Bristol (Rhode Island)

Bristol Bristol, Rhode Island is a quintessential New England waterfront town. It is situated on a peninsula surrounded by Narragensett and Mount Hope Bays. It is part of the East Bay communities along with Warren and Barrington, RI. This coastal community has a rich 325 year history and hosts the oldest, continuous 4 July celebration in the United States. The town is plentiful with many year round recreational activities and a spectacular waterfront that provides beautiful views as well as many water sports. The town has not lost its historic, ‘Main Street America’ feel with many stately homes, tree lined streets and old town store fronts.


Bristol is a small and historic Rhode Island town with a population of about 3,000. Approximately 20.6 square miles, Bristol is a beautiful town right on the water that was founded by Roger Williams in 1636, and was named after Bristol, England. The town was eventually sold after 1685 and sold to four Boston investors: Byfield, Wally, Oliver and Burton, three of which when on to have schools named after them. By the late 1700s Bristol was a major ward for the illegal slave trade and inhabited some of the richest men in the country. One famous family who participated in the slave trade were the DeWolf Colts. The family’s most famous home was Linden Place Mansion, which inhabits in Bristol. Colt School was also built and donated to the town located next door to Linden Place and is made largely from marble and was built as a memorial to Theodore DeWolf Colt by her son. Colt Farm and Colt State Park are two other donations that live on through the family. Bristol, Rhode Island also holds the first, longest and largest Independence Day Parade in the country. The streets are lined with a red, white and blue stripe down the middle, year round and there are concerts leading up to the holiday three weeks in advance. There is a carnival week of, fireworks by the downtown water, a performance by the Navy Band and of course, the annual Fourth of July Parade.

Get in

By car

From Providence, go east on I-195 to exit 7. Follow Route 114 into Bristol. Alternate route;travel east on I-195 to exit 2 in Massachusetts. Follow Route 136 into Bristol.

From Boston I-95 south to Rt. 24 south. Take exit for Mt. Hope Bridge. Follow signs for Bristol and Mt. Hope Bridge. Go over the bridge and follow Rt. 114 north into Bristol.

By air

By bus

Ocean State Adventure, 99 Poppasquash Rd,  +1 401 254-4000. Wed- Sun 10-6. Ocean State Adventures offers a vast array of outdoor needs. The store sells everything for your paddling needs. Rentals, tours, classes and camps are all services offered by OSA for the best views of the Ocean's States coastlines.

Get around

The town isn't too big, so walking or bike riding can be one of the easiest ways to get around. Most of the shops and restaurants are located in one general area making it easily accessible by foot.



Bristol is host to many events and celebrations, particularly in and around the 4th of July.

Bristol is a great place to enjoy all the beauty of Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay. The town is perfectly situated on the East Bay Peninsula, making it a water lover's paradise. Boating, kayaking and other water sports are popular activities along the coast. The harbor hosts approximately 800 moorings and several docks, so travel to the area by water is an option. Rentals of equipment are available at a few locations in town. See listings in the Buy section for rental shops.

(401) 253-7482 Admission: Free Open year round Sunrise to sunset Office Hours 8AM-4PM Facility rentals available Trash policy: no cans on premise; you pick and carry Services / Features Children's Activities, Grill, Picnic Area, Restroom, Public Beach, Wildlife Refuge, Nature Center, Alcohol Prohibited, Pets Allowed, Saltwater Fishing, Fishing Pier, Roller-skating, Cross-Country Skiing, Bike Trail, Bird Watching Trail, Hiking Trail, Horseback Riding, Jogging Trail, Off-Road Trail Colt State Park is a 464 acre, nature lovers paradise. No matter the season, there is always something here to enjoy. The park's many amenities provide plenty of activities for everyone in the family. Whether relaxing by the bay, fishing on the dock or hiking on one of the many trails, no two trips to the park will ever have to be the same. The park is the perfect place to hold family and friend functions in the picnic areas or in the main house, once owned by the Rockwells. Weddings are also available on premises for a nominal fee. Inquire at the office for pricing and availability.

Open year round Sunrise to sunset No motor vehicles allowed No snow removal on path Dogs permitted on leash Obey path traffic pattern: Bikers on the right; walkers on left.

