Depending on where you come from, yours friends and relatives in other states may variously dismiss Rhode Island as a quaint fiefdom of the Mafia, or as a parking lot between Massachusetts and Connecticut. Of course, Rhody’s hidden secret is how the state’s 1200 square miles contain more fun than most people can imagine.
So when you’re in between studies, getting tired of playing beer pong, or looking for something new, here are a few tips for how to make the most of your time in the Ocean State.
Bike the East Bay
The towns stretching alongside the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay are home to one of the prettiest bike trails in New England. The EAST BAY BIKE PATH (ri-parks.com/eastbay.htm) stretches 14.5 miles from the urban waterfront of East Providence, just over the bridge from Providence’s India Point, to Bristol, which claims to be the most patriotic town in America and is certainly one of the prettiest. Stop at the more than century-old CRESCENT PARK CAROUSEL in East Providence (Bullocks Point Avenue, 401.435.7518) just before you reach Barrington. Once you make it to expansive COLT STATE PARK in Bristol, with its pleasant water views and picnic areas, head over to QUITO’S (411 Thames Street, 401.253.4500) for some of the best clam cakes around.
Get cultured in Downcity
Downcity Providence is the cultural center of the state, and we don’t mean just the 170-store mall at PROVIDENCE PLACE (1 Providence Place, 401.270.1000; providenceplace.com). Downcity is home to great music venues like LUPO’S (79 Washington Street, 401.272.5876; lupos.com) and AS220 (115 Empire Street, 401.831.9327; as220.org); lots of appealing bars and clubs; and the rightly renowned TRINITY REPERTORY THEATRE (201 Washington Street, 401.351.4242; trinityrep.com — student passes available).
From late spring through summer and fall, there’s the famous WATERFIRE (throughout downtown, 401.273.1155; waterfire.org), an installation in which fires roar in a series of braziers in the Providence River. Summer also means the eclectic SOUNDSESSION music festival (various locations, providencesoundsession.com), organized by the PROVIDENCE BLACK REPERTORY COMPANY (276 Westminster Street, 401.351.0353; blackrep.org), which regularly presents plays and music nights and offers one of the classier bars in Downcity. Just up the hill from downtown is the RISD MUSEUM (224 Benefit Street, 401.454.6500; risd.edu/museum.cfm), which boasts great exhibits and music nights on the second Friday of each month.
Try your luck at Twin River
You don’t have to go to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (or drive to the Indian casinos in Connecticut) to get some slots in between classes. Head to Lincoln’s TWIN RIVER (100 Twin River Road, 877.82.RIVER; twinriver.com). In addition to 4700 slot machines, video poker tables, and a handful of restaurants, Twin River also has comedy, music shows, live greyhound racing, and simulcasts of horse races. Giddyap!
Hit the beach
There are beaches all over the Ocean State, but Washington County, known to locals as South County, is home to the best ones. If you don’t mind a crowd, check out SCARBOROUGH BEACH (870 Ocean Road, 401.789.2324; riparks.com/scarborough.htm) or NARRAGANSETT TOWN BEACH (Route 1A, narragansettri.com/parks/beach.htm), both in Narragansett. CRAZY BURGER (144 Boon Street, 401.783.1810; crazyburger.com) is a local favorite for lunch near the Town Beach. Further south, the pretty and generally quieter beaches of EAST BEACH (East Beach Road, Charlestown, 401.322.0450; riparks.com/eastbeach.htm), and MISQUAMICUT BEACH (257 Atlantic Avenue, Westerly, 401.596.9097; ri-parks.com/misquamicut.htm), are well worth a visit.
Taste the Italian-American life
Providence’s FEDERAL HILL neighborhood is the Rhode Island your distant relatives imagined, only tastier. Once home to the storefront base of Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the head of organized crime in New England, Federal Hill now has an excellent collection of restaurants, Italian groceries, and strangely enough, tattoo parlors. The stuffed pizza at SICILIA’S (181 Atwells Avenue, 401.273.9222) is excellent if you’ve got some time. Get a sandwich or an espresso (or both) at COSTANTINO’S VENDA RAVIOLI (Depasquale Square, 401.421.9105; ven-daravioli.com), which also has fresh pasta and sauce to bring home.