What to do in Providence

Rhode Island Convention Center
Rhode Island Convention Center

Rhode Island is called the Ocean State, a perfect place for a show celebrating all things aquatic. But more than our scenic coastline and pristine beaches and waterways, Rhode Island is known for its arts and cultural offerings, family-friendly fun, and some of the best dining in the nation.

The Rhode Island Convention Center (RICC) is conveniently located in the heart of Providence mere steps away from award-winning restaurants, enticing entertainment options, and so much more. The RICC is connected via skybridge to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the area’s premier multi-use entertainment events arena. It is host to various sporting events, major concerts, family shows, and trade shows. During the Providence Boat Show, experience “The Dunk” at its rip-roaring best with the 2014 Nuclear Cowboyz Freestyle Motocross tour, which is in town on Friday and Saturday nights.

At its other end, the RICC is attached to the 564-room Omni Providence (1 West Exchange Street), and Providence Place (1 Providence Place), a downtown mall filled with big-name retailers, as well as smaller shops, food and drink options and entertainment.

For attendees seeking a little culture with their commerce, you have come to the right place. With a cutting-edge culinary scene and a thriving arts community, Providence has earned the apt nickname, the Creative Capital. And for some brain power to go along with the horsepower, the city is also known as an epicenter of education. Providence is home to eight college and university campuses, including Ivy League Brown University and world-renowned art school Rhode Island School of Design.

Providence’s arts and cultural offerings are rich and varied and those seeking artistic inspiration will want to explore the RISD Museum (20 North Main Street) at the Rhode Island School of Design. The museum houses more than 91,000 works of art, ranging from Greek sculpture and French Impressionist paintings to contemporary multimedia art. There are a number of enticing attractions on display throughout the duration of the boat show, including an exhibit of Andy Warhol photographs.

Turk's Head Building
Turk’s Head Building

Additionally, Providence is also home to Johnson & Wales University, a leading culinary educator. Students and alumni can be found working in many of the city’s best restaurants, which elevates the quality of Providence’s dining experience. The city’s restaurants offer something for every taste, serving a global array of cuisines and cooking styles. Providence’s chefs are known for employing innovative techniques, while at the same time embracing the culinary traditions of the varied cultures that immigrated to the area over the centuries. The city continually garners numerous accolades for its food culture, including Travel + Leisure readers recently voting Providence one of the top dining destinations in the United States.

There are some great restaurants located just steps away from the RICC. For those looking for a quick bite at a low price, the food and ambience at Murphy’s Deli (100 Fountain Street) is a great bet. They pack their sandwiches high and serve their drinks cold, making this large Irish pub a local favorite. Beer lovers follow their taste buds to Trinity Brewhouse (186 Fountain Street). This local landmark and award-winning microbrewery has been pleasing discerning palates since 1995. Union Station Brewery (36 Exchange Terrace) is another long-standing brewery that offers a variety of styles in a casual atmosphere, with loads of exposed brick and beams. The name is a nod to the old train station that formerly occupied the spot.

Providence was recently named the top city in the country for both pizza and burgers by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine. Harry’s Burger Bar (121 North Main Street) specializes in sliders and other tasty apps while Providence Coal Fired Pizza (385 Westminster Street) promises delicious pizza and crispy chicken wings.

Sports fans who want to catch the big game can score big in Providence. With great food and drink options, the city is a real “home field advantage” for a great game-watching experience. Amici Sports Bar & Grille (242 Atwells Avenue) on Federal Hill offers a plentiful supply of pizzas, creative plates, and even sushi, making it a fun place to take in the game in the city’s Little Italy. Located directly next to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is Shula’s 347 Grill (21 Atwells Avenue), home to a multitude of high-definition televisions and, of course, great steak.

Speaking of steakhouses, Providence is home to many. The first location of The Capital Grille (1 Union Station) opened its doors in downtown Providence in 1990 and its quality has not diminished one bit. The restaurant still exudes class, comfort and top-notch cuisine. Other great steakhouses in downtown Providence include Ruth’s Chris Prime Steak House (10 Memorial Boulevard), Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (1 West Exchange Street), Providence Prime (279 Atwells Avenue) and 10 Prime Steak & Sushi (55 Pine Street).

