A three day weekend in Rhode Island: The smallest state provides great experiences by Saul Schwartz

This fall Southwest Airlines offered great promo fares from Baltimore – Washington Airport to Providence, Rhode Island. With fares at just over $100 for a round trip, we decided to explore as much of Rhode Island as possible over the three day Veterans Day weekend.  At 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, you can cover quite a bit of this state in a few days!

In November, the fall foliage through Rhode Island remained quite colorful, with trees blazing in oranges and reds. Using a hotel in downtown Providence as a base, we spent time in Providence- the capital, ritzy Newport and small town Bristol over the three days.


Our top activities and favorite moments:

  • “Cottages” of Newport: In the 1800s, Newport became a summer resort, attracting the country’s wealthiest families. Nineteenth century barons and magnates had extravagant mansions built along Bellevue Avenue. Much like European palaces and castles, the summer cottages are constructed with precious metals and contain collections of art and lavish furniture. The Breakers Plus package covered admission to the Breakers and any one of several Newport mansions. We toured The Breakers and Marble House, both built for Vanderbilt family members. The audio tours provided extensive information about the family and the gilded age when these elite families brought the rich and famous to Newport. The grounds and gardens are lovely, overlooking Easton Beach and Bay.
  • Federal Hill, Providence: Close to downtown Providence, Federal Hill is a charming community full of restaurants and shops. After noting its Italian heritage, we had dinner at an exceptional Italian restaurant, Pane E Vino, on Atwells Avenue, the main street of Federal Hill. The focaccia bread, eggplant and the pasta were exceptionally tasty. The extremely courteous and welcoming wait staffs made us feel as if we were dining in Italy with family!
  • RISD Museum, Providence: Within downtown Providence, the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design provided us with several hours of entertainment. The museum collection is varied, including Egyptian mummies, as well as ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. We particularly enjoyed the rooms of French impressionist paintings. Contained within five buildings and a courtyard, this museum experience was not overwhelming, but did allow for pleasurable wandering between furniture, paintings and sculptures from classical to modern.
  • Strolling through Bristol: On the eastern border close to Massachusetts overlooking Narragansett Bay, Bristol provided us with a small town USA feel. Unfortunately Blithewold Mansion was closed (despite advertisements to the contrary), but we were able to walk through the grounds, which included landscaped gardens and a magnificent view of the bay. The recommended seafood restaurant (Quitos) was also closed for the season, so we viewed the lovely upscale 18th and 19th century homes and read signage showing massive destruction from the 1938 hurricane and tidal wave.
  • IMG_2841
  • Touro Synagogue, Newport: Although not open for tours during our stay, we walked around the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue in the United States. Built in 1863, Touro is the only remaining Jewish house of worship from the Colonial era. The simple exterior is European in style. A small orthodox Jewish congregation holds services at Touro.
  • Brown University, Providence: Just above the downtown, we walked up the hill and entered the beautiful ivy-league campus through one of its gates. Founded in 1764, Brown is the seventh oldest college in the United States. We walked on Thayer Street, which runs through the campus, with its many quirky shops and restaurants. Inside the John Carter Brown Library, we quietly toured the plush reading room, with its tapestries and exhibits showing the French colonization of the United States.
  • Seafood, Providence: The culinary highlight of our weekend took place over dinner in Hemenway’s restaurant in downtown. The interior was elegant. We enjoyed a wide variety of seafood and fish. The waitress was exceptionally knowledgeable and friendly. IMG_2849
  • A very brief stop in Massachusetts: Traveling from Providence to Bristol, we passed through Fall River, Massachusetts. We just had to see the Lizzie Borden home, where in 1892 Lizzie’s father and step-mother were murdered by blows from an ax. Although Lizzie was arrested and jailed, she was acquitted. In the bay, Battleship Cove contains a collection of historic naval ships, including PT boats from World War II.   Also overlooking the bay, we lunched at the Cove restaurant, which featured fine seafood in an open attractive dining room.