about the history and culture of Providence. Our first stop was Federal Hill.
This area was settled by Italian immigrants and maintains a strong Italian culture. How strong? The center divide lines in the street are red, white, and green.
We had time to poke around the cafes, markets, and pastry shops. Our favorites were Costantino's Venda Bar & Ristorante and Scialo Brothers Bakery. There's so much we would have bought if this were local!
The rest of the tour took us to the Providence River (where we had to sample Rhode Island's famous Del's Lemonade)...
... and Benefit Street. The tour gave us a great overview of the city and was a lot of fun.
Our next destination was the Rhode Island State House. It's a beautiful building, inside and out.
Fun fact: It has the fourth-largest freestanding dome in the world. #1 is the Taj Mahal. #2 is the Capitol in St. Paul, MN. #3 is St. Peter’s in Vatican City. We haven't been to the Taj Mahal, but we've been to St. Paul and Vatican City!
Rhode Island displays their Liberty Bell replica in the Capitol. That's my second-favorite place to find them. My favorite is outside on the Capitol grounds. My least favorite? This. Seriously, Kansas?
We were baffled as to why the Colombian flag was hanging in the House and Senate chambers of the Rhode Island State House...
... and amused by the abandoned vacuum cleaner. Can't say we've seen that before!
I tracked down a Capitol tour guide and asked about the Colombian flag. She said she didn't know why it was there, but has seen different flags displayed in the chambers. I looked up June 15 to see if it was Colombia's independence day or anything like that. Nope. It's July 20. If anyone knows why Rhode Island was flying the Colombian flag, let me know!
The most unique feature of the Rhode Island State House (besides flying the flag of a foreign government) is the Colonial Charter Museum.
It's small, and very dark, presumably to preserve the Charter and other important historical documents on display.
The Rhode Island State Seal features prominently throughout the Capitol. Fun fact: until 2020, the full name of Rhode Island was the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. That's a lot of name for the smallest state.
Our next destination was Harry's Bar & Burger, where we had absolutely fantastic sliders and shared a delicious milkshake. They've been voted the best burger in Rhode Island, and despite the fact that they were the only burgers we ate in Rhode Island, I'm willing to vote them as the best. Definitely go!
A block away from Harry's is the First Baptist Church.
By that, I don't mean the first Baptist church in Providence, or even in Rhode Island. It is literally THE first Baptist church. So cool.
The Memorial is a 4.5 acre park in downtown Providence with a small but interesting interpretative center. It commemorates Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and a strong proponent of religious freedom. An outcast in England and banished from Massachusetts, Williams (who himself was very religious) had revolutionary ideas about the separation of church and state.
It is well-worth a visit.
We spent the next hour walking along the Providence River and enjoying beautiful downtown Providence (which, inexplicably, they call downcity instead of downtown.
We visited the War Memorial, the Holocaust Memorial, the Rhode Island Nine Memorial, and the Irish Famine Memorial.
Along the way, we did some geocaching. Then we stopped for ice cream at The Landing. So good!
We relaxed on their couches while waiting for our next activity. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.