That’s it, I’m just gonna say it: Providence is the most underrated city in America.
Big claim, I know, but if you haven’t been to Providence then you need to take a look for yourself.
Last weekend, I was invited by GoProvidence to experience the city’s near-new festival PVDfest. I’d never visited the state of Rhode Island before (except for driving through, which of course doesn’t really count), so I jumped at the opportunity to tick the state off my list.
Strangely, I had no expectations whatsoever for Rhode Island. It’s the smallest state in the US, and even though tourism is the state’s 4th biggest industry, it doesn’t really seem to be on anyone’s road trip itineraries.
But after my visit, I’m telling you that it should be. If you’re planning on being in the New England area this summer, here’s 5 reasons to get your ass to Providence.
Where to stay in Providence:
The first time I was in Providence, I stayed in the rather fancy Renaissance Providence. This place is actually an old Masonic Temple turned hotel, so it had some really interesting history.
If this is a little too upscale for you, then I’d recommend The Dean. I took a walk through this hotel and I’d definitely stay here next time I’m in Providence – the lobby is decorated creatively with a fun neon sign, and the rooms look both cozy and trendy. Definitely my kind of hotel.
1. There are festivals galore
Let’s start with PVDfest, the sole reason for my visit. This arts and culture festival is only in it’s second year, but it seems that every man and his dog in Rhode Island (and I’m not even joking about the dogs) came into town to get festive.
I didn’t expect to love PVDfest as much as I did. I mean, street festivals are always good, but this one was just so much fun. The parade was so energetic, and the streets were filled with smiles.
Another notable event is Waterfire, where rows of small bonfires are lit in the river to bring people into the downtown area. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it, but I’m planning a trip back to Providence just so that I can experience the festival. It’s honestly all anyone in Providence talks about.
2. You can spend your days relaxing on the river
The river that winds through the city center is the pride and joy of Providence (hence why they have an entire festival dedicated to it), and believe me when I tell you that spending an afternoon on the water will be the most relaxing way to see the city.
A Gondola ride from La Gondola will have you slowly drifting along with the sounds of beautifully sung Italian songs in your ears. The guys that run it actually have the first American-made Venetian gondola, and two gondolas that were constructed in Venice – one of which was used to rescue people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
You can also take a river boat cruise during the day or at sunset, which includes a narrative of the historical and architectural points of interest while you cruise along.
3. The food + drink scene is surprisingly awesome
If you’re into Al Fresco dining, boy, will you love Federal Hill. The large Italian community in Providence has ensured that you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining outdoors. This is also a great spot to stop for coffee – Vanuatu Coffee Roasters was my fave.
You can also find some great places to eat in the downtown area. The Rosendale was one of my favourite hangouts, and their slightly fancy version of pub grub was totally on point. Also, they do whiskey infused with banana, or apple and cinnamon. It might sound kind of weird, but it’s like a delicious boozy dessert.
Rooftop at the ProvidenceG immediately made me think that I was back in NYC, and their wood-fired pizzas looked fabulous. I had the pesto gnocchi. It was phenomenal.
If you’re a brunch person (and really, who isn’t) then head to Circe Restaurant. I thought that the pancakes I make at home were pretty good, but they are nothing compared to the mind-blowing buttermilk pancakes I had at Circe.
4. You don’t even need a car
As someone who has not owned a car in about 3 and a half years, I looove visiting destinations that don’t require me to have a vehicle.
Providence is a scenic 3 hour train trip from NYC. The train station is situated just 5 minutes walk to where I stayed at the Renaissance Providence hotel, and about 10 minutes walk to downtown. Once you’re standing in the city center, your can walk to basically anywhere of interest in less than 20 minutes.
Walking the city will also allow you to see a ton of beautiful buildings, walk over bridges that cross the pretty river, and stop to enter the vintage stores and boutique shops scattered about the streets.
5. It’s super Instagrammable
I can usually expect to get a fair few Instagram-worthy photos on my travels, but I had no idea that Providence would provide a ton of amazing spots to go photo crazy.
The murals in downtown were awesomely impressive, the iconic marble dome of the State House always stood above the city to be captured in photos, and the colonial buildings that lined Benefit Street looked so perfectly historic.
*My trip was sponsored by GoProvidence. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience!