Historic Wickford Village, one of the best things to do in Rhode Island

70+ things to do in Rhode Island: the ultimate bucket list

(Last Updated On: July 2, 2021)

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I may be a bit biased having grown up here, but Rhode Island is by far one of the coolest states in the USA. An easy day trip from New York City or Boston, Rhode Island has everything from extensive coastline and beach bars to vibrant city life and a burgeoning foodie scene. It may be small, but it packs a punch. This post has taken me a long time to comprise, but here they are! – The best things to add to your Rhode Island bucket list, the places to go and things to do in Rhode Island.

Table of contents

year-round activities

1. newport cliffwalk

Newport Cliffwalk showing ocean and clouds in the sky.

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

Newport’s famous Cliff Walk is a popular tourist stopover for tourists and locals alike. The walk begins at Easton’s Beach in the north and heading to Reject’s Beach in the south. Along the way, you’ll pass by many of Newport’s most famous, historic mansions set to the backdrop of waves lapping at the foot of the cliffs. While the weather is certainly nicer from late spring to early fall, you’ll find far fewer crowds in the off-season.

The walk itself is a combination of smoothly paved or rocky pathways. The unpaved areas require more stable footing, so be careful if you’ve got children with you. The walk lasts two to three hours, depending on how often you stop for photos! The Newport Cliff Walk is one of the most famous free things to do in Rhode Island.

2. newport mansions

Marble House, one of the Newport Mansions, with green laves in the foreground.

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

One thing that is a must-add to your Rhode Island bucket list is touring the Newport Mansions. These opulent residences once functioned as summer “cottages” for the elite. Families such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Morgans used Newport as their playground during the summer months, or whenever they needed a break from the tumult of New York City.

Today the mansions are open for tours, where you can learn about the families who vacationed there and their lavish lives, the daily lives of servants, as well as the stories behind their architecture and manicured gardens. The most popular times to visit are between May and October, though some are open year-round. Each December, many of the mansions are also open for Christmas tours. Popular mansions to tour include the Breakers, the Elms, Marble House, and Rosecliff. You’ll want to allocate at least an hour for each mansion.

3. prospect park

Prospect Park in Rhode Island during sunset.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Prospect Park is a small park located on the East Side of Providence, on Congdon Street. Known for its panoramic views of the city, the park features a statue of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, looking out over Providence’s skyline. Since the park faces west, it’s an idyllic spot to catch a Rhode Island sunset. Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine or some local craft beer, alongside snacks from Venda Ravioli or the Sandwich Hut, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect picnic.

4. roger williams park

Cherry Blossoms and bridge over stream in Japanese Garden at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Comprised of more than 435 sprawling acres and offering a variety of recreational and educational activities, Roger Williams Park is a popular place to spend an afternoon in Rhode Island. Within the park you’ll find the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Japanese Gardens, a zoo, as well as the Roger Williams Botanical Center. There are ponds, running paths, public gardens, tennis courts, playgrounds and more. Be sure to check out the Temple of Music and the Casino while you’re there.

The park itself is free, but admission to the zoo and museum requires a ticket purchase.

5. west end of providence

Seven Stars Bakery in Rhode Island

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Providence’s West End consists of the areas around Broadway, West Fountain Street and Luongo Square. An amalgam of residences and urban businesses, the West End is a historic urban neighborhood that has undergone extensive revitalization over the last several years.

The neighborhood is home to community gardens, vintage shopping, hipster bars and restaurants, as well as Providence favorite Seven Stars Bakery and The Classic Café.

6. east side of providence

Houses along picturesque sidewalk in the historic East Side of Providence.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The East Side of Providence is home to many historic and cultural sites as well as world-class universities, such as the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University. Teeming with art and culture, this historic area has many gems to discover. 

Explore charming streets lined with historic houses and London Plane trees to get a feel for Providence’s roots.  Many delicious restaurants find their home on the East Side, and there is no shortage of independent coffee shops. The area is a diverse mix which includes academics, professionals and families. 

7. wickaboxet state park

Where: West Greenwich, Rhode Island

If your goal is to get out into the woods with minimal crowds, perhaps with your furry friend in tow, Wickaboxet is the place to go. There are approximately ten miles of interconnected trails to explore and huge granite rocks to climb, offering views of the surrounding treetops. Dogs are allowed, but only on a leash. Please note that hunting is permitted here during hunting season, so wear orange (and get an orange vest for your dog too!).

8. charlestown breachway

Charlestown Breachway in Rhode Island, showing both sides of the channel.

Where: Charlestown, Rhode Island

Given its fitting official nickname, ‘the Ocean State,’ you won’t be surprised to learn that there are tons of great beaches in Rhode Island. However, Rhode Island can get fairly overrun with tourists during the summer months, and the beaches are packed.

