Any description of Rhode Island has to begin with a discussion of Providence, the state capital and largest city. Founded by Roger Williams as a haven for religious dissenters from Massachusetts, this sparkling gem of a small city feels like a much larger town, with world-renowned colleges like Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Providence College adding an academic air and a ready supplement to the city’s already strong commitment to the arts and culture. The Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial architecture that can be found throughout the many small neighborhoods add to the city’s sense of history and charm.
Providence is a city of neighborhoods. From the vibrant nightlife of Federal Hill, the thriving center of an Italian immigrant neighborhood centered on the broad byway of Atwells Avenue, to Fox Point’s eclectic shops and funky vibe, to the elegant East Side, the city’s diverse population expresses itself in myriad ways. You can get exquisite sushi on Wickenden Street in Fox Point, a great dinner in one of downtown’s many upscale restaurants, visit the intimate bars and nightclubs of the Jewelry District, and close the night with a gelato and espresso on “the Hill”.
The city center’s undergone a grand restoration in the last few decades, beginning with the rerouting of the Blackstone River through the downtown area in the late 70s. Subsequent revitalization projects brought artists and art spaces directly into the heart of “Downcity,” and Providence has effectively capitalized on the influx of creative talent to make the downtown area a thriving arts district, with performance stages, theaters, and galleries galore.
One of the not to be missed events in that area is Waterfire. A permanent installation of torches and water-mounted bonfire platforms is lit throughout the downtown waterways on the second and fourth weekend of the months from May to October, and gondoliers on authentic Venetian gondolas offer rides up and down the river while music plays and crowds gather to listen to live jazz, sample street foods, and watch the fires burn deep into the night.