The largest city and state capital of Rhode Island, Providence was once a city plagued by organized crime, but as undergone a recent Renaissance which has created new parks and attractions that has brought an emphasis back to its historical roots. With its downtown events, historic vistas and a hoping nightlife, this city is a worthwhile tourist destination.
WHAT TO DO
Providence is home to many well known and prestigious universities, including Brown, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Johnson and Wales University and the University of Rhode Island. The concentration of institutions of higher education make for some unique architecture, beautiful streetscapes and home to intellectual pursuits. The RISD museum can also be a great way to spend an afternoon admiring great works of art. Brown's Ivy League campus dating back to the 1700s also hosts some interesting architecture from a wide variety of time periods.
Downtown Providence is compact and can easily be navigated by foot, making many of its attractions close and easy to access. Located just west of downtown is Federal Hill, a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars and shops. The area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is known for its strong connection to Italian heritage (some compare it to New York City's Little Italy). Here you can eat a big bowl of authentic pasta and admire the old Vistorian mansions lining the streets.
If you are out and about at night in Providence you cannot miss the Waterfire, which is a show centering on 100 fires burning on three rivers that pass through the middle of downtown. The string of fires illuminates nearly two-thirds of a mile and residents and visitors gather to stroll along the river. The fires are burned from sunset to past midnight and they are cared for by black-clad performers in boats. If you want to experience something that is very relaxing while still taking in the urban life of downtown Providence, go and see Waterfire. There are no admission charges.
The Roger Williams Zoo is also a popular attraction among travelers with children. The zoo features not only animals, but also a dinosaur exhibit and park.
If you find yourself in Providence on December 31 make sure you take part in Bright Night Providence, which is an artist-run New Year’s Eve celebration featuring hundreds of the best local singers, actors, dancers, acrobats, musicians, magicians and clowns.
T.F. Green Airport (PVD) in nearby Warwick is only located about 20 mins from Providence and offers regular flights to may cities in the United States, making finding a flight to Providence both affordable and easy. Another popular option for travelers is to fly into Boston's Logan Airport (BOS) and take the new commuter rail option into Providence. Because Boston is a much larger airport with many more daily flights, finding a cheap flight to Boston may end up being your best bet.
If you are driving to the airport, arranging your airport parking at Providence in advance can save you both time and money. If you are flying in from Boston and want to drive your car, you can also pre-arrange your airport parking at Boston in advance.
WHERE TO STAY
Because of Providence's very walkable downtown, it is probably the best idea to find your hotel in Providence within close range to the downtown area. There are a variety of hotel options ranging from budget to high-end to moderately priced. There are also some charming bed and breakfasts in the Providence area, which can be a great choice for travelers looking for a more homey experience.
While you may have trouble finding a hostel in Providence, there are likely some good budget and student-friendly in options in town serving the cities youthful population.