Enter Charlestown Breachway. Though much further down Route 1 than the other beaches, you’re far less likely to battle crowds at the Breachway, particularly if you go on a weekday. It’s cleaner, with large waves, ample parking, and bathroom access. There aren’t large food and drink pavilions, in contrast with beaches such as Narragansett or Scarborough, but pack a cooler and you’ll be good to go. Don’t let the rocks in the photo fool you – there are sandy shores and great swimming conditions.

9. historic wakefield

Historic Wickford Village with waterfront restaurant and outdoor red umbrellas over the tables.

Location: North Kingstown, Rhode Island

In Wickford Harbor, North Kingstown, Rhode Island is where you’ll find Historic Wickford Village. The area was originally settled as a trading post in the 17th century and to this day is a thriving area in our little state. Many people visiting Newport or Providence set aside some time to visit Wickford, and it’s no surprise as to why.

The main draw of Wickford Village is its quaint harbor backdrop, its eclectic shops and antique stores, and its waterfront restaurants. There are plenty of things to do in Wickford to spend an afternoon, and this tiny, pedestrian-friendly village is well-worth your time.

10. audubon bird watching

Barn Owl at Audubon in Rhode Island.

Where: Statewide

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island offers many different opportunities for bird watching, guided tours, and even organized events featuring birds of prey and raptors. I personally don’t advocate going to events that feature captive animals (such as the raptor shows), but Audubon’s Wednesday morning bird walks, urban birding adventures, and private birding tours are all ethical and sustainable ways to see and learn about the area’s native avian species.

11. providence athenaeum

Providence Athenaeum, filled floor to ceiling with books and hanging globe lights.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Providence Athenaeum opened on Benefit Street in 1838 – the library actually opened two years prior in an alternate location. It was originally established by a group of Rhode Islanders who wanted to read, but couldn’t afford to have books shipped from overseas. For a small fee, they were able to access the collections in the Athenaeum at their leisure. Named for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, the library boasts collections that range from natural history to fiction to children’s books. There are often events featuring prominent authors and speakers, conferences and parties, as well as other types of social happenings.

The library is currently only open for curbside pickup and in-person browsing for members only due to the ongoing pandemic.

12. norman bird sanctuary

Walkway over water at Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, RI.

Where: Middletown, Rhode Island

Norman Bird Sanctuary is a wildlife reserve and ecological information center with over 325 acres of various biospheres and seven miles of walking trails.

Norman Bird Sanctuary has something to offer during all four seasons. Grab your binoculars and take a walk along their meticulously-maintained trails to see diverse wildlife species, local and migratory birds, and various plant species. Going in different seasons will ensure you see something a little different each time.

13. thayer street

Big thanks to my friend, Kris Hansen, for this photo!

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Thayer Street is located in the heart of College Hill, and is a common place for RISD and Brown students to congregate. There is an abundance of popular eateries, from gyro shops and pizza joints to mid/high-end sit-down restaurants. The area is always vibrant and lively, and you can usually catch some (usually quite talented) buskers performing on the street. Brown Bookstore, Berk’s Shoes, Urban Outfitters, and Spectrum India are all popular places to shop on Thayer.

14. take a class at the steel yard

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Steel Yard is an eclectic community space with a focus on industrial arts, such as blacksmithing, welding, ceramics, and jewelry. They offer a variety of classes for students with all levels of experience, that last a day or a weekend. Sample classes include forging your own bottle opener, copper and steel metal roses, welding workshops, and more. Day classes start at $90 per student.

15. rustic drive-in

The old sign at the Rustic Drive In, Rhode Island's only drive in movie theatre.

Where: North Smithfield, Rhode Island

The “golden age of the automobile” may have elapsed, but there’s something about the mass retro-appeal of a Drive-In theatre. Plus, a family of four can see a double feature and pay by the car instead of per person! No obnoxious chatters nearby to distract you. Pack a picnic, hell, get Chinese take-out, some lawn chairs or a blanket and have yourself a party. Not to mention, during the times of COVID, it’s a sure way to stay socially distanced while still enjoying the luxury of watching a movie on the big screen.

Under normal circumstances, the Rustic is open from April to October each year, however, this year the theatre stayed open later and we can probably anticipate an early re-opening. The Rustic is the last operating Drive-In in Rhode Island!

16. learn to surf

Surfing in Narragansett, Rhode Island

Where: Southern Rhode Island

Surfers take advantage of Rhode Island’s waves year-round, especially in Narragansett and Deep Hole. Never surfed before? No worries, as there are plenty of surf schools located throughout southern Rhode Island. Most facilities offer both private and group classes, and a few even offer youth summer camps if you’re planning on being in Rhode Island for the entire summer season. The most basic lessons for one person begin as low as $60 per session, but you can save if you book a few lessons in advance. Popular surf schools in Rhode Island include Warm Winds, Narragansett Surf and Skate, and Rhody Surf.

17. discover rare books and artifacts at john hay library

John Hay Library in Providence, RHode Island.

