Have you just driven through a place multiple times but never ? Rhode Island was that for me. The first time I visited Rhode Island was overnight on my way to Boston years ago. I have been there a couple of times since then but I never lingered enough to get to know the state. I could not actually provide any recommendations of RI until now.
FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT RHODE ISLAND:
🇺🇸 The smallest state in terms of size, Rhode Island could fit into Alaska nearly 486 times.
🇺🇸 You can easily drive in an hour across the entire state.
🇺🇸 It is the 8th least populous but 2nd most densely populated state, behind only New Jersey.
🇺🇸 Some famous people with connects to RI are Viola Davis, James Woods, Meredith Viera, and Debra Messing
🇺🇸 59% of Rhode Island is covered in forest even though it’s known as the Ocean State
🇺🇸 Some nicknames include the Ocean State, Little Rhody, the Plantation State, and the Creative Capital.
WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT...
🤩 It is donut heaven: Providence has the most number of donut shops per person in the US.
🤩 Most things are within 20-30 min drive
🤩 A growing foodie scene, with lots of international options
🤩 it’s capital city, Providence named “America’s Best Small City” & “1 of 10 Nicest Places”
If you want to visit Rhode Island, for the first time (or revisit more deeply), have these spots at the very top of your itinerary!
In this blog post, you will get info about:
What is Rhode Island best known for?
Is there anything fun to do in RI?
What are unique things to do in Rhode Island?
What are things to do in Rhode Island right now?
What are things to do in RI during covid?
What are things to do in Rhode Island for couples?
Is there anything to do in Providence RI?
Is Providence RI worth visiting?
Table of Contents:
1. Sip & Chill at a Vineyard
𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥𝗬𝗢𝗡𝗘: Rhode Island don’t really got vineyards.
𝗠𝗘: WRONG 😑 Rhode Island got one basically for each month of the year — Have your pick!
They also have a cider brewery too. Located near the Atlantic Ocean, Rhode Island has one of the most moderate climates in the U.S. northeast, making it a great spot to develop wines. One hidden gem is Verde Vineyards, located only a 20-minute drive from Providence. It was created by a retired teacher passionate about winemaking.
Here is my experience:
This vineyard is really in the CUT — you got to drive through a long, winding path in the woods, but it is worth it
The owner is passionate, and the employees are very knowledgeable and welcoming.
Huge outdoor space where you can bring your food, sip wine, and chill for hours! Cool breeze and picturesque views galore.
Wine tastings are cheap! Just $6
Bring food to eat: I stopped at a Haitian food spot & it was a perfect way to enjoy the outside and the wine.
Take a stroll in the woods: There is an opening to a path into the woods if you wander the vineyard.
Follow Google maps: You will think you're lost because you have to drive on a small path through the woods overcast with trees — you are not!
2. Visit a Piece of History
Did you know that the painter of the portraits of the first 6 American presidents is from Rhode Island? His name is Gilbert Stuart: he produced portraits of over 1,000 people, including the portrait of the first six Presidents of the United States. Stuart is best known for his unfinished Athenaeum portrait of George Washington. This is the image seen on the U.S. one-dollar bill still to this day for over a century. Today you can visit the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum, which is situated on 23 acres in the woods of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, on a beautiful millpond and stream! The museum itself has very limited hours, so be sure to check ahead. We barely missed the museum being open!
3. Enjoy Fall Things
Rhode Island has many Fall things to do, from hayrides, corn mazes, fresh apple cider, and pumpkin patches. It’s the epitome of New England Fall. A great way to get the whole experience of Rhode Island Fall is by booking an autumn tour. Through this experience, I visited a few farms, including a dairy farm (where I sampled fresh cheese), a pumpkin farm, and an all-encompassing farm that offered hayrides, corn mazes, and the most delicious apple cider donuts! I also purchased fresh apple cider, natural maple syrup, and a variety of gourds.
If you want to know how to book this a-peel-ling Autumn tour, check out my itinerary HERE.
4. Take a Local Tour
While in Rhode Island, I had the opportunity to take two local tours. The first tour was a comprehensive Autumn tour organized by a family-owned business started by brothers who grew up in Rhode Island. Their goal is to show the best of what the state offers from a range of tours, including Autumn in New England, Discover Providence, and Rhode Island in a Day! I experienced Fall scenes through the back roads and small towns of Rhode Island. We ventured to a few local farms, two of Rhode Island’s most scenic villages, and even a hayride. One of the owners, Ted, made everyone feel welcomed to RI & like a family by the end of the trip.
Another tour was an hour-long guided walking history tour that gave me an in depth overview of Benefit Street. Not only is it super picturesquese with its brownstones, brick buildings, and colonial style houses, it is also rich in history.