Colt Experience some of the diverse natural beauty that this corner of the Ocean State has to offer. A scenic 14.5-mile path traversing the communities of Providence, East Providence, Warren, & Barrington, begins right here in Bristol. The serene journey starts at Independence Park and continues along the northeast shore of Narragansett Bay. The path provides spectacular waterfront views, access to several state parks, coastal marshes & ponds. It is a 10' wide, asphalt-paved path. The well maintained trail is suitable for bikers, walkers and in-line skaters. The old, converted railroad system provides us with not only plenty of exercise, but practical connections to travel to other towns within the area without the hassle of driving. Downtown shops and restaurants are steps from the path, as well as access to the Audubon Society. The bike path has received national acclaim for its ease and appearance; considered one of the most enjoyable rides throughout New England. Expansion projects are still the works that will continue the trail and connect with the Blackstone Trail in the northern part of the state.

The Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve or NBNERR, is the place to go to get an amazing tour of the island and learn about its history. They also host yearly seal tours when the weather begins to get colder which is great for the entire family. The trip is run by the members of the NBNERR staff who know plenty about the island. They pick you up at the ferry landing and bring you back to their research reserve where they give a quick presentation of the seals and the sea life surrounding the island, then take you to the most popular spots on the island to view the seals. Once that is through, they then bring you on a historical tour of the island and show you some of the most breathtaking locations one could ever imagine. With views of the Mt. Hope Bridge, Narragansett Bay, and an abundance of wildlife, you will want to take plenty of pictures and wish you didn’t have to leave. You are required to register for this tour beforehand, which can be done at the Audubon Society located at 1401 Hope Street.

The Fourth of July Parade and Festivities

Bristol’s parade has been annually running since 1785. The parade begins on July 4 at 10:30AM, starting the corner of Chestnut and Hope Street, and runs down Hope Street (whose traffic lines are painted red, white, and blue) until High Street.

Bristol is a town that is very proud of their American Spirit. Like stated, this is the oldest Fourth of July Parades in the entire country. If you decide to travel to Bristol during the beginning of the summer, you will witness Bristolians decorating their houses in red, white and blue (especially if their house is located on the parade route!) Their enthusiastic patriotism is evident all year round, but it really shines during the months leading up to July. Fourth of July fireworks either occur one day prior to the parade or one day after. The fireworks can be seen along the Bristol Waterfront, but if you simply take a stroll in the downtown area at night, you can be sure to catch a glimpse of the fireworks. Street Parking is available on the streets of Downtown Bristol and it is conveniently free. Bristolians know of this parking convenience, and know to head downtown at least a good hour prior to the firework show. It is recommended that you do this same for parking can become tricky downtown. Once the firework show is complete, don’t expect leaving to be easy. It can get pretty crowded and streets may become closed, so patience is advised.

You must bring your own seating. The parade is always well-attended, do not wait too long to set up your seating arrangements, but do so no earlier than 5AM, otherwise your chairs, towels, and/or coolers will be confiscated. Plenty of parking is available downtown, apart from strict parking bans which go into effect for Hope Street and surrounding streets the night before. It helps to know someone in town, a friendly driveway is a great convenience when the parade is over and people rush to their cars and make crowded parking lots your painfully slow exit.

You can bring your own food and drink as well as purchase refreshments from vendors along the parade route, but alcohol is strictly prohibited. Vendors along the parade route also sell a variety of knick-knacks and souvenirs.

The parade itself goes by in several divisions, filled with music, motion, and color. There is an abundance of sound, diverse bugle and drum corps from all over the US march and play in the parade wearing their colors and twirling their flags. Bristol’s own Mt. Hope High School marching band performs along the route. Various floats from different organizations drive the parade route as well. Among other marchers found walking the parade route would be Rhode Island political figures and Elmo. The parade is also rife with historical and patriotic reverences to our Revolution as well as our men and women in uniform.

The parade, as well as other Fourth of July activities have their own website for further information.





Bed and Breakfasts

Go next

Routes through Bristol

Providence Warren  N  S  Portsmouth Newport

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