Where: Providece, Rhode Island

The John Hay Library at Brown University is home to exceptional selections of rare books, documents, and other unexpected items. The Special Collections have over 3,000,000 items! As one of the top universities in the world, this should come as no surprise. You can find things such as Babylonian clay tablets and Egyptian papyri to modern books and articles. Among the truly special findings are Napoleon’s death mask, the last photograph taken of Poe, and Whitman’s own copy of Leaves of Grass.

18. rhode island state house

Rhode Island State House seen from a hill.

Though tours are currently suspended due to COVID restrictions, this is definitely something to add to your Rhode Island bucket list once they are available again. It’s one of the best things to do in Rhode Island to learn a little more about the state’s history. In the meantime, virtual tours are available twice a day on weekdays.

19. gondola ride

Gondola ride in Providence through Waterplace Park.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Taking a gondola ride along the Providence river is a great date night touch, particularly if you’re just visiting Rhode Island. LaGondola Providence offers 40-minute rides with different tiers of ‘extras’ at different price points. The rides start at $89 for two people. Be sure to book in advance as gondoliers may not be available for walk-ups.

20. see a show at the columbus theatre

Columbus Theater Marquis in Providence, Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Columbus Theater first opened in 1926, and has a bit of a sordid history. After initially screening recent Hollywood films and Italian performances (due to the ethnic population of the area), sex-laden films made their first (profitable) appearance. Shortly thereafter, straight-up porn was being shown on both screens. This continued until 2001, when the theater initiated its art house scheduling. Today, the theater has the occasional concert, community theater shows, and other performances. The main draw is that the Columbus is a valued cultural icon in the city.

21. international tennis hall of fame

International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

While tennis isn’t really my cup of tea, if it interests you at all this is a pretty special place to visit. The mission of the organization is to preserve the history of tennis and its accomplished players, celebrating the legendary careers of some international masters. There is a museum that showcases artifacts, images, and publications, as well as extensive information on the history of the sport.

22. go crabbing at galilee breakwater

Breakwater at Galilee State Beach in Rhode Island.

Where: Narragansett, Rhode Island

This is how I spent my summers as a child in Rhode Island. Galilee (aka Salty Brine State Beach, as it is currently known) is my father’s favorite beach, so this is where we would go. There is a long breakwater that juts out from the shore and separates the channel where fishing boats and the Block Island ferry pass through. This is a popular spot for fishing, and between the large rocks, there are shallow tide pools with many little critters to encounter.

When I was a kid, I would go to Champlin’s Seafood, just down the street, and get some raw, fresh squid. I’d take my string and bucket, tie some squid to the end, and let it hang between the rocks until I caught some crabs. I always re-released, them, but it was a fun way to spend my summers as a child. If you’re exploring the breakwater with kids, be sure to take extra precaution on the rocks, as they can be quite slippery. There is also a risk of cutting yourself on the sharp barnacles.

23. blithewolde

Exterior façade and gardens of Blithewold Mansion in Rhode Island.

Where: Bristol, Rhode Island

Blithewold is a 33-acre summer residence with epic landscapes of Narragansett Bay. A spectacular collection of rare and exotic plants, unusual trees, a year-round greenhouse, and peculiar stonework depict a persona that is dreamy, contemporary, and uplifting – and exclusive to Blithewold. Private and group tours are available to see the highlights of both the mansion and gardens.

24. trinity rep or ppac

Interior of Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

For any theatre aficionados out there, these are the two premiere venues in Rhode Island to catch a play, musical, opera or ballet. With performances year-round, there is always something to see. Trinity Rep is best known for its annual production of A Christmas Carol, and smaller, local productions. Providence Performing Arts Center, on the other hand, is a stopover for when major productions come to Rhode Island, such as Hamilton. Depending on the level of intimacy you’re seeking or what type of show you’re interested in, both are well-known for their quality performances.

25. pvd flea

Woman bending over a table at a flea market displaying handmade jewelry.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

PVD Flea is a relatively new addition to the Providence scene. It’s an eclectic mix of vendors, offering everything from African antiques, vintage clothing, handcrafted jewelry, hot sauces, and more. There are food trucks and coffee trucks on site if you need a sip or bite of something while you browse the aisles. In the summer, the Flea is held outdoors. During the holiday season, it’s held inside a local high school.

Before I began my travel adventures and prior to college graduation, I made my own jewelry and used to sell it at PVD Flea. Please excuse the poor photo, courtesy of my mom.

26. east bay bike path

East Bay Bike Path at sunset in Rhode Island.

Where: Throughout Rhode Island

The East Bay Bike Path is an almost-15 mile paved bike lane in Rhode Island. The route starts at India Point Park in Providence, crosses the Seekonk River and goes on to Bristol adjacent to the Narragansett Bay coast. If you’re looking for a combination of daily fitness coupled with sightseeing some beautiful parts of the state, this is a great option. The terrain is relatively flat and the route is an easy one. The caveat here is that you’ve got to have your own bike or rent one – Pedego Bikes in Bristol or Dash in Providence can help you out here.

