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Rhode Island is such a pretty state you’ll want to put it in your pocket and keep it. You almost can. At just 1,200 square miles it is easily our nation’s smallest and that holds true for the capital of Providence which is half the size of San Francisco—also a small city. The good news is that this New England metropolis is easily doable in three days.

You might also enjoy our guide to Boston leaf-peeping


Photo Credit: Jason A. Heidemann

Day 1: Downtown Providence
With a population hovering around 200,000 residents, the city’s inner core is a compact, walkable place and also a lively one thanks to recent civic efforts to breathe new life into downtown.

Spend a few hours wiling around the Downcity Arts District, especially along gorgeous Westminster Street where an enviable collection of funky clothing stores, trendy eateries and gourmet bakeries are a mere stone’s throw from lively bars and cultural hubs like the Providence Performing Arts Center and also gallery, cafe and theater space AS220.

While on Westminster, grab a bite at Teriyaki & Korean House, a laid-back Asian-fusion eatery and tea house that almost looks like a designer diner done with retro wood paneling and chic Asian accents. We dig the intense heat and the marvelous textures of the chopped up cephalopods that adorn the spicy squid over rice.


Photo Credit: Jason A. Heidemann

Be sure and take a stroll through the Westminster Arcade, the first enclosed shopping center in the United States and and be sure to admire its awesome Greek revival facade! Today, it’s home to about a dozen indie boutiques plus New Harvest Coffee and Spirits—fabled to be the best cup of joe in town. The arcade is also a National Historic Landmark.

For dinner treat yourself to Faust, a lively German beer hall located inside the trendy new Dean Hotel. Faust manages to make an oft misunderstood cuisine sleek and accessible. Dishes like clams paprikash or roasted mushrooms with pretzel dumplings, greens, pickled kale and poached egg are pretty great.

Afterward, retreat to the Magdalenae Room—also at the hotel—where the perfectly low-lit Art Deco sconces and velvety banquettes set the tone for intimate conversation and maybe some canoodling. Sidle up to the Lilliputian horseshoe bar and ask Richard to pour you an Amaretto in the UK and then settle in for lively barroom chatter.

Photo Credit: Jason A. Heidemann

Day 2: The East Bay Bike Path and the West End
Rise and shine with a morning jolt of java. Funky and eclectic White Electric Coffee is a short walk from downtown and if you’re able to muster enough energy to cross the river, hit up Dave’s Coffee, which is famous for the natural coffee syrup it willingly pours into any beverage upon request and also sells as a retail item.

Next, hop on a bike (ask your hotel about a rental). Providence has an enviable network of perfectly paved cycling trails that steer away from surface streets and glide mostly through pancake flat marshlands, dense forests and  picturesque New England hamlets. If you’ve got the steam, make a whole day of it by taking the East Bay Bike Path beginning outside downtown Providence to its terminus at Independence Park in Bristol—an 18-mile ride each way. Along the route, stop at Del’s Lemonade (a Rhode Island institution and worth every penny) for a quick refresher—it’s right along the path—and reward yourself with a lobster roll and shimmering waterfront views at Quito’s Restaurant.

After retiring to your hotel for a few hours to nurse your tired gams, spend the evening in the funky West Side where crumbling Victorian homes patiently await inevitable gentrification. Numerous bars and restaurants are springing up to compete for the dollars of the hipsters, artists and university professors who are snatching up apartments and homes in the area. A real standout is North, whose fusion of American and Asian cooking using primarily locally sourced ingredients includes standouts like tiny ham biscuits and hot and sour Chinese-American bok choy. Yum! Afterward, retire to the patio at kitschy, mid-century obsessed Ogie’s Trailer Park for retro cocktails in a mod space.


Photo Credit: Jason A. Heidemann

Day 3: Federal Hill and RISD
Providence is famously home to marquee schools including the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University—the latter which houses the excellent RISD Museum where you can admire not only student work, but also the works of masters like Picasso, Warhol, Monet, Lichtenstein and many others.

While you’re on this side of the Providence River, stroll the shops along Wickenden Street followed by a nosh at Tallulah’s Taqueria, where big bold-flavored tacos done street style await. If it’s Italian you’re craving done with equal parts authenticity and kitsch, head to the Little Italy part of Federal Hill and hit up city stalwart Venda Ravioli, a lively food emporium reminiscent of Mario Batali’s Eataly.

The chic, rooftop bar at G Pub puts you eye level with Providence icons like the Art Deco Industrial Trust Tower. It is here whereyou may want to end your trip—that way your time in the Ocean State goes out with a guaranteed wow.

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.

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