Providence, Rhode Island, is one of New England’s best destinations with countless things to do for history buffs, art lovers, foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, and vintage shoppers. While Providence seems to fly under the radar as a travel destination, we love that it’s a mélange of so many different interests, as well as an ideal stop for those interested in slow travel and sustainable travel.
In Providence, you will surely enjoy a dynamic trip that will please all of your senses — from the flora and architecture that amaze your eyes, to the coffee milk and vegan donuts that please your palate. Enjoy this long list of things to do in Providence and we hope it inspires a relaxing, inspiring, and life-changing trip.
Historical Sites and Museums
- Book lovers will not want to miss the Providence Athenaeum. With a double-height main library space and windows, this library built in 1838 has attracted the attention of some of America’s most beloved writers, including Edgar Allan Poe in 1848.
- Wander for hours around the absolutely stunning fine art museum, RISD Museum, to admire textiles, paintings, sculptures, and other works of art mainly from Europe, Ancient Greece, Asia, and the U.S. Enjoy works from Ancient Greece, paintings by Monet, and even modern sculpture.
- Walk between the Grecian pillars into the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall, The Arcade Providence, which dates back to 1828. Now it’s a mall with a handful of restaurants and shops and micro-loft apartments on the upper two floors!
- Catch a touring Broadway show at the Providence Performing Arts Center, a mainstay in the local fine arts community since 1928.
- See an independent film at The Avon Cinema, an art deco movie theatre erected in 1938, on Thayer Street near Brown University.
- Visit the home of one of the original signers of The Declaration of Independence, Stephen Hopkins. Here at The Stephen Hopkins House, you can see a house full of antiques, rooms of those enslaved, and the bedchamber where George Washington once slept.
- Admire the beautiful brick buildings and towering trees at ivy league school Brown University, one of America’s first universities, open since the late 1700s.
- While admiring the campus of Brown University, pay a visit to the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology where you can see over 60,000 Native American objects from Haffenreffer’s family collection, as well as 150,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects from all around the world.
- Dating back to 1638, the First Baptist Church in America is a local landmark and is the oldest congregation in the United States.
- Learn about astronomy and admire antique instruments at the Ladd Observatory. While it’s not open daily, they often hold public events so locals can take a look at the stars through their professional telescopes and walk around their observation deck.
- Not far from the Rhode Island State House, the Roger Williams National Memorial is a memorial park where you can learn about Roger Williams, as well as appreciate three small gardens — a Colonial Herb Garden, Pollinator Garden, and Native American Garden.
- Fans of visiting state capitol buildings will surely want to visit the Rhode Island State House, if not only for its impressive red and white rectangle design on the grounds around the domed building, but also because it’s the fourth-largest self-supporting dome in the world.
- In the middle of Roger Williams Park, you can find Rhode Island’s only natural history museum and only public planetarium, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, which has been open to the public for over a century. Here you can learn about Oceania, Apollo 11, local wildlife in Providence, seismic activity, and more!
- If you’re short on time, or prefer a history-packed itinerary, visit Benefit Street’s Mile of History — a concentration of original Colonial homes, restored houses, churches, and museums, including The Stephen Hopkins House, John Brown House Museum, First Unitarian Church of Providence, the Superior Court, The Providence Athenaeum, and more.
Outdoor Activities and Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Providence, Rhode Island
- Roger Williams Park: A quick 15-minute drive from College Hill, Roger Williams Park contains 435 acres with 10 lakes, a Japanese garden, botanical garden, zoo, a natural history museum, eight miles of roads, and carousel village, all of which are surrounded by miles of fall foliage in peak autumn.
- College Hill: For a more urban stroll, the hills around Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design offer beautiful views just walking around the neighborhood. Benefit Street and Main Street are great places to start to admire Colonial architecture.
- Prospect Terrace: Want to see the city from above? Locals and tourists love to visit Prospect Terrace, a park up a steep hill in the College Hill neighborhood. It’s also a great place to eat outside if you’re looking for a place to picnic.
- Waterplace Park: Across the river is a beautiful mix of city and nature, where walkers can admire beautiful architecture, river views, and fall foliage in a four-acre park.
- Goddard Memorial State Park: While this park is 20 miles south of Providence, many locals love to visit during the fall as they can admire more than 60 species of trees in this 472-acre park.
- Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, & Arboretum: Across the bay from Goddard Memorial State Park, is a much more posh option to explore fall foliage. Here you can see 33 acres of manicured gardens and be in the presence of trees planted as far back as the 1870s.
- Waterfire: This award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans is a series of nearly 100 bonfires that are lit just above the surface of the water of the three rivers that go through Downtown Providence. You can see this installation between May and November, most often on weekends twice a month.
- Water Street: For beautiful views of downtown, consider taking a short walk along Water Street from Plant City all the way up to Memorial Park.
