I-95 passes directly through Providence (exits 19 to 25). This is the major north-south artery from the New York City metro area to Boston, and points far beyond, both northward and southward. Coming from a western point, say, Hartford, in the center of Connecticut, take Route 6 into Providence. Coming from a northwesterly direction, say, Worcester, Massachusetts, Route 146 feeds into Providence. (See map.)
Providence is served the Amtrak’s Regional Route line, with trains from Baltimore, MD, to Boston. The fast Acela line travels from Washington, D.C. to Boston. (See train information. )
During the summer season, ferries shuttle between downtown Providence and the island town of Newport, RI., across Narragansett Bay.
Tie on some sensible shoes and take a walking tour of the hilly East Side neighborhood of Providence, a historic area of Georgian, Greek Revival, and Victorian architecture with the ivy-drenched campus of Brown University at the summit. The walk is packed with interesting places and vistas, including the First Baptist Church, the Providence Art Club, the Roger Williams Memorial (great view of downtown), and several historic houses.
Providence Place Mall in the heart of downtown is a beauty, with lots of name brand stores and places to dine. The “cityside” side of the Mall overlooks the city’s wonderful WaterPlace Park, a Venician-like walkway along both sides of the rivers that join together and traverse the downtown, with marvelous arched bridges that carry workers from the downtown side to the East Side. Also, Providence's "downcity" neighborhood and East Side have fun, independent shops. For instance, the Arcade on Weybosset Street was built in 1828 as a shopping center and it is laced with arty ironwork and filled with unusual shops. Major shopping streets are Wickenden, Westminster, and Thayer.
The Federal Hill neighborhood, west of downtown, is Providence's Little Italy, and many people say the food and flavor of the neighborhood is very much like the Old Country. The main artery is Atwells Avenue. People come to Federal Hill to dine or shop for ingredients to cook Italian cooking at home. The street's famous grocery is Venda Ravioli. Restaurants range from classic white linen to hipster, with hanging ferns and creative drinks.
Downtown Providence is home to the famed Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The RISD Museum, at 224 Benefit Street, features a stunning collection of art, ranging from the masters to contemporary creators. Take home a piece from the RISD alumni collection store at 30 North Main Street. This is a hybrid of retail store, gallery, and design showroom showing work by RISD alumni and faculty.
Roger Williams Park and Zoo, with its carriage roads, ponds, and fields, is a beauty all year. You can cross-country ski here (BYO equipment) or retreat indoors. The zoo animals and their caretakers welcome guests all winter. It’s a snall zoo – perfect for younger kids. At the park's Botanical Center, visitors can relax by a waterfall and enjoy flowers from around the world. Open daily except Mondays. Also, the park's Museum of Natural History & Planetarium offers nature exhibits and cool planetarium shows for adults and kids. Open daily.
Smack in the heart of downtown Providence, in the shadow of City Hall and the Biltmore Hotel, is Kennedy Plaza and the BankNewport City Center's public ice skating rink. This center provides outdoor ice skating for adults and children, rentals, and food concessions. Nice way to burn some energy in the daytime, surrounded by the city's beautiful 19th-century architectural profile. Night time skating is dreamy.
Great performances happen in Providence, but you will need to plan ahead for shows and tickets, of course. The Providence Performing Arts Center is a restored 1928 movie palace, with all the glitz of the time. PPAC hosts major Broadway shows and national entertainers. PPAC's sister venue, Veterans Memorial Auditorium ("The Vets"), hosts the Rhode Island Philharmonic and other grand music.
If you are in Providence the third Thursday evening of the month (March through November), jump on a free downtown trolley to visit more than 20 galleries during the city's Gallery Night. Do you like live music up close? The city has a variety of night clubs for many different tastes. A few you might check out (online first, to get the flavor of the place) are Fete and The Met.
Ellie’s, a Parisian eatery at 225 Weybosset Street, smack in the heart of downtown. Breakfast egg sandwich comes with house-cured bacon; three types of homemade bread for lunch sandwiches (to go); award-winning French macaroons in many flavors.
Small Point Cafe , 230 Westminster Street. A cozy quirky cafe with ample seating, pleasant and not-too-loud music, cherry plants, People love the bread, breakfast sandwiches. Gluten-free is available. Make way for the cat face in cinnamon on the latte!
AS220 Foo(d) on Empire Street in the downtown is part of the AS220 off-the-radar art community. Adjacent tone AS220 gallery, this is, indeed, a really good restaurant with a hippie sensibility. Vegetarian dishes and menus that include mac & cheese, fritters, tofu coconut curry soup.
Rosalina is a wonderful Italian restaurant on Aborn Street in the arty downcity district. People rave over the authentic Italian eggplant and tomato sauce along with the Pappardelle Bolognese and other Italian favorites. Monday- Friday happy hour includes $1 Matunuck oysters.
Federal Hill is Providence's Little Italy, and you cannot walk down the street without falling over great Italians. Trattoria Zooma on Atwells Avenue serves classic Neapolitan dishes made to order and pastas made daily by hand. Cassarino's on Atwells Avenue serves authentic Italian cuisine in warm, friendly surroundings that evoke the beauty of rural Italy.
Al Forno , on South Main Street, is legendary for having inventing (so they say) the grilled pizza. One fan simply calls this standout Providence restaurant "the mothership" of Providence dining. People rave about the calamari pizza, the avocado beet salad, dirty steak, and the beef short rib ravioli.