27. fort adams

Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island is a former US Army post that dates back to 1799. The Fort features a diverse assortment of outdoor activities with spectacular panoramic views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Demilitarized in 1950, the Fort maintains its status as a center of activity, particularly during the summer months.

Popular things to do at the Fort include the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, the Yachting Museum, Newport Sailing Center, and guided tours. In addition to event and museums, you can enjoy fishing, picnics, sports, flying kites, or work on your amateur photography skills on the grounds of the Fort. Admission is free, save for Festival weekends.

28. beavertail state park

Beavertail State Park in low light in Rhode Island, waves crashing on the rocks.

Where: Jamestown, Rhode Island

Beavertail is undoubtedly my absolute favorite thing to do in Rhode Island. It’s renowned statewide for offering some of the most epic views of the coastline, but it does have a few lesser-known treasures. Many people visit Beavertail for the lighthouse, to picnic or go fishing. However, if you explore the labyrinth of paths that run along the coast through the trees, you might be lucky enough to discover tiny, individual beaches to relax and get away from the crowds. These mini beaches require some climbing up and down cliffs, so some level of physical fitness is required. Message me if you’re heading to Rhode Island and want info on how to find Beavertail’s Secret Beaches!

29. sleep at haunted rose island lighthouse

Haunted Rose Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island with American flag flying.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Lighthouse on Rose Island is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of cholera victims who were banished here, as well as a bygone lighthouse keeper named Charles Curtis. Allegedly, people who stay in the haunted lighthouse claim hearing voices and footsteps. Photos taken onsite have anomalies indicating otherworldly presence. You can stay at Rose Island Lighthouse, if you dare. The hit TV show Ghost Hunters even did an episode here!

30. slater mill

Historic Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Where: Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Historic Slater Mill in Pawtucket is a popular destination in the northern part of the state. The mill’s history dates back to 1793! Believe it or not, the Historic Slater Mill is one of the origins of the American Industrial Revolution. It’s the very first cotton mill in the United States, utilizing the Arkwright system (a water-power method) that played an extremely important role in the Industrial Revolution.

Today, Slater Mill is a museum displaying a multitude of textile machines dating back to the late 18th century. The mill is beautifully-preserved with original beams and frames. Wandering the grounds is a great option for a mindful walk and afternoon of imagination if the weather is nice.

31. big nazo

Big Nazo puppets are popular in Providence, Rhode Island.

Big Nazo is known throughout the state of Rhode Island (and especially in Providence) for their out-of-this-world puppet performers and masked musicians who create epic performances and characters.  The puppets are the highlights of some Providence festivals, but you can also check out the Big Nazo storefront across from Providence City Hall.  The storefront is both an exhibition space and location for workshops.

32. urban sweat at raffa

Where: Cranston, Rhode Island

Raffa is a popular yoga studio with the most extensive schedule of class offerings statewide. In addition to yoga classes, they also offer spa services such as massages and infrared therapy. But one of the most unique things to do here is to spend the day at Urban Sweat.

Urban Sweat is a collection of different therapeutic rooms to relax in for a few hours or the whole day. Some of the rooms include the Black Charcoal Sauna, the Eucalyptus Steam Room, Finlandian Sauna, Himalayan Salt Grotto, Urban Hamman, and the Yellow Turmeric Room. If you don’t want a full-day pass, you can opt for a 4-hour evening pass.

seasonal activities, events, & festivals

33. wicked tulip farm

Close-up of tulips in a field.

Where: Johnston, Rhode Island

In 2015, a Dutch-American couple founded Wicked Tulips Flower Farm. The farm opens every spring and is a popular site for weddings and photoshoots as well as standard visits.  My friend Taylor actually gives yoga classes at Wicked Tulips throughout the season!

Wicked Tulips Flower Farm is the only place in New England where you can pick your own tulips, wandering through the acres of flower fields and experiencing the sensory magic.

34. newport st. paddy’s day parade

Newport St. Paddy's Day Festival in Rhode Island.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The annual St. Paddy’s Day Parade in Newport is among Rhode Island’s most treasured celebrations.  The Parade is always held the Saturday prior to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), unless of course the holiday falls on a Saturday – then it is held March 17.  It usually starts mid-morning around 11am, lasting around two hours.

The Parade route runs from Newport City Hall to Saint Augustin’s Church in the Fifth Ward.  Hear the Pipe and Marching Bands, Drum Corps, fun reenactments, and appearances by regional groups and nonprofits.  The event is family-friendly, but is also a place filled with copious amounts of day drinking and general debauchery.  Your best bet is to book a room in Newport the night prior, as traffic heading onto the island that morning is absurd.

35. bristol 4th of july parade

Where: Bristol, Rhode Island

The Bristol Fourth of July Parade is the oldest in the United States!  It was established waaaay back in 1785.  The celebration takes place over a few weeks from June to July, officially starting on June 14 (Flag Day).  During this time, you can take part in concerts, races, a gala (yep, a gala), and plenty of other festivities, culminating with the parade on the 4th.  The history of Bristol’s Fourth of July Celebrations give it the nickname ‘America’s Most Patriotic Town’.