Bundle up and slap on some skates at The Providence Rink at the Bank of America City Center (2 Kennedy Plaza). This well-loved skating plaza in downtown Providence is twice the size of New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza, so there’s plenty of room to either practice your moves or get your feet under you. Rates are reasonable (adults $6, children $3, skate rental $4) and the view of the Providence skyline is equally enjoyable. A great treat for the whole family.

Providence Rink
Providence Rink

Founded in 1636, the city of Providence is a wealth of history. Take a stroll through the Rhode Island State House (82 Smith Street) and its newly opened charter museum, commemorating the original charter that gave the state its right to self-govern 350 years ago. The Roger Williams National Memorial (284 N. Main Street) charts the progress of the city’s founding and endless evolution ever since. Beautiful Benefit Street is nearby, which features a treasure trove of well-preserved architecture.

Art lovers and architectural enthusiasts alike applaud the gorgeous Providence Performing Arts Center (220 Weybosset Street). Home to touring Broadway productions, live music concerts and more, this former movie house dates back to 1928.

Trinity Repertory Company (201 Washington Street) is a Tony Award-winning outfit that dates back to the 1960s.The company puts on seven wonderful shows a season, including the annual favorite “A Christmas Carol.” From January 30 to March 2, see the Rhode Island premier of “Intimate Apparel.”

Veterans Memorial Auditorium (1 Avenue of the Arts), originally erected in the 1920s, is regionally renowned for its acoustics and features new audience-friendly renovations. The theater is the home stage for the Rhode Island Philharmonic, local high school graduations and other live performances. On Friday, January 31, legendary tap-dancer Savion Glover graces the stage.

Capitol Building
Capitol Building

Nearby Warwick, Rhode Island offers miles of scenic coastline, as well as additional hotels, restaurants and shopping venues. T.F. Green Airport is a quick 10-minute drive from downtown Providence and was recently named the 4th best airport in the country by Travel + Leisure readers. T.F. Green’s eco-friendly InterLink hub provides passengers with an array of transportation choices. Conveniently housing a rental car facility, public transportation options, and rail service to Providence, Boston and beyond, the InterLink offers travelers ease, affordability and accessibility. Warwick is also home to bountiful shopping options ranging from large stores to specialty shops.

Historic Newport, located just 45 minutes from downtown Providence, is a lovely place to visit any time of year. The “City by the Sea” is home to gorgeous mansions from the Gilded Age, a charming seaside setting and enticing attractions. Step back in time, or seemingly into the pages of “The Great Gatsby” or “Downton Abbey,” with these well-preserved architectural treasures. See how the nation’s wealthy lived amid the splendor of these sumptuous “summer cottages.” Another notable attraction is the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, a museum dedicated to yachting and the America’s Cup. And tennis fans will “love” a visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, located on beautiful Bellevue Avenue.

Boaters are surely familiar with the beauty of Block Island. Located 13 miles south off the coast of Rhode Island (and 14 miles off the coast of Montauk Point, Long Island), Block Island is a charming destination throughout the year. This time of year, visitors appreciate the serenity and quiet of an island at rest.

Trinity Repertory Company
Trinity Repertory Company

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Blackstone Valley has emerged from its blue-collar past to become a vibrant multicultural destination. Visit Slater Mill, a museum complex dedicated to telling the story of Samuel Slater and how he helped spur the nation’s Industrial Revolution. Also in Pawtucket is the acclaimed Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre. This nonprofit theater consistently turns out provocative and entertaining live theater and this year’s schedule is no exception. Visitors in January and February can grab a seat at “The Big Table,” featuring a simple set with eight actors at one table. Delicious morsels and lessons like their shared DNA, humanity and humor spill out to a delighted crowd. Advance reservations (that’d be tickets) are recommended.