Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States of America, tucked between Massachusetts and Connecticut in New England. Nonetheless, it has over 400 mi (640 km) of coastline, courtesy of Narragansett Bay and islands such as Aquidneck Island, home to Newport, the "City by the Sea".
There are five counties in Rhode Island:
|Bristol County |
|Kent County |
|Newport County |
|Providence County |
|South County (Washington County)|
Rhode Island's summer region, full of small communities on and near the beach
There are 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. Some of the major ones are:
- 1 Providence – The state capital, largest city and main commercial center. Home to Brown University.
- 2 Central Falls – Spanning merely one square mile, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States.
- 3 East Greenwich – Founded in 1677, its historic district along Main Street features charming shops, excellent restaurants, and a community theater.
- 4 Narragansett – Best beaches in New England.
- 5 Newport – on Aquidneck Island. Once the darling city of the American elite, it is famous for yachting, mansions, and jazz.
- 6 Pawtucket – Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution
- 7 South Kingstown, including the villages of Kingston, West Kingston, Matunuck, Peacedale and Wakefield.
- 8 Warwick – home of TF Green Airport, a shopping mall, and "Gaspee Days," it is an easy (and less expensive) place to land from your flight, and rent a hotel room and car.
- 9 Woonsocket – Once known as "Little Quebec", it has the largest French-speaking population in Rhode Island. Today, French is rarely heard: it has been replaced by English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
- 1 Block Island – Island off southern coast of RI. This island packs great scenery and great beaches into a small, walkable and bikable area.
- 2 Roger Williams National Memorial, Providence — Commemorates one of the founders of the Colony of Rhode Island, an advocate for religious freedom.
- 3 Touro Synagogue National Historic Site, Newport — The oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America, dating to the colonial era.
The state's historic full name, as established by the Royal Charter granted by King Charles II in 1663, was "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." However, due to the connotation of plantation with slavery, the official name of the state has been shortened to "Rhode Island" in 2020 after a referendum. Despite east coast urban sprawl, there is still both gently-developed oceanside territory and farmland here. The origin of the name (pronounced "road island") is debatable. It is either derived from the name Roode Eylandt given to it by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, because of its red clay, or because Block Island reminded the Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazano of the Greek Island of Rhodes, and subsequent explorers became confused and renamed Aquidneck Island 'Rhode Island.' The state's population is just over a million, so even though it is the smallest state in the U.S., it is ranked 43rd in population and second in population density after New Jersey.
Rhode Island is nicknamed "the Ocean State," and though many other states have more coastline, few are shaped more by the sea. Every Rhode Islander lives within a 30-minute drive of either the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay, New England's largest estuary, and the state's most densely populated areas are closer to the water. Fresh seafood can be found on restaurant menus throughout the state—calamari is the official state appetizer—and nearly all Rhode Islanders have a favorite beach; if you're around in the summer, ask a local for recommendations.
You should pack clothes for all weather since the weather changes very drastically day to day. You should bring warm clothes for cold days, lighter clothes for hot days, and a rain jacket and boots, which can happen at any time. In such a small state, there naturally isn't much temperature variation, but typically the coastal areas are a bit more moderate—cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter—than inland. Though Rhode Island can get very cold, the state, particularly along the coast, is one of the warmest spots in New England during the winter.
Many Rhode Islanders talk with a distinctly eastern-New-England accent, similar to Boston's famous broad a and dropped r. Natives also have a habit of adding r to the end of a word. For example, some people may say idear instead of idea. Your chances of encountering this accent increase the closer you get to Providence. Some words you might hear while visiting: "bubbler" (water fountain), "grinder" (submarine sandwich), and "cabinet" (milkshake).
Rhode Islanders will affectionately complain that if they have to drive anywhere and it takes longer than a half hour, then it is too far. A popular bumper sticker features an anchor and the words "I never leave Rhode Island."
Natives also have names for certain landmarks, sometimes with a historical aspect with it. For instance, the Henderson Bridge, which is a mini-freeway/bridge in the Providence area, is affectionately known as the "little red bridge" because before the present bridge was built, a red wooden bridge stood there. Central Falls and East Providence will be known, especially in newspapers, as CF and EP respectively. Barrington will sometimes be called Borington because there used to be no liquor stores there (it was prohibited by a town ordinance, although this changed in 2012).
Rhode Island's local pastime is politics, which can get very emotional here. Rhode Island has the only surviving parliamentary democracy in the US. Combine that with an "everybody knows everybody" state of mind and you've got Rhode Island politics in a nutshell.