36. waterfire

Providence Waterfire in Rhode Island with buildings iluminated during sunset.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Waterfire Providence is one of the city’s most beloved events. Generally taking place every other Saturday during the summer months, from May – November. The event, which entails a lit sculpture by Barnaby Evans on the rivers of Providence, is completely free (aside from any concessions you may purchase from local vendors).  The sculpture has 86 lit braziers that float right above the water’s surface of the rivers that cross Waterplace Park and downtown Providence.  The air is filled with the sweet smells of burning wood and the ambiance is one of pure magic.  The event takes place when the sunset coincides with an incoming high tide on the rivers. If there is one thing you do in Rhode Island, let it be Waterfire!

37. newport jazz festival

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Jazz Festival was the first major festival to take place in American History, established in 1954.  It’s held each summer in Newport, Rhode Island.  In the early 1970s, the festival relocated to New york City, became a two-site festival in the early 1980s (held in both NYC and Newport), and returned exclusively to Newport in 2008.  Like its sister Newport Folk Festival, it’s held annually at Fort Adams State Park.

38. newport folk festival

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Folk Festival has been around since 1959, when it was created as a counterpart to the Newport Jazz Festival.  The festival took place until 1969, when it took a hiatus for 16 years, returning in 1985 in full force.  It is held at Fort Adams State Park annually.  Past headliners have included Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, James Taylor, and Elvis Costello.

39. sailing

Sailboat in Newport with Newport Bridge in the Background, Rhode Island.

Where: Newport or Narragansett, Rhode Island

Not much is more quintessentially ‘Rhode Island’ than sailing in Newport.  Whether you are a beginner or expert, or simply want a one-time experience, there are plenty of options for you.  Many companies in Newport and Narragansett offer sailing excursions, weekly group lessons, or private lessons.  All levels are accommodated during the lessons. 

For those who can prove their sailing competency, there’s also the option to rent a sailboat!  Sailing experiences are usually held May through August daily, and on weekends through October.  Sail Newport is among the most popular and well-respected sailing schools in Rhode Island.

40. south county balloon festival

South County Hot Air Balloon Festival in Rhode Island.

Where: Kingston, Rhode Island

Ever dreamed of going on a hot air balloon ride?  It’s possible at the annual South County Balloon Festival in Rhode Island that usually takes place each July.  You have the option to take a tethered ($15 per person) or untethered ride ($200-$225 per person) during the festival.  Rides are contingent on weather conditions and are offered early morning or just before sunset, when the winds are calmest and conditions are safest. 

41. pvdfest

PVD Fest in Rhode Island's capital city, Providence.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

PVDFest is an annual festival of arts that fills the streets of Providence with laughter and creativity. You can expect parades, large-scale art installations, street performers, fire breathers, and vendors catering to people of all ages.  PVDFest takes place every summer, usually in June.  It also features live music performances, a bevy of food trucks, and an all-around creative takedown of the city.

42. pronk

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

PRONK (Providence Honk! Festival) is an annual celebration of music featuring big brass bands, local musicians from Rhode Island (and elsewhere in New England), street performances, and an epic parade.  The Grand Opening Celebration is held at the Providence Pedestrian Footbridge with, surprise surprise, even more concerts!  Providence has a thriving music scene, and PRONK! is one of the best ways to experience it.

43. berry or apple picking

Blueberry picking at Rocky Point in Rhode Island.

Where: Statewide

Depending on your fruit preferences, or what time of year you’ll be visiting Rhode Island, there are plenty of farms and orchards where you can pick your own blueberries and apples. Blueberry season starts in mid-July and apple season runs from September through November. My personal favorite places to go for either are: Rocky Point for blueberries or Blanchard Farm for apples.

44. scituate art festival

Where: Scituate, Rhode Island

I’m a little biased here, since Scituate is my hometown! Still, this is a massive three-day event that takes place over the course of Columbus Day weekend each year in October. Huge crowds flock to this small town in rural Rhode Island, which leads to huge profits in food and raffle sales, all of which are turned back into funding scholarships and Scituate-based projects, such as Scituate Health Alliance, the Scituate Scholarship Foundation, and the Scituate Food Pantry.

Over 200 artists join the roster each year, so there is plenty of variety and certainly something to appeal to people of all tastes.  My next-door neighbor growing up, Neil Drobnis, has some of the most beautiful hand-blown glass pieces I’ve ever seen in my life.  Be sure to seek out his booth if you make it to the Scituate Art Festival!

45. jack o’lantern spectacular

Jack'o'lantern spectacular at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is one of the state’s most well-attended events from visitors from all over the world.  Every year, around 140,000 people come to Roger Williams Park to admire the intricate detail in over 5,000 carved pumpkins on display.  This isn’t your average Halloween display – you’ll find everything from teeny-tiny, handheld pumpkins that hang from the trees to thousand-pound pumpkins carved with the detailed faces of your favorite celebrities.

