Top experiences in Providence
Providence is known for its cannoli and notorious for its corruption, but there’s a third “C” that trumps both for travelers: culture. The city’s 20.5 square miles of often winding and cobblestone streets boast some of the nation’s finest museums, academic institutions, architecture, and restaurants. Without the imposition of looming skyscrapers, the city’s evolution is visible from the top of its seven hills. Descending from Colonial clapboards, narrow brick alleys open to the industrial riverfront and pour into contemporary Downcity, complete with a river re-routed for weekly WaterFire festivals featuring glowing gondolas and street performances in the summer.
Some of the city’s most unique attributes are testaments to its evolving culture. The Colonial heritage of freedom is traced by the city’s Independence Trail, a walking loop that includes the nation’s first Baptist Church and the East Side custom houses reminiscent of Providence’s heritage as a bustling port city. Roger William’s Park and Zoo, an oasis of green on the outskirts of Providence, pays homage to the man who imbued the city with a zeal for freedom, further captured by the Independent Man perched on the peak of the State House. A century later, Providence played a central role in the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Foundry buildings that once churned out textiles, tools, and metal plating, now host micro-lofts and start-ups.
Even without a car, Providence is accessible and foot-friendly. Pedestrian malls once lined with turn of the 20th century department stores have resurged as walkable districts dotted by boutiques and cafes. In fact, the resurrection of the city’s main streets (and rivers) has been the focus of its recent renaissance. Restaurants remain the anchor of many Providence neighborhoods, featuring the cuisines of historic immigrant waves and recent Johnson & Wales grads alike. From Federal Hill, a mecca of Italian food, to the New American style of chic downtown bistros, the food could lure any hungry traveler to Rhode Island’s capital.
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