Some recognize Rhode Island for such trivia as having the longest official name in the US or for being the home of the Griffins in Family Guy. I know it as one of my favorite summer vacation spots and where I go to visit family. But most of all, it’s known for one thing: being the smallest state in the union. The ability to drive across it in an hour reinforces the misconception that there can’t be enough here to make it a worthy destination in its own right. But if you look closely, the Ocean State is a traveler’s dream and a history buff’s heaven: Its natural terrain and geography provide countless outdoor activities for vacationers and adventurers alike, its restaurant offering satisfies every foodie’s curiosity, and its history of deeply-rooted dissent leaves no question that American badassery originated here. Best of all, its small size means this travel treasure trove is at your fingertips no matter where you are in the state.
Word’s gotten out on the appeal; Tourism is Rhode Island’s second largest and fastest growing industry, and summer is when this gem truly sparkles. Find out why with our favorite ways to find your adventure in the Ocean State.
Rhode Island’s relatively low and rolling topography, rocky earth and orientation around Narragansett Bay lend themselves to countless outdoor adventures with some of the best views on the east coast. Nearly every non-city road is a scenic route perfect for biking and running, winding along dense greenery and miles-long stone walls, iconic New England cottages, and rocky shoreline overlooking the bay’s islands and bridges. Natural jetties partition nearly 400 miles of coastline into varied beaches, from the calm and soft-sanded coves perfect for families, to the momentous boulder shores beaten by the Atlantic’s powerful waves for the most fearless of surfers, and everything in between. There’s no better way to get active in Rhode Island than to take advantage of this natural playground.
EAT & DRINK
With a huge population of Italian descent and easy access to the bounty of the Atlantic, Rhode Island has some of the best Italian food and seafood specialties around. Providence’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, Federal Hill, alone boasts more than 50 restaurants, bakeries and markets. But other cuisines flourish here as well, from the classic American diner (which originated here) to Portuguese food trucks to fine French dining. On top of that, having a Johnson & Wales campus in town means the city has more degreed chefs per capita than any other. This mix of cultural infusions, premier raw ingredients and skilled, creative kitchens makes Providence and all of Rhode Island a foodie capital.
Matunuck Oyster Bar for their legendary oysters and lobster roll
Monahan’s Clam Cake Shack for their signature clam cakes
Hemenway’s classic seafood
Los Andes Restaurant for Peruvian food with a Rhode Island twist
birch local specialties
Nick’s on Broadway local brunch favorite
Founder Roger Williams built the colony in 1636 on the freedoms of speech and religion–the first democracy–values later written into the First Amendment. Rhode Island later declared independence from England before the other colonies followed suit, and it rebelled with the first military action in sinking an English ship in Narragansett Bay. After winning independence, Rhode Island refused to ratify the constitution until it included the Bill of Rights, making it the last of the 13 colonies to become a state. It started the Industrial Revolution in 1790 with the first steam-powered cotton mill, it was the first to send troops to support the Union against the Confederacy, and it never ratified the 18th Amendment for Prohibition. In more recent decades, Rhode Island became both a playground for the country’s upper crust and a haven for immigrants. And while this tiny state became a huge catalyst in shaping American history, it was busy building many of the nation’s firsts within its borders.
Lending library: Redwood Library
House of worship: Quaker Meeting House
Tavern: White Horse Tavern
Schoolhouse: Portsmouth’s Southernmost Schoolhouse
Synagogue: Touro Synagogue
Gas-illuminated street: Pelham Street, Newport
Carousel: Watch Hill’s Flying Horse Carousel
Independence Day celebration: Bristol
ICONIC RHODE ISLAND EXPERIENCES
There are a few things the state does so well that other states can’t rival, like sailing, and a few specialties Rhode Islanders keep (mostly) to themselves, like Del’s Lemonade and coffee milk. But if you’re willing to travel here, Rhode Island will welcome you to places, events and activities you can’t experience anywhere else in the world.
What do you love about Rhode Island?