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.
THINGS TO DO
Walk the Historic Streets
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.
Shopping at Providence Place Mall
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.
Explore an Authentic Little Italy on Federal Hill
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.
Rhode Island School of Design Museum
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 of the freshest work of American artists from the risd works
store at 20 North Main Street. This is a hybrid of retail store, gallery, and design showroom showing work by RISD alumni and faculty.
Wander the Lanes of a Victorian Park and Zoo
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.
Go Ice Skating in the Heart of Downtown
Smack in the heart of downtown Providence, in the shadow of City Hall and the Biltmore Hotel, is Kennedy Plaza and the Alex and Ani 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.
Unwind at the Spa
Vacation is the time to try some new luxuries. If you are sore from walking the hills of the East Side (or not), take time for a luxurious spa getaway. The Spa at the Providence Biltmore
offers services tailored to every potential spa customer, even men who have been introduced to the power of pampering. Also, the G Salon & Spa
at the Providence Marriott Downtown Offers extensive experience in hair care and esthetics.
Performance Art from Broadway Shows to Ballet and Symphony
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.
Night Life at Art Galleries and Clubs
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
, The Met
, The Spot Underground
, and Point Street Dueling Pianos
Ellie's Bakery on Washington 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.
The Elmwood Diner is a wicked good New England diner with all the traditional virtues, along with vegetarian and healthy foods. Everything Elmwood serves is made from scratch. This diner is not in the heart of downtown -- you have to trek by car a short distance, out to the Roger Williams Park area.
AS220 Food 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.
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. Among the tops is Mediterraneo on Atwells Avenue. Décor is like a trendy Soho café and the place is packed with people enjoying lobster ravioli, fusilli alla vodka, and perfect gnocchi.
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.