Downtown Providence

Providence is the state capital and largest city in Rhode Island, as well as the third largest city in New England. Formerly an industrial bastion of organized crime, Providence's Renaissance has created new parks and attractions and brought emphasis back to its historic roots. Downcity events, historic vistas, eclectic districts such as College Hill and Federal Hill, and a great nightlife make Providence a worthwhile tourist destination.

Most of Providence's attractions are organized into four neighborhoods: Downcity, which includes the core of the downtown area as well as Waterplace Park, the Providence Place Mall, and Capitol Hill; Federal Hill, a neighborhood just west of downtown along Atwells Avenue that is known for nightlife and Italian dining; College Hill/The East Side, which is home to some of the city's oldest homes as well as both Brown University and RISD, and features several smaller neighborhoods with eclectic shops and restaurants. College Hill is primarily centered along Thayer Street around its intersection with Angell Street; and off to the west end of Downcity, there is Charles Street which runs directly from Downcity. Charles Street Intersects with Branch Avenue and from there till about Mineral Spring is still the most corrupt part of the City. There are a couple of high end restaurants and night clubs at the North end of Charles Street.

South Providence begins roughly at the start of Elmwood Avenue (closest to downtown) and Broad Street. There are many restaurants, mainly serving Spanish or Chinese food; fast food places, hair salons, banks, pharmacies, libraries and supermarkets. Everything is within a walkable distance or a short drive. South Providence has a reputation for poverty and crime; the nightclubs on Broad Street have been known for their brawls. Despite this reputation, South Providence has its nice neighborhoods where tourists can get away from everything. Downtown is a 15 minute drive away for the best entertainment and shopping.




River walk along Waterplace Park

Puritan refugee and Massachusetts exile Roger Williams settled Providence, Rhode Island, in June of 1636. It soon became one of the thirteen original colonies of the United States. The Narragansett Native Americans previously occupied Rhode Island's land.

British taxation held back the city’s economical growth in its fishing, farming and nautical enterprises. Providence joined other critics of the British Crown and opposed the Sugar Act, a tax that adversely affected Providence’s international rum trade. The Gaspee Affair of 1772 involved the residents of Providence leading the first violent attack of the American Revolution.

After the Revolutionary War, Providence’s economic industry changed from maritime activities to manufacturing, especially in jewelry and textiles. Such industries drew many immigrants from overseas lands such as Italy, Ireland, England, Portugal and Cape Verde, whose descendants compose a high proportion of the population of the state today.

The jewelry industry boomed in the 1920s. The Great Depression hit the local economy hard, leading to population decreases. Organized crime rose to the forefront in Providence in the 1950s through the 1980s, primarily situated in Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood. Providence became a notorious mob scene led by mafia boss Raymond L. S. Patriarca.

The “Renaissance City” got its nickname in the 1990s when Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr came into his second term. After millions in local and national funds were spent throughout the city in the 1970s, the city's previously falling population was stabilized. Cianci pushed for an emphasis on the city’s strength in the arts and entertainment and revitalized the city’s natural landscape. He brought Rhode Island the Providence Bruins hockey team, uncovered Providence’s rivers, relocated a large section of the railroad underground, created the now famous Waterplace Park and river walks, and sanctioned the construction of the Bank of America Skating Rink and the gigantic Providence Place Mall.

Providence has a long history of political corruption that some feel to be part of the local charm. In keeping with this tradition; Mayor Cianci was indited not once but twice from local office. When running for office for his second term, he actually ran partly from jail. It wasn't until a 2001 racketeering case was brought against Cianci that the notorious Mayor's reign ended. The current Mayor of Providence is Angel Taveras.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 37 38 46 58 68 77 82 81 73 63 53 41
Nightly lows (°F) 20 22 29 39 48 57 64 62 54 43 35 25
Precipitation (in) 3.9 3.5 4.3 4.1 3.6 2.9 3.1 3.9 3.5 3.6 4.5 4.3

Providence's climate is humid continental/subtropical. This means high humidity year-round, with hot, wet summers and cold, snowy winters. Unlike other inland states in New England, Rhode Island's position along the Atlantic coast keeps Providence's temperatures relatively warm. Precipitation is a mainstay in Providence's climate. Spring and summer months often have bouts of rainfall and winter months are regularly hit with snowfall and blizzards. Providence's position on the coast of the Narragansett Bay leaves the city susceptible to hurricanes, but such occurrences are rare.

Visitor information

Get in

By plane

Get in from TF Green

Bus route information from RIPTA's website .

Get in from Logan

By train

  Providence Station, 100 Gaspee Street, is the central train station in Providence, located across the street from the Rhode Island State House.

By car

For those driving, I-95 will serve you well from Boston or New York areas, Rt. 146 is better when coming from Worcester or western Massachusetts area. I-195 connects to Cape Cod and eastern Massachusetts. Driving from TF Green Airport (PVD) , head north on I-95. Driving to the airport exit 13 on I-95.

