Head to New England’s smallest state, Rhode Island, if you’re looking for a much-needed getaway to de-stress. “Little Rhody” is a great place to visit, and there are many fun things in Rhode Island for adults, couples, or families.
Rhode Island is best known for its beaches, seafood, and mansions from the 1800s. Though it’s a popular U.S. destination in the summer, there are still fun things to do in Rhode Island in the spring, fall, and winter, when towns come alive during the holiday season.
Fun Things to Do in Newport, Rhode Island
The best things to do in Newport include touring the historic mansions, sailing on Narragansett Bay, and enjoying some of the freshest seafood around. There’s also plenty of nightlife and shopping options in this charming New England city.
1. Go Sailing
Rhode Island is known for sailing. It’s often called the “sailing capital of the world” due to the area’s longest winning streak in America’s Cup boat race. If you are hoping to catch some of the best sailing in the world, check out what’s open to the public or set up a private charter on a yacht or sailboat. There are ample opportunities to sail morning, noon, and night. Early risers can start their morning with a cool breeze and a mimosa, while others can catch a sunset sail.
2. Visit Restaurants
You might wonder, “What is Rhode Island known for when it comes to food?” The Ocean State is best known for its seafood if you think with your belly. Try littlenecks, clam cakes, stuffies, and even more seafood dishes. Stuffies are a signature Rhode Island dish made with quahog clams, breading, and chorizo. Though many places offer them, Flo’s Clam Shack is a popular spot near the beach.
Also, head to Thames St to catch a harbor view and get something tasty to eat. Check out restaurants such as The Mooring, 22 Bowen, The Black Pearl, The Fluke, The White Horse Tavern, The Clark Cookhouse, or The Brick Alley Pub. The Red Parrot is a go-to option if you need a family-friendly spot.
3. Attend Music Festivals
The Newport Jazz Festival still exists and happens every summer. Head to Fort Adams in the summer. Newport also hosts the folk festival and chamber music festival every year. Check out who is performing at the music festival at Newportri.com.
4. Explore The Mansions
Have you ever wondered why there are so many mansions in Newport, Rhode Island? There are 11 Newport Mansions, to be exact! Back in the Gilded Age, this was a summertime playground for wealthy families from New York City and Philadelphia.
Though some may consider the Breakers, where the Vanderbilts once lived, the best mansion because it is the biggest and most distinguished, they all have something unique to offer visitors that want to take a tour. So add it to your list of bucket list ideas today.
5. Head to The Beaches
You can swim at the beaches in Newport, Rhode Island. Locally called First Beach, Easton Beach is a popular spot near downtown Newport, close to the Cliffwalk. This broad beach has many amenities such as cabanas, lockers, bathrooms, handicap accessible, and food if you like convenience or looking for affordable activities with your kids.
Second Beach is quieter and more low-key in neighboring Middletown. The lesser-known Reject’s beach is an option too. These beaches are free, but you have to pay for parking.
6. Check Out The Green Animal Topiary Garden
Visit one of the oldest topiary gardens to see shrubs cut into the shape of different animals. Though you can roam freely once inside, admission is not free. Tickets for adults cost $18 apiece, while tickets for children are $8 each. Get the most up-to-date information at NewportRI.com and plan your visit.
Fun Things to Do in Providence, Rhode Island
Is Providence, Rhode Island, worth visiting? Of course! Whether you like to take in history outdoors, find a great restaurant, or stroll down one of their popular streets, there’s something for everyone.
7. Walk Along Benefit Street and Thayer Street
Stroll down this mile-long strip of historical architecture influenced by Colonial and Victorian times. Feast your eye upon wood-frame homes and significant buildings from centuries past. Take a self-guided tour or catch a formal 90-minute one of this unique street.
Thayer Street is another excellent area to visit while in Providence. This college town area is appealing to visitors and locals alike. A parking lot at the end of the street makes it easy and affordable to park and walk around Thayer Street.