- Theodore Francis Green State Airport (PVD IATA), Warwick (central Rhode Island). T.F. Green is serviced by many major US airlines, either non-stop or from a spoke. From Canada, Green offers service to Toronto Airport. It is a smaller, easy airport with many airline carrier options. It is the most convenient airport when spending time in Rhode Island. In Terminals C & E, all rental car companies have direct line telephone boards connecting to the local facility and their worldwide reservation centers. Each rental car company has complimentary shuttle buses that transport passengers to/from the terminal and the rental car facility.
- Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS IATA) is much larger and is generally used for international flights.
- Amtrak (From the south), ☏ , has three Rhode Island train stations - Providence (PVD) (downtown), Kingston (KIN) (located in the town of South Kingstown, close to the University of Rhode Island and the beaches of Narragansett), and Westerly (WLY), (the westernmost town in Rhode Island, along the Connecticut border). Providence is also on Amtrak's Acela Express and Northeast Regional routes connecting Boston through the south and west to Washington and Virginia. The Acela train takes just under 3 hours to arrive at New York's Penn Station on the way to points further south. From Boston, it is more economical to take the MBTA commuter rail.
- MBTA (From Boston), +1 617-222-5000, travels from Boston’s South Station via the T's Attleboro/Stoughton commuter rail line to the Providence AMTRAK station (100 Gaspee St.). Trains run 7 days/week. The Warwick Intermodal Station provides commuter rail/train service from T.F. Green Airport through Providence and up to Boston.
Although you can travel from the top to the bottom of the state in about an hour, car is probably the simplest mode of transportation since there is no elaborate public transportation system in the state other than bus lines. Rental cars are available Downcity in Providence, at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, and other places around the state.
Local custom often overrules traditional driving right-of-way laws at intersections. Drive defensively, and be aware of the locals' casual disregard for turn signals, stop signs and red lights.
Many state highways, especially in urban areas, are marked extremely poorly, and some are not marked at all. Because you're in New England, there's no real street grid to speak of. It is best to have a map or a GPS handy.
- Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA), +1 401-781-9400. Services 38 of RI's 39 cities and towns with a central hub in Providence at Kennedy Plaza. RIPTA operates public transit 7 days a week with a program called RIde specifically for senior citizens and the disabled. They provide 27 sites for Park n’ Ride service throughout the state and special seasonal routes to the southern beaches for $2. On Air Quality Alert Days, they offer free services to everywhere except the beach. On an average day $2.00 will get you from one end of the state to the other, and if you need a transfer, it's $.50.
- RIPTA also runs a seasonal ferry from Providence to Newport (mid-May to mid-October), while a separate company, Block Island Ferry, runs ferries to Block Island.
- Amtrak runs trains through the state, stopping in Providence, West Kingston (a village of South Kingstown a few miles from the University of Rhode Island), and Westerly.
If you're in Providence, you may want to forgo a car and walk. There is no on-street overnight parking in the city (although this is changing for some neighborhoods under a pilot program). Federal Hill, Downcity, and most of the East Side are quite walkable, and a number of bus routes serve the area. Use common sense when walking alone or at night, as you should in any city.
Rhode Island is home to many miles of bike paths. Maps are available through local bike shops and the RI Department of Transportation.
- Bellevue Avenue Historic District, Newport. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, some of America's wealthiest families built ostentatious summer homes along the Newport waterfront. Today seven of these jaw-dropping American palaces, winkingly known both then and now as "cottages," are National Historic Landmarks, and 11 are open to the public for tours.
- Bowen’s Wharf Christmas Tree Lighting in Newport.
- Bright Night Providence - Dec 31. Providence. Features hundreds of the best local sings, actors, dancers, acrobats, musicians, magicians and clowns.
- Bristol 4th of July Parade, Bristol The oldest Independence Day celebration in the country, the parade attracts marching bands from all across the nation.
- International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino in Newport. Features the only professional tennis events played on grass in North America and the largest collection of tennis memorabilia in the world.
- Jamestown Penguin Plunge - Jan 1. Jamestown. Hundreds of tuxedo-clad swimmers take the frozen plunge into the water to raise money for charity.
- Beavertail Lighhouse Museum, Jamestown. This museum at the southern tip of Jamestown features a collection of information and artifacts about the third-oldest lighthouse in North America. The lighthouse has panoramic views of Narragansett Bay.
- Jamestown Museum, Jamestown. The Jamestown Historical Society's Museum on Narragansett Avenue was built in 1886 as the town's one-room schoolhouse. Open seasonally with changing displays.
- Jamestown Windmill, Jamestown. Located on North Road with views of the Newport Pell Bridge, the original 1787 framework of the mill is of hand-hewn chestnut timbers with shingled exterior. The mill is maintained in working condition. Grounds open year round, tours in summer.