By bus

Get around

Downtown Providence is very compact and can easily be covered walking. There is some parking available throughout the city, but RIPTA's public transport network is extensive and an alternative to driving. Although public transit in Providence is almost entirely comprised of buses, the buses are on-time, reliable, and much of RIPTA's bus fleet is new. Kennedy Plaza, RIPTA's downtown bus station, has recently undergone a major overhaul and is well laid out with digital displays at each terminal that tell when the next bus will be coming.

Two of the downtown lines are run completely on natural gas trackless trolleys (called the Providence LINK Trolley), and cover most of historic Providence. Base fare is $2.00, though e-riptiks or ride passes may be purchased either on-board or at local Shaw's and Stop and Shop supermarkets.Seniors or disabled persons ride for half price during non-peak hours with the presentation of an id. Students from some local colleges can buy discounted bus passes or use their school id cards (policy varies depending on the school).


Providence is a city rich in unique architecture, beautiful streetscapes and stimulating intellectual pursuits. One of America's older cities, Providence features many historic buildings like the Rhode Island State House and Trinity Repertory Theater. These locations, among others, exemplify some of the country's best 19th and 20th century architecture. The RISD museum and Roger Williams Park Zoo offer days of fun sightseeing for adults and children alike.



Downcity Providence overlooking Waterplace Park
  • Old Stone Bank - S. Main St. & Crawford St. Greek Revival building from 1854.
  • The Arcade - Westminster St. The oldest enclosed shopping mall in America from 1828. Also in Greek Revival style, replete with Ionic columns.
  • City Hall - Dorrance St. & Washington St. Finished in 1878, the Second Empire Baroque City Hall only survives today because of former Mayor Buddy Cianci's careful restoration in 1975.
  • Industrial Trust Tower (Bank of America Tower) - Kennedy Plaza. The tallest building in Providence is an intent Art Deco impression from 1928.
  • Trinity Repertory Theater - Washington St. & Empire St. This 1912 building, clad in terra-cotta houses the area's finest reportory company.
  • Providence County Courthouse - S. Main St. & College St. Built in 1930, the Courthouse is one of the earliest examples of architectural contextualism anywhere. The building's large mass is tastefully fragmented and detailed.
  • First Baptist Church - Main St. & Waterman St. Built on the site of the original 1638 First Baptist Church, this 1775 edifice is beautifully restored.
  • Cranston Street Armory - Cranston St.
  • Biltmore Hotel - The 1922 Neo-Federal Beaux-Arts styled hotel. Dorrance St. & Washington St.
  • Federal Courthouse - Exchange St. & Washington St.
  • Athenaeum - The fourth oldest library in the country. Benefit St. & College St.
  • Market Square - College St. & S. Main St.

Though professional tours of the city are not offered, a book featuring 12 self-guided walking tours of the city's architecture is available for purchase at the Providence Preservation Society, 21 Meeting Street, +1 401 831-7440, .



Roger Williams Park

Roger Williams Park is located in the southern part of the city . The park is named after the founder of the city of Providence and one of the founders of the state of Rhode Island in 1636- Roger Williams. Roger Williams began the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which provided a refuge for religious minorities.

The land for the park was a gift to the people of Providence in 1871, in accordance with the will of Betsey Williams, the great-great-great-granddaughter, and last surviving descendant of the founder to own the land. It had been the family farm and represented the last of the original land grant to Roger Williams in 1638 from Canonicus, chief of the Narragansett tribe.

The elaborately landscaped 427-acre city park contains seven lakes which comprise approximately 98 acres. Roger Williams Park is a National Historic District.The park was designed by Horace Cleveland in 1878, and was constructed in the 1880s. Many of the roads, bridges and sidewalks were built by the Works Progress Administration from 1935 to 1940.

The park is free of charge and open anytime of the day and every day of the week. It holds an old fashioned carousel with beautifully designed statues of various zoo animals to ride. It is $1 for children or adults to ride the carousel. Often in the park there is face painting available as well. Furthermore, there is a bright and clean playground that is suitable for all ages. There is a concession stand in the park and ample picnic tables to enjoy the hotdogs and pizza.

To get to the park:

From I-95 South: Take exit 17, Elmwood Avenue, Left at light Park entrance is 1/2 block on left. From I-95 North: Take exit 16, Elmwood Avenue, Bear right, Left at light, Park entrance is 1/2 block on right. From I-195 West: Merge onto I-95 South, Take exit 17, Elmwood Avenue, Left at light, Park entrance is 1/2 block on left. R.I.P.T.A – (+1 401 781-9400), Bus 20 (Elmwood Ave) – The cost for riding the bus is $2.00 unless you have a bus pass. Bus 20 passes right by the park approximately every 25mins with other stops along Elmwood Ave.

