Providence, capital of Rhode Island, is one of New England’s largest cities and among the nation’s first. Covering nearly 20 miles of land, the city is located on the Providence River and has evolved from a maritime capital to a manufacturing stronghold, with a cultural scene that includes fine arts and culinary up-and-comers. Founded in 1636 and recognized as Rhode Island’s first permanent settlement, Providence also abounds with historic landmarks and monuments, and is well-known as the home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Exploring Providence neighborhoods on foot is an ideal way to get a feel for the city’s distinct history and culture. On the city’s East Side are six Providence neighborhoods, with the best-known being College Hill, the location of both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Primarily residential, this area’s beauty includes fine examples of Colonial, Federal and Victorian architectural styles. Among them is the first and oldest Baptist church in America. Established in 1638 by Roger Williams, the church building was completed in 1775 and combines English Georgian and traditional New England meetinghouse styles. Other Providence attractions in this area include the Old State House and Prospect Terrace Park, which offers a fabulous city view from the hill. Thayer Street, well-known for its lively energy and an array of independent boutiques and restaurants, runs parallel to Providence River and is popular with college crowds.
Located on the border of downtown and Smith Hill is Rhode Island’s State House, a neoclassical structure that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Close by, downtown-area shoppers are drawn to Providence Place Mall where they find a range of mid-to-upscale department stores. Across the street is Riverwalk and Waterplace Park, a scenic and popular focal point for sight-seeing as well as for activities such as art festivals, the city’s Summer Concert Series, and WaterFire, a regularly scheduled fire-and-light display that draws a crowd to celebrate the city’s successful urban revitalization.
Providence enjoys its reputation as a leading culinary destination in New England, with Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts, one of the leading institutions of its kind, located in the city. Upscale restaurants, clustered in the East Side and Downtown along the waterfront, emphasize smart interior design and fresh, regionally sourced ingredients. Visitors can also explore the fine trattorias in Federal Hill or the global touch offered at restaurants in Fox Point, an old Providence neighborhood with a strong Portuguese heritage.
Those in the mood for outdoor diversion mixed with culture can visit Roger Williams Park, a popular Providence location. Situated on the city’s South Side, the park’s more than 400 acres include park attractions such as walking paths, a vibrant botanical garden and scenic chain of freshwater ponds. Visitors can sift through minerals and plant fossils, some 350 million years old, at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, or observe African hunting dogs and kangaroos at the top-ranked Roger Williams Park Zoo.