- Conanicut Battery, Jamestown. Located off of Battery Lane in the southern section of the island, the earthen fort was built in 1776. During their four-year occupation of Newport, the British rebuilt the earthworks in the shape seen today.
- Fort Wetherill State Park, Jamestown. Situated on 100 foot high granite cliffs this former coastal defense battery and training camp is known for its spectacular view of Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. Family and group picnicking, boating, fishing, and hiking.
- Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket - The exhibits recreate the unique Woonsocket labor story of the rise of the Independent Textile Union which grew to dominate every aspect of city life.
- Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. The zoo features a park, a dinosaur exhibit, and blends history and culture with the animals each area.
- Six vineyards and wineries - which allow for scheduled tours and tastings. Includes Diamond Hill Vineyards, who offers custom labels for their wines.
- St. Patrick’s Day Parade - Newport, is the place to be for St. Patrick’s Day.
- WaterFire in Providence. A piece of environmental art, it consists of up to 100 bonfires which float on the rivers which flow through the city accompanied by ambient music.
- Seabee Museum and Memorial Park in North Kingstown. Located on the site of the Original Home of the US Navy Seabees, the collections include the largest known display of historic Quonset Huts, military equipment and memorabilia, the world's largest all-concrete chapel and largest Seabee statue.
Rhode Island is a small state offering a wide array of activities. The coast is one of the best kept secrets of the east. Rhode Island has a great deal of culture with Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute. The region has a distinct dialect and you might need to have some words repeated or explained. There are four distinct seasons, with great variability in temperature. The Atlantic coast allows for many outdoor adventure activities such as spending time at the beach, chasing lighthouses and experiencing good food and music venues.
- Autumnfest Held every Columbus Day Weekend (October) in Woonsocket, this 5-mapleleaf festival in one of New England's "Little Canadas" attracts a varied crowd of locals and out-of-towners.
- Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre in Woonsocket. Renowned for its acoustics, intimacy, and decor, Stadium Theatre has been a center for performing arts since 1926. Though it stopped operating in the 1970s, a grassroots project and strong business support in the 1990s raised over 3 million dollars for restoration. It has been operating ever since.
- Newport Folk Festival - The first place where Bob Dylan played electric. Part of the Festival Network.
- Newport Jazz Festival - Held every August in Newport, this festival attracts some of the biggest names in jazz. Founded in 1954, it was the first outdoor music festival devoted to jazz and is now internationally known. Highly recommended for any music lover.
- Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. A multipurpose facility with approximately 100,000 square feet available for almost any event, from dog shows to trade shows. Services include space rental, catering, parking, A/V, exhibitor services, business center and weddings.
- Providence Place Mall in downtown Providence, Rhode Island’s premier shopping center. With 3 levels of shopping and restaurants and another level devoted to entertainment, visitors can spend the whole day without visiting the same place twice.
- Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence “The Dunk” is the home of the Providence Bruins and Providence College Friars and is host to several different attractions including Stars on Ice, Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, and boxing matches featuring “Contender” finalist Peter Manfredo Jr.
- Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, McCoy Stadium is a popular summer site for families looking for an inexpensive night of fun.
- The Ryan Center in South Kingstown, University of Rhode Island sports, concerts and events.
- Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence. A world-class facility hosting first-class Broadway touring shows, plays, contemporary acts, concerts, etc.
- Rustic Tri-View Drive-In in North Smithfield. Seasonal outdoor movies just like the good old days! One of the last surviving drive-in theatres in the United States, it still brings in quite the crowd every summer.
- Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket. A museum complex displaying interpretation of the American industrial heritage.
- Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland. Continuing Blackstone River Valley folk traditions.
- Blackstone Valley Polar Express in Cumberland. A live story presentation of “The Polar Express,” based on the children’s book by noted Rhode Island author Chris van Allsburg.
- Christmas at the Newport Mansions and Newport Winter Festival in Newport.
- Block Island late-night Christmas Shopping - Dec 20.
- Mardi Gras Ball in Cranston. New England’s only authentic Louisiana Mardi Gras celebration.
- Golfing –There are over 50 golf courses in Rhode Island, including some oceanfront and PGA courses.
- Newport Cliff Walk - enjoy the three miles of ocean view and the grandeur of some of the finest mansions in the US. There is no entrance fee and it is open 365 day a year.
- Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence.
- Blackstone River Bikeway in Cumberland. 17.1 mile long scenic bike-path that runs along the Blackstone River. Scheduled to link to the East Bay Bikepath.