If you are looking for something to eat, there are a variety of restaurants to keep everyone well-fed and satisfied. You’ll have many options, whether you want seafood at a place like The Shaking Crab or you’re in the mood for Greek, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Mexican food. There are even standby chain restaurants like Shake Shack, Pokeworks, or Starbucks to grab a bite to eat.
8. Attend Waterfire
Flaming logs sit on braziers jutting out of the water along the river in Providence, RI. They are lit just after dusk from Water Place Park to South Main Street Park for the annual Waterfire event. Watch boats go by while calming music plays along the river, or pay to ride on a gondola or riverboat to experience it from the water. You will also find street performers, people selling crafts, and food vendors. Go early to find street parking or a nearby parking garage. Catch scheduled events from spring to fall for Waterfire.
9. View Street Art
Street art is a thing here, and I’m here for it. You might be, too, especially if you head to the downtown area. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Rhode Island. Catch the two prominent murals that feature Native American women. If you want to seek out more pops of paint on the side of buildings, scout out the many works of art throughout the city.
10. See a Moon Gate
The Roger Williams Botanical Garden gets rated with high marks. Head there if you’re into plants and flowers and want a more low-key thing to do. You’ll find plants and flowers both indoors and outdoors. Check out a rose maze outside and greenhouses full of plants, fountains, a fish pond, and even a moon gate. They are generally open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM – 4 PM but check their website for the most up-to-date info.
What Other Things to Do In Rhode Island Are There?
Though Newport and Providence are popular areas, there are plenty of things to do in the charming small towns to visit in the Ocean State listed below.
11. Spend a day or weekend in Watch Hill
Watch Hill, Rhode Island, is a great place to visit. It has a family-friendly beach with a carousel. Visitors can also hike at Napatree point or grab a bite to eat at the nearby Olympia Tea Room. Be sure to save room for dessert because The St. Clair Annex is the perfect spot for ice cream afterward.
12. Poke around Little Compton
Though it’s off the beaten path, Little Compton is a rural area that might be worth a visit. Though it’s not the easiest to get to, it’s great for those looking for a nice getaway with small-town charm. Visit the beaches, hike the brook trail or sample wine from Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard.
13. Check out Narragansett
A little over 30 mins away from the Connecticut border, Narragansett is a great place to visit. Head to one of their many beaches, visit the Point Judith Lighthouse, or hop a ferry to Block Island. Also, consider stopping by Iggy’s Doughboy’s and Chowder House for a cup of brothy Rhode Island clam chowder or any other seafood favorites. You can’t leave without at least sampling a doughboy. Have this soft and freshly fried dough with your choice of sugar, cinnamon, or powdered sugar for this Little Rhody treat.
14. Explore Charlestown
Catch a view of Block Island downtown while walking along the beachfront. If you’re looking for a different shopping experience, be sure to check out The Fantastic Umbrella Factory. It’s a quirky, rustic spot that may qualify as something unique to do in Rhode Island.
Though it has almost nothing to do with umbrellas, explore the eclectic stores to find some of the most interesting finds around. You can pick up handmade soaps, blown glass, clothing, jewelry, and more all in one convenient location. Plus, there’s a cafe and garden on-site, so you can sit and grab a bite to eat.
15. Head to Johnston
Have you ever had pizza without cheese? If this piques your curiosity and food is a driving factor in how you plan your trip, stop in Johnston to try pizza strips. It’s a popular thing to eat there. Locals swear by Rosa Mia’s or Palmieri’s Bakery in Johnston, RI.
Plan a Getaway to Rhode Island
If you’re looking to find fun things to do in Rhode Island this weekend or down the road, there’s no shortage of ideas. You’re sure to find something fun for everyone. So don’t miss out on a visit!
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As a busy working parent, Karen Cordaway struggled to find free time & money for herself. Once she discovered how to reclaim both, she infused more fun into everyday life.
She has written for US News Money, Huff Post & Clark Howard & now combines her money know-how with bucket list topics.
As the author of The Everyday Bucket List Book, she shows her step-by-step process to turn dreams into reality.