If you happen to be visiting for October, this is hands-down one of the best places to visit in Rhode Island.

46. fellini’s thanksgiving pizza

Fellini's Infamous Thanksgiving Pizza, only available in Rhode Island one day per year.

Location: Providence & Cranston, Rhode Island

Guys. Guys! This pizza. Holy shit. The special Thanksgiving pizza from Fellini’s is only made once a year!  Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving, thousands of Rhode Islanders pick up their order to add one more memorable Thanksgiving tradition to the mix.  Everything here is made from scratch, from the turkey to the dough, the homemade mashed potatoes and the gravy.  Even the cranberry sauce!  It’s been featured on Phantom Gourmet as well as other esteemed foodie publications around the country.  Place your order early, as these pies will sell out!

47. seal tour

Seal sunning itself on a rock in Rhode Island waters.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Seal tours!  Seals are so damn cute, I just adore them.  These migratory harbor seals come around between November and April, an excellent excuse to stay near the ocean despite the chilly temperatures.   

To see Rhode Island’s state mammal up close and personal(ish), Save the Bay offers 1 hour long tours, complete with guides and binoculars, departing from Bowen’s Ferry Landing in Newport.  Cost is $22 for adults, $17 for children 3-12, senior/military, and Save the Bay members.  

Skip the zoo and the exploitation of animals, and head on this non-invasive seal tour instead.

48. yawgoo valley

Where: Exeter, Rhode Island

Yawgoo Valley is a small outdoor park that offers skiing and snowboarding, lessons, and snow tubing.  The slopes aren’t very big, so it’s a great place for kids to learn!  In the summer it transforms into a water park.  Adults $35-45, Juniors $30-40, Equipment rentals $25.

49. ice bumper cars

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Bumper cars on ice!?  Sign me up.  The Alex and Ani Center is the first outdoor rink to offer this exciting, all-ages form of winter entertainment.  The bumper cars require reservations.  The Alex and Ani Center also offers ice skating in the winter.  In the summer months, the rink space transforms into a small festival and concert venue.


50. risd museum

Blue art gallery at RISD Museum in Providence.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Considering the fact that RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) is one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, it should come as no surprise that the RISD Museum hosts a spectacular collection of art to admire.  There are a number of galleries to peruse depending on what piques your interest.  Enjoy Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, Asian Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts and Design Galleries, and more.  Adults $15, Students $8 with valid ID, Youths under 18 FREE.

51. natural history museum

Museum of Natural History and Planetarium at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island.

Where:  Providence, Rhode Island

The Museum of Natural History, located on the grounds of Roger Williams Park, holds impressive natural and cultural collections in their many exhibits.  The museum is also home to the state’s only (public) planetarium.  This is one of the best things to do in Rhode Island for families, solo travelers, or couples looking to gain a little insight on the world and its people.  Museum $2; Planetarium $3.

52. museum of sailing

Where:  Newport, Rhode Island

Sailing Mecca, Newport, Rhode Island, is where you can find the Sailing Museum, home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame and America’s Cup Hall of Fame.  Once upon a time, this same space was used as the Press Room for the America’s Cup.  If you’re remotely interested in sailing, this is one of the best things to do in Rhode Island.  Explore the legacy and traditions of sailing, legends of the esteemed sport, as well as interactive educational exhibits that demonstrate the STEAM concepts involved in the art of sailing.

rhode island food bucket list

53. ocean mist

Ocean Mist Beach Bar in Matunuck, Rhode Island.

Where: Matunuck, Rhode Island

This is undoubtedly my all-time favorite place to be in Rhode Island, whether for drinks, tacos, or a hangover brunch. The staff is chill, the owner is awesome, the location is ideal, food and drinks are superb. For a delicious brunch drink, try a ‘Coffee with Love‘ – though, be forewarned – this drink will have you indisposed for the remainder of the day! For brunch, try the California Benny.

Ocean Mist has fun themed nights, such as Bingo nights, where you can win prizes and eat cheap tacos, or Ticket Tuesdays, which is an all-out reggae dance party with cheap drinks. Reservations STRONGLY recommended.

54. iggy’s

Line of people waiting to order at the window at Iggy's in Rhode Island.

Where: Warwick, Rhode Island & Narragansett, Rhode Island

Iggy’s has two locations for their chowder houses, one in Warwick (Oakland Beach) and one in Narragansett.  They’re known throughout the state for delicious local fare, such as clam chowder, calamari, clam cakes, dough boys and more.  If you’re from outside New England, it’s a great place to figure out your chowder preferences – it’s available in Manhattan (red), New England (white), or Rhode Island (clear).  Iggy’s is one of those quintessential Rhode Island summer experiences that can’t be beat.  Their Oakland Beach location is ideal if you don’t have time to make the drive to South County but need a chowder fix.

