Providence is increasingly known for its culinary scene, but between bites, there’s plenty else to do in the city! History, art, flora and fauna, shopping, shows – truly, you’ll never run out of places to go and things to see.
Providence Flea is way more than a traditional flea market – rather, it encapsulates some of Providence’s true creative essence, offering unique art and inventive homemade products made by small (or even micro) businesses. The market typically runs outdoors in the warmer months, but can be found indoors on Sims Ave throughout the fall and winter as well. Vintage vendors, food trucks, and live musicians can be found in abundance each week, rounding out the complete local experience.
Providence Performing Arts Center, or PPAC, began as an opulent movie theater in the 20s and has since been restored to its original glory but reimagined as a center for live entertainment, including concerts, dance, comedy, and touring Broadway productions. On the National Register of Historic Places, PPAC is the second largest theater of its kind in the country, so whether you’re interested in seeing the beauty of the building or the beauty of a stellar performance, you’ll be thrilled here.
The Providence Athenaeum is, quite simply, *the* spot for literary lovers in the city. An independent library for almost two centuries, it’s home to rare editions and expansive collections of historical and contemporary classics. The downside is that it’s currently only open to members in the wake of Covid-19, but the good news is that they offer a discounted rate for first-timers alongside other tiers of membership so you can find one that works for you, while still supporting one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful libraries.
The Botanical Center and the Zoo at Roger Williams Park is a two-for, and not to be missed. The Botanical Center is the largest public indoor garden in New England, housing over 150 varieties of plants, and also features a rose maze and offers programs and classes for the public to explore the best of Rhode Island’s flora. The Zoo, meanwhile, is a classic attraction – founded in 1872, it’s the country’s third oldest zoo and today stands amid 40 beautiful acres and is the home of more than 160 species of animals, big and small, including African elephants, giraffes, flamingos, and Komodo dragons.
La Gondola helps really drive home the “Renaissance” part of Providence’s “Renaissance City” nickname, offering guests a chance to experience a little bit of Venice right here in downtown. You can opt for a singing gondolier or an instrumentalist, a trip topped off with Italian delicacies that you enjoy with your own BYOB selection, a seasonally themed tour that points out local hauntings as you pass by, or even a chance to see the both the water and the fire up close for their Waterfire package.
Speaking of Waterfire, this is last on the list but certainly not least. A Rhode Island staple for almost three decades, Waterfire is an annual art installation that is exactly what it sounds like, but also much more. Throughout each Waterfire season, fires are lit along the three downtown rivers at nightfall and local performers and vendors take to the streets to entertain and enchant visitors.