- Scituate Arts Festival in Scituate, Rhode Island. Held on Columbus Day Weekend every October. 400 plus painters, artists, and craftsmen sell their wares in the scenic historical New England village of North Scituate. One of the largest and oldest art festivals in the country, the 3-day weekend art festival of paintings, antiques, arts and crafts, music, and food can draw over 200,000 people during the three days.
- [formerly dead link] RI State Pagan Pride Day. Held every summer typically in Johnston's War Memorial Park. This is a state wide festival that is intended to raise awareness and information about the various pagan paths within the community, as well as for pagans to celebrate their beliefs as a community. The festival consists of over fifty vendors selling artwork, jewelry, books, herbal medicines, clothing, cooking supplies, etc. There is live music throughout the day and many food vendors available selling many autumn favorites. Other attractions include workshops on various topics such as Past Lives, the Mystical Symbolism of Tattoos, kitchen witchery and Wicca 101. The day concludes with an open ritual that anyone may join.
- Fishing. If you live in Rhode Island or are just visiting, fishing is something that you must do. Many natives have been fishing for most of their lives, and anyone who was born in Rhode Island was born to fish. Rhode Island is home to some really great fishing spots. Most people opt to go fishing on the shores of beaches and some go fishing in boats. People are sometimes shocked to discover that fish exist in the river that flows through the downtown area of Providence as well as the Pawtucket River. Most locals know that the best spot on the river is behind the Apex building. Two of the most common species that you can catch here are blue fish and striped bass, which have been given the nickname stripers. People can easily catch these fish on and off shore. Outsiders will find that Rhode Island is home to a very big fishing community.
There are many different types of culinary venues available: from diners, to theme-based establishments, to the most formal dining. The College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University provide a steady stream of well-trained chefs to the area.
- Providence's Federal Hill district lives up to its heritage with some outstanding Italian restaurants, but there is great Italian cuisine throughout the state. If you happen to be in the area on St. Joseph's Day (March 19th), pop into an Italian bakery and join the locals eating zeppoli, a heavenly sort of cream puff.
- Unique Clam Cuisine can be found at "clam shacks" along RI's beaches, especially in South County. Chowder (sometimes pronounced and spelled "chowda," in deference to the local dialect), is much debated and always delicious. The three major varieties are: traditional white (made with cream), Manhattan red (made with tomatoes), and Rhode Island clear (unsullied by either cream or tomatoes). Add quahogs (stuffed clams or "stuffies"), clam cakes (fried dough with pieces of clam in it), and a summer beer to guarantee a perfect trip to the shore, no matter what the weather.
- Coffee milk is the official drink of RI and can be ordered in most local restaurants. It is sweet like chocolate milk and very nearly tastes like coffee.
- Del's Lemonade. A state-wide phenomenon; when coffee milk was named the state drink, a large and vocal minority complained that it should have been Del's. Once delivered only in small "ice cream truck" style vehicles, it is now available in more than 25 fixed locations and in six flavors besides the original lemon. Get some.
Rhode Island is home to quite a few great bars, a few brewpubs, a couple of vineyards, and one or two breweries.
Rhode Island law specifies that beer and wine are only sold at liquor stores, not supermarkets or convenience stores, but liquor stores are open on Sundays.
RI is generally safe in most neighborhoods you would intentionally go to. The most dangerous part is probably driving, as the locals are prone to run red lights, shift lanes with no warning and turn out of parking lots with little regard to oncoming traffic. Locals are also known to run through stop signs. Many accidents are the results of not signaling properly when changing lanes and running through red lights and stop signs.
Providence is relatively safe, but be careful while walking around the capital city at night. Areas in which to exercise caution, unless you know where you are going, are Camp Street on the East Side, South Providence, and the Olneyville section of Providence. Broad Street and Elmwood Avenue on the South Side of Providence are also areas in which to exercise caution.
While swimming in the ocean, be careful of the undertow. Make sure you feel confident before you venture out.
Rhode Island is one of the most gay-friendly states in the U.S., with scores of bars and entertainment venues in Providence, and a visible "out" community in smaller towns and villages.
Every year around June, Providence holds their Gay Pride Festival downtown. Many people throughout the city attend the festival. Things rarely happen that negatively impact the festival (other than the weather) because Providence is, for the most part, a pretty open minded place. The festival holds many attractions for many people. There are tons of different stalls to see and to buy from on the day of the festival.
- Massachusetts - The birthplace of America's revolution, the state's northern neighbor is home to historical towns, the vacation hotspot of Cape Cod, and the always-interesting city of Boston.
- Connecticut - Rhode Island's western neighbor is home to Yale University, Mystic Seaport, the restaurant and nightlife scene in downtown New Haven, the Maritime Aquarium, and two major Native American casinos.