- India Point Park: Walk along the edge of the Fox Point neighborhood to see views of the Providence Harbor, Providence River, and the Washington Bridge.
- Memorial Park: In between your visits to the museums and historical sites in the area, take a breather in Memorial Park, a spacious park between Main Street and Water Street.
- Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy: Not far from Downtown Providence, nature lovers can get away to explore the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy, an 88-acre park with trees, fields, wildflowers, glacial boulders, fall foliage, views of the city, and many small woodland creatures including deer, fox, and wild turkey.
Small Shopping Destinations
- Hope Street: While it only takes five minutes to walk from one end to the other of this calm commercial shopping street, you can shop for antiques at Lazy Dog Antiquities, secondhand clothing at Act II, olive oils at Olive del Mondo, everything from reusable goods to home décor at Kreatelier, local handmade goods at Rhody Craft, and non-toxic beauty products at Evolve Apothecary and Spa.
- Fox Point: This beautiful section of town that straddles the Seekonk River and Providence River is a stellar secondhand shopping destination. Shop for used clothing, furniture, home goods, records, and so much more at Nostalgia Antiques and Collectibles Store, Benefit Street Antiques, Red Bridge Antiques, NAVA, Round Again Records, and Togs on Brook.
- Downtown Providence: Among all of the tallest buildings in the city, you can find quirky handmade goods at Craftland, what they called “weird wares” at Lovecraft Arts and Sciences in The Arcade Providence, used books at Cellar Stories Book Store, new books at Symposium Books, and a selection of vintage clothing from throughout the years supplied by multiple vendors at The Vault Collective.
- Federal Hill: See where your nose takes you in Providence’s own Little Italy. In this neighborhood, you can find many Italian restaurants and shops including grocery stores, cupcake bakeries, cafes, and fine Italian restaurants.
Vintage Shopping in Providence
- Shop ‘til you drop at The Vault Collective, a spacious vintage clothing group shop that offers clothes and accessories from the late 1800s all the way to the 1990s.
- Explore Rocket to Mars, a thoughtfully-curated vintage shop that offers clothing, home goods, media, and more from the mid-20th century.
- Sift through textiles, antiques, jewelry, home goods, and fashion at Hall’s on Broadway right across the street from Rocket to Mars.
- Admire Americana goods, furniture, games, and true antique clothing at Old as Adam on Benefit Street.
Vegan Restaurants and Dessert in Providence
For a full vegan restaurant guide to Providence, head to our article: The Best Vegan Restaurants in Providence, Rhode Island.
- Walk around, shop, and grab a bite at the world’s first plant-based and vegan food hall, Plant City. Choose your own foodie adventure among one of four restaurants, three bars, one coffee bar, one bakery, and a marketplace.
- Order vegan versions of your favorite Chinese dishes, such as Orange Flavored Seitan, at Veggie Fun in Downtown Providence.
- Indulge in vegan ice cream in flavors, such as Cookies and Cream, Coffee, Thai Iced Tea, and Peanut Butter Oreo, at Like No Udder’s brick-and-mortar ice cream shop in Fox Point.
- Get your hands on a vegan brioche, cream-filled, or cake donut at PV Donuts.
- Take a bite out of one of By Chloe’s beloved salads, sandwiches, or baked goods for a quick and effortless lunch.
- Start the day off with a power smoothie and baked good at Wildflour.
- Head next door for a veggie-forward meal of sandwiches, pizza, and other comfort food favorites at Garden Grille.
- Enjoy a long meal with your travel companion over cocktails, or their incredible Oyster Mushroom PoBoy, at The Grange, a vegetarian bistro in Federal Hill.
- Stop by the Blush Bakeshop in Federal Hill to indulge in vegan pastries at this 100% vegan bakery!
- End the day with some vegan (and gluten-free) pretzels, dips, and beer at The Malted Barley.
Coffee Shops, Tea Shops, and Juice Bars
- Head to Dave’s Coffee to order a vegan version of Rhode Island’s official state drink, coffee milk.
- Support a black-owned, woman-owned business while enjoying a juice, smoothie, or acai bowl at The Glow Cafe & Juice Bar.
- Drink an espresso or buy coffee from the bulk section at Coffee Exchange.
- Pair a coffee drink with a flourless or vegan donut at Knead Doughnuts.
- Grab a nitro cold-brew or a single-origin hot coffee drink paired with a vegan light bite at The Shop.
- Sip on traditional Moroccan drinks and taste veggie-forward small plates at Tea in Sahara.
- Choose from a list of specialty drinks and vegan options at Malachi’s, and sit surrounded by colorful tile and wallpaper, or outside their blue and orange shop.
The list of things to do in Providence are surely never-ending, but we hope this list of recommendations inspires a visit for whenever you feel safe. We hope you love Providence as much as we do.
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