Providence: An Artistic, Family-Friendly Getaway

providence rhode island view from gondola

Want to get away without too much travel? Perfect for a vacation that doesn’t veer rural or take you too far from home, Providence, Rhode Island is a beautiful spot brimming with culture, art, culinary experiences, and more. Even better, it’s just a quick AmTrak away from Penn Station.

Omni Providence Hotel, a luxurious spot, is just the home base for your trip, within easy walking distance of downtown and everything worth seeing. Providence has maintained a wealth of history in its well-preserved streets and buildings, as well as numerous beautiful bridges. Walk alongside a river or ride beneath in a gondola—the company owner learned the proper methods from a real Venetian gondolier—or take the Providence River Boat Tour to learn more about the city’s history.

Providence is home to both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, which only aids with building preservation. Plus, that means you and the fam can pop into the surprisingly expansive and incredibly diverse RISD Museum to see everything from RISD student work to Egyptian art to Impressionist paintings. The museum is big enough to take a whole day to really explore. Plus, admission is free on Sundays!

PVD Fest. Photo by Renee-Rosensteel.

But the city is far more than museums and schools; it has a wealth of shopping and events, as well as some incredible food. Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts is nearby, and numerous students graduate and stick around in Providence to start innovative restaurants. The city is brimming with delicious eats: Stop by North for family-style Asian fusion that takes that genre far beyond what you might imagine (picky eaters beware). Kids will definitely love one of the numerous Italian restaurants in the city: Rosalina is an outrageously delicious spot, and cocktails aside, the pizette frite appetizer is a definite crowd-pleaser and the pasta is to die for. Providence is even home to one of the few Uyghur restaurants in the world, Jahunger, which derives its cuisine from a small ethnic group in China called the Uyghur who combine Chinese and Muslim cuisine for a unique culinary experience.

If you’re still hungry for dessert (duh), Sin offers delectable desserts by day and a sinful cocktail bar and dessert shop by night where you can either build your own cocktail off a checklist or pick from a list. During the day, be sure to grab coffee milk from any local coffee shop. (Tip: Coffee milk is all the rage in Providence and it’s super delicious. The likelihood is high you’ll be taking a coffee syrup bottle home to remake it for the kids).

Wandering downtown between meals? The Arcade is a great stop for any kid, whether they want to explore a Lovecraft-themed bookstore or vintage shops and more. You could also walk over to the Providence Flea, a fun outdoor market that features local artisanal goods: Pick up a book from locally-owned Riffraff Bookstore & Bar, grab some handcrafted jewelry, try a new soap, candle, or tea, or haggle over vintage desks, trinkets, and more.

Providence doesn’t sleep in the summer. If you hop up, there’s sure to be something going on, whether it’s numerous activities for Pride Weekend (the liberal town goes all out) or it’s PVD Fest. PVD Fest is a multi-day art and culture festival that takes up the entire town and brings in visitors from outside areas. The streets are lined with vendors and the eclectic ERB Band is only a small part of a wonderful, curated parade unlike any others you’ll see in New York City that highlights not just local businesses but the diverse ethnic groups in the city as well. Providence has a large Portuguese population, and as such, a lot of the fest’s dancing revolves around bachata. Check out glass-blowing, see performers do acrobats outside, check out musical performances, and far more—and best of all, PVD Fest is free.

During PVD Fest and several other weekends in the summer, Providence also hosts WaterFire, a grand event where, upon sunset, volunteers on boats light bundles of wood (placed strategically on the Providence River, notably so in the basin area) for a stunning reflective display.


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