Things to Do in Providence, Rhode Island

by  ShermansTravel Editorial Staff | Updated on Mar 12, 2021
Chef Champe Speidel at Persimmon
Chef Champe Speidel at Persimmon

Providence, Rhode Island is one of our favorite American cities. As the grit leftover from the '70s and '80s gives way to trendy shops and restaurants, the city has evolved into an East Coast gem. Plus, it’s an easy getaway – or even a day trip – from Boston or New York. Here's what to see and do there.

What to Do

One of the best things about Providence is that nature is right at your fingertips. From breezy bike trails to farms and gardens to state parks, outdoor adventures (and activities) are endless. One of our favorites? A day on the water with the Providence Kayak Company, located just minutes from downtown. 

Unsurprisingly, one of the best places to get a sense of the city’s wide range of creative talent is at one of the many museums (check opening schedules online). And here, just strolling the streets (like Hope Street or Westminster Street) provides hours of ways to soak in the culture--and street art covers Providence, particularly in downcity. And don't miss the exploring the outdoor markets and art classes.

Where to Shop 

What’s a weekend trip without some shopping? Start your browsing at Arcade Providence, which was founded in 1828 and was the first indoor mall in the United States. For accessories and home goods, try Lore Collection, which is helmed by two RISD grads.

There are also some surprisingly diverse vintage clothing options, particularly on the west side of town, where you can find everything from dresses, to jewelry, to cowboy hats, and other Southwestern goods. And be sure to pick up a Providence vintage guide that maps out related stores and pop-ups.

If you’re short on time, Downcity’s main drag, Westminster Street, is always a good bet. The street exudes charm, with fairy lights hung by the historic buildings. We love Craftland, which features handmade objects, including stationery and home goods. Just off the street, Cellar Stories bookstore is a haven for fans in search of sci-fi, rare, and vintage books.

Where to Eat 

Have Dinner at Persimmon


This brainchild of James Beard semifinalist Champe Speidel and his wife Lisa relocated from its more provincial home in the town of Bristol to a spot on Providence’s East Side. The modern American fare served here is as lovely to look at as it is to eat. Despite the careful presentation, though, dishes are far from pretentious. Think beignets stuffed with seasonal greens, and seared scallops with lemon-brown butter sauce. 

Have Lunch at Massimo


If you’re looking for a laid-back lunch in stylish digs, Massimo is your place. This Italian restaurant gives classic dishes a contemporary, indulgent lift in an environment that exudes 1950s chic. Standouts include burrata ravioli and short rib gnocchi. If you have room, finish with a piece of flourless chocolate torte with gelato. 

Outdoor dining is incredible in Providence; don't miss a lunch stop at one of the many clam shacks--a favorite among locals and visitors. 

Head to Newport… by Ferry

Ferry service connecting Providence and Newport means that you can hop between destinations with ease. The 55-minute trip gives you a simple – and scenic – way to get out on the water this summer, and lets you avoid local traffic. You can catch the ferry three times daily in either direction. You can buy tickets in advance online – $11 each way for adults and $5.50 for kids – and there are even complimentary shuttle buses connecting the ferry terminal to the Providence train station, downtown, and the convention center.

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