Insider tip:  Don’t wait until you’re famished to go – there are usually long lines, both at their take-out windows and to be seated in the dining area.

55. monahan’s clam shack

Close-up of a delicious lobster roll served with lemon at Monahan's Clam Shack in Rhode Island.

Location: Narragansett, Rhode Island

Monahan’s Clam Shack by the sea is where you want to go for the best lobster rolls in all of Rhode Island.  The lobster rolls are available hot with drawn butter or cold with herbs and chilled mayo – honestly, I alternate between the two, as I can never decide which I prefer!  They also offer your standard Rhode Island seafood staples, such as calamari, clam cakes, chowder, crab cakes, and more.  Expect a wait, particularly if you’re heading there after a day well-spent at one of the local beaches.

56. haven brothers

Haven Bros. Trailer, a RI institution since 1888.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Haven Brothers is home to Rhode Island’s infamous hot wieners.  Sound strange?  A hot wiener is simply a sort of hot dog with seasoned meat sauce, chopped onions, yellow mustard, and a dusting of celery salt.  Still sound strange?  Just try one.  Haven Brothers has the original.  Order ‘three all the way’ and you’re good to go.

57. del’s lemonade

Del's Lemonade, two cups on a window sill in Rhode Island.

Where: Statewide

Del’s frozen lemonade has been a Rhode Island tradition since 1948. The brain child of the DeLuca family, the original recipe was made in Naples, Italy before the family emigrated from Europe to Rhode Island. Today, you can find a mobile Del’s stand nearly everywhere throughout the state, offering up refreshing, natural treats to cool down in the summertime. Want to kick it up a notch? Del’s and vodka is the adult version!

58. brickley’s

Outer façade of Brickley's Ice Cream in Rhode Island.

Where: Narragansett, Rhode Island & Wakefield, Rhode Island

For travelers with a sweet tooth, nothing is more satisfying than a cup of homemade Brickley’s ice cream on a hot day. Upwards of 45 flavors are made on-site at Brickley’s original location in Narragansett! Butter Brickley is a popular favorite. There are two locations, both in South County, both worth a visit.

59. castle hill inn

Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Castle Hill Inn is a luxurious Relais & Chateau property in affluent Newport, Rhode Island.  If you’re in the southern part of the state and are looking for the ultimate experience in fine dining, the Dining Room at Castle Hill Inn is unparalleled.  They offer a prix-fixe menu that changes according to seasonality and availability of local ingredients, as well as an impressive wine list (featured in Wine Spectator for over ten years and counting).  At $92 per person, the three-course tasting menu is decidedly not budget-friendly.  However, the extraordinary ocean views and gourmand affair are truly something special and worthy of a baller date night experience

60. wright’s farm

Entrance to Wright's Farm Banquet Hall in Rhode Island.

Where: Burrillville, Rhode Island

Wright’s Farm offers a unique experience for a family outing in Rhode Island. A popular restaurant as well as event venue, Wright’s Farm is known for their family-style chicken dinners. For a meager $16.25 per person (adults), you get unlimited freshly baked rolls, pasta with marinara sauce, French fries, salad, and baked chicken. The restaurant gets super busy, but reservations are only accepted for parties of 10 or more. There is a huge gift shop on-site for the kids to enjoy while you wait for your table.

61. coast guard house

Coast Guard House, popular restaurant in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Where: Narragansett, Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s Coast Guard House falls somewhere comfortably between Monahan’s and Castle Hill. Serving up locally-sourced seafood since the 1940s, to say it is a Rhode Island institution is an understatement. The restaurant and seawall were significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, leading to extensive renovations of the restaurant, giving it a more upscale vibe. The rooftop deck offers stunning views of historic Narragansett Bay and is slightly more casual than the interior dining space.

62. ocean house

Ocean House at Watch Hill in Rhode Island with manicured lawns nd gardens.

Where: Westerly, Rhode Island

Close to the border of Connecticut is Westerly, Rhode Island, a town best known for its pristine beaches, delicious food, and Taylor Swift’s summer home.  The Ocean House, a hotel with a variety of restaurants, can suit diners of a wide range of budgets and tastes.  But one particularly noteworthy experience to have here is a traditional Ocean House lobster boil.  These lobster boils are held on select weekend nights throughout summer, so be sure to check the calendar before making your plans.  Enjoy the ambiance of a private beach with a large buffet, live music, and fireworks. 

Typical food offerings include German potato salad, house-baked cornbread, coleslaw, tomato salads, corn on the cob, slow-smoked ribs, roasted chicken, steamed clams & mussels, whole-boiled lobsters, and a myriad of desserts.  It’s not a cheap event, at $115 for adults and $65 for children, but a fun and worthwhile experience to splurge on!

63. food truck friday

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Food Truck Friday is a fun tradition held at Roger Williams Park where food trucks from throughout the state gather for fun, friends, family and food. Admission is free and there are usually 15 or more local food trucks represented, which vary throughout the season. Be sure to bring a blanket or some lawn chairs to set up a spot on the grassy knoll and enjoy the free live music. FTF season usually runs from April thru September.