April - Columbus Day: Tuesday – Friday: 11AM – 4PM Saturday – Sunday: 10AM – 5PM Weather Permitting

After Columbus Day-March 31: Friday: 11AM – 4PM Saturday – Sunday: 10AM – 5PM Closed Monday – Thursday

Temple of Music

Special Events at the Roger Williams Park Zoo:

You might also check out Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, which contains a nine hole golf course, an equestrian show area, 18 miles of bridle trails, 355 picnic tables, 11 game fields, and a new performing arts center for special events.




Bunny on the street at Foo Fest 2009

Arts and theater

Handicap Service: Complete Wheel Chair Access, Special Arrangements Upon Request, Communication Devices for the Deaf.

Entertainment arenas

  • Northeast International Auto Show - Automobile extravaganza featuring hundreds of new model cars, trucks, minivans and sport-utility vehicles from more than twenty import and domestic manufactures.
  • Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show - More than twenty-eight gardens, lectures and demonstration, children’s activities, bookstore and more than 200 garden-related vendor booths.
  • The Home Show - Largest and most informative consumer home show in southern New England. Features hundreds of exhibitors and displays of the latest products and services for building, remodeling and decorating homes. Variety of seminars and demonstrations.

The Ryan Center is a $54 million multi-purpose facility owned by the University of Rhode Island; it's located in Kingston

Live music

Night Life



Providence is home to many schools. The city is also home to a few notable colleges.


Downcity Providence

Downcity is the new place to grab a cappuccino or snag a great pair of jeans . You can drool over must-have furnishings or stop for a bistro lunch. Browse art books. Then toast a day well spent. You can do it all in Downcity Providence, home to a collection of fine design, fashion, and dining opportunities.

Thayer Street

Thayer Street is the place to go if looking for a pleasurable and eclectic shopping experience. It is good for those who enjoy walking outside from store to store. It is also a good place to buy gifts because many of the stores sell quirky trinkets. Located near two Colleges, it attracts many young adults. It could be called an “artsy” street with stores that sell, imported clothing, handmade crafts, clothes, art, house wares, and books. It has changed dramatically as years have passed, it has become much more about the restaurants than the shops, but it is still a great for both. It is filled with both locals and visitors.

Providence Place Mall

Shop the city

Rhode Islanders can be quite secretive about the city's hidden treasures. Outside of the state's most frequented shop spots lie many other great opportunities to find that special item or to simply discover something new and exciting.

Specialty Stores:





Providence Place Mall

Thayer Street

Federal Hill

Other Eateries




Although the city of Providence may be small compared to other states' capitals, it has quite a bustling nightlife. There are a variety of bars and clubs to suit any taste and price range - from hip eclectic bars in the artsy college area, to upscale martini bars downtown, techno and hip-hop clubs for the younger crowd, and casual pubs and brewhouses scattered throughout the city, there is certainly something for everybody. RI Law prohibits Happy Hour drink specials.



Bed & Breakfasts


Stay Safe

Providence is not known for scams or pick-pocketing so the biggest issues are drug and gang violence. If you do not use drugs then you should not have any issues. It is best to stay East of the highway 95 North with the exception of Federal Hill and a few other notable places, most of the poverty lies on the West end of the City.

Providence is a relatively safe city for its size, though proper caution and common sense should not be abandoned. The downtown area can be dodgy at night, especially around Kennedy Plaza and Washington Street. The club areas on the outskirts of downtown have also been known to draw some issues, though most are gang related. Another area to avoid at night is the Camp Street area of the East Side. There is some known gang activity and there has been some violent behavior in the past. Also, late nights on Federal Hill are a great place to watch to drunken idiots beat each other up under the guise of Italian pride (though this is more in the vein of "Jersey Shore" Italian and not of that that first inhabited the city decades ago), so exercise caution whilst in the bar and club area of this historic neighborhood.

As far as violent crime goes, it is best to avoid South Providence and the Olneyville neighborhoods of the city. There is little reason for most tourists to go to these locations, though the city's three main hospitals are relegated to the South Side. Olneyville's New York System was featured on Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" series, and while there are two other locations within driving distance of Providence (Rhode Island is the smallest state, after all), a quick visit here to get a few hot dogs will not result in a problem unless you decide to walk around the neighborhood a bit and it's 1:00 in the morning.

Consular services

Go next

Visit Newport, RI, Boston or New York.

Routes through Providence

New York City New London  SW  NE  Westwood Boston
New Haven South Kingstown  SW  NE  Westwood Boston
Boston Pawtucket  N  S  Cranston New Haven
Hartford Scituate ends  W  E  East Providence New Bedford
Worcester North Providence  N  S  END
Boston Pawtucket  N  S  Cranston New Haven
Attleboro East Providence  N  S  Cranston Warwick
Hartford North Providence  W  E  East Providence Plymouth
Canton Attleboro  N  S  Warwick North Kingstown

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.