Both tours are found in this itinerary that I created.
5. Engage in its Black History & Culture
Rhode Island has a DEEP rooted Black history, and some of it is dark. I should not be surprised, but I was reminded that the slavery aspect of Black history was just as much a Northeast issue as it was a Southern issue. I will go more in-depth in my “Traveling While Black & American: Rhode Island Edition” blog post.
The good part about Rhode Island is that there are more ways to learn this history. You can cover this through a historical walking tour or a visit to the historical society. You can also find Black culture by checking out one of its many Black‑owned restaurants or looking at Black Art in their art museum (which made me happy to see that there was an entire exhibit). Believe it or not, there is not a shortage of Black‑owned restaurants to try, especially in Providence. Want Haitian food? Want Southern soul food? You can find them all in Providence. However, it becomes a lot more scarce in other parts of the island.
6. Ride a Gondola
Yes! You read that correctly! Providence underwent massive renovations, including its river system to introduce the gondolas to bring more tourism. Considering there is a huge Italian population, it makes perfect sense. This is definitely the most unique way to explore Rhode Island. Your photos will have people do a double-take that you are in Venice.
You can enjoy an authentic Venetian experience in the heart of Providence along the Providence and Woonasquatucket rivers and see the sights from a different perspective with La Gondola. If you want to check out this experience, make sure to visit Providence from May to November.
From the moment you arrive, you are warmly greeted
Our gondolier not only sang but gave us a great history of RI and held a good convo.
It is truly a romantic experience and a great way to experience RI.
Book in advance: Time slots especially for the sunset with musicians sell out.
Leave yourself time to find a meeting location: I gave myself a 15-minute buffer which luckily I did because I definitely got lost. It is not in an obvious location.
Go all out: You can book it with roses decorated on the gondola. You can also book it with a musician.
Bring wine: They have glasses and ice set up for you. We just needed to bring the wine, which we got from a local vineyard the day before.
7. Explore a charming, quaint village or town
There is more to Rhode Island than Newport (and Providence). I REPEAT. Go BEYOND these two major cities. The true gems of Rhode Island are in its villages and towns. Rhode Island may be the smallest state, BUT it has many hidden gems to offer in its villages and towns: colonial architecture, small boutiques, rich ice cream, the list goes on!
Rhode Island has eight cities, 31 towns, and over 400 villages. WHOA!!!
While most tourists find themselves in Rhode Island on the way to somewhere else, this tiny state is worth a visit of its own. Locals at a restaurant were surprised we came from NYC to visit there!
Here are some hidden gem villages to check out in Rhode Island:
💎 Exeter: local farms
💎 Wakefield: cute boutiques & an amazing bakery
💎 Wickford Village: cute colonial-style houses
💎 East Greenwich: Johnny Cakes & delish ice cream
💎 Johnston: vineyards
8. Spend a Day in Federal Hill
Did you know that nearly one in five Rhode Islanders (18.9%) claim Italian ancestry? That makes Rhode Island the most Italian state in the country. Most are concentrated in the north of Johnston, Cranston, and Providence.
𝗛𝗜𝗦𝗧𝗢𝗥𝗬: Many Italians left Europe because of poor economic conditions, and Rhode Island was attractive because of the need for inexpensive labor in the textile mills. The Italians hoped for a better life for themselves and their families in Rhode Island.
🇮🇹 36.7% of North Providence residents say they had Italian ancestors.
🇮🇹 Johnston, R.I., the most Italian municipality in the United States, has 46.7% of its population claiming Italian ancestry
In Providence, most are concentrated in the Federal Hill section of Providence. What does that mean? Delicious, authentic Italian food. You may be lucky to catch a festival while there! Here are some ways below to experience Italian culture while visiting Providence:
Visit Federal Hill along Atwells Avenue— it feels like Little Italy, NYC!
Order a meatball parm from one of the markets and decide which is best!
Enjoy Italian pastries like cannolis and rainbow cookies from one of the bakeries or outdoor cafes.
Attend the Columbus Day festival.
I decided to travel to RI in early October to attend this festival. I wanted to experience a local event and enjoy Italian food (one of my fave) & it did not disappoint! This was indeed a festival celebrating Italian culture: food, games, musical performances, dancing.
9. Get Your Rhode Island Itinerary
Looking to go to Rhode Island? Check out my 15 page itinerary that contains:
Transportation: to get to location + while there
Links and contacts to all excursions & guides
Main attractions + hidden gems
Distance one location to next, organized to maximize time
Black-owned and/or local spots
Travel planner organizer for you to take your own notes