64. white horse tavern

White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, America's oldest tavern.

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

The White Horse Tavern is a historically significant restaurant on the well-to-do island of Newport. It was established in 1673 and is ‘America’s Oldest Tavern’. The restaurant radiates authentic charm and takes a farm-to-table approach with its seasonal, locally-sourced menu. From Sunday – Wednesday, you can also enjoy a three-course prix-fixe menu for only $35 per person.

65. allie’s donuts

People lined up outside Allie's Donuts in Rhode Island.

Where: North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Despite the fact that there are a growing number of hipster, gourmet donut shops sprouting up in Rhode Island (and everywhere else, for that matter), Allie’s is OG. In fact, they’ve been around since 1968! Think the light, flaky, sticky-sweetness of a Krispy Kreme and combine that with the love, sweat, and tears that comes exclusively from small business owners, and you get Allie’s. Don’t let the fact that they are limited to traditional flavors fool you. While these donuts are anything but pretentious, they are great contenders in terms of both texture and flavor. Trust me, they are well-worth the wait in line!

66. pastiche

Interior of Pastiche, the best dessert café in all of Rhode Island.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

In Providence and the surrounding areas, no dessert shop can compete with Pastiche. I’ve been coming here since I was a child, but it’s not just nostalgia that gives Pastiche a place on this list. People statewide and beyond are familiar with Pastiche’s otherworldly dessert offerings. Everything is made on-site, from scratch, fresh daily.

My favorite regular offering is the fresh fruit tart, but the real treat is in their dessert specials. The specials vary often, particularly with seasonality and availability of ingredients. One special that has stuck out to me over the years is the mango shortcake with coconut biscuit – absolutely to-die-for!

67. broadway bistro

Outside of Broadway Bistro, with their red, white and black sign showing a dog painted on the building.

Where: Providence, Rhode Island

Broadway Bistro is my personal favorite spot for dinner in Providence.  Comfort food that’s elevated to fine-dining caliber, coupled with innovative cocktails, a legit wine list, and veeeery affordable prices, this place has it all.  The menu is ever-changing, with popular favorites reappearing from time to time.  Definitely try the ribs and grits!

rhode island beer & wine

68. sons of liberty

Where: South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Sons of Liberty is a local whiskey distillery in South County, Rhode Island. SOL specializes in innovative single-malt whiskey distilled from beer, as well as seasonal whiskies. In the pre-pandemic days, you could visit their tasting room after a day at the beach or on a rainy afternoon. Currently, curbside pickup or a stop to the local liquor store is how you can sample their flavorful offerings.

Fun fact: When I was a bartender at the Mew’s, I shot a video promo for Sons of Liberty when we were featuring some of their spirits. I am not made for the camera, I was so nervous!

69. sakonnet

Sakonnet Vineyards Winery with many bushes, trees, and greenery on the grounds of the vineyard.

Where: Little Compton, Rhode Island

Sakonnet was founded in 1975 and boasts over 150 acres of land and vineyards to explore.  Given the maritime conditions of its location between two waterways, expect their wines to reflect that, with low sugar levels, high acidity, and lots of mineralality.  Check out their tasting room from Thursday – Monday (12:00 – 16:00); the tasting room is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Insider Tip:  Have a designated driver or plan to call an Uber on your way home – Little Compton is a 40-minute drive from Providence.

70. whaler’s

Where:  South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Whalers Brewing is a fast-growing company specializing in craft beer in a wide variety of styles.  Established in 2011, it’s one of the newer establishments on this list, but their beer is phenomenal.  Check out their tap room if you want to sample their current offerings, which rotate seasonally.  The Whalers tap room is open Tuesday – Sunday and is one of the best things to do in Rhode Island. Check the website for updated hours.

71. mews tavern

People sitting at a table with Mews beer flights in front of them.

Where: South Kingstown, Rhode Island

The Mews is a Rhode Island fixture, having been around since 1947. It’s long been one of my favorite hangouts in the state, and I even bartended there for a while before leaving the food & beverage industry for good in 2015. The claim-to-fame at the Mews is its extensive draught beer selection – they serve over 69 beers on tap including rare and limited editions and seasonal favorites.

There are three different bars to hang out at, or you can sit in the dining room for a more family-friendly atmosphere. The food here is actually really delicious! Their pizzas are amazing, and if you’re into spicy food, be sure to try anything with their thermonuclear sauce.

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10 thoughts on “70+ things to do in Rhode Island: the ultimate bucket list”

  1. I’ll admit, I don’t really know a lot about Rhode Island, but I have to say it looks pretty. The cute looking towns and streets, the history, the beautiful views and wow, those mansions. They’re something else aren’t they? Weekday a great looking place to explore

  2. If I ever make it to Rhode Island I definitely know which post to turn to. There are so many things to do here – I wouldn’t know where to start! Thanks for all of the handy tips!

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