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The 20 Best Things to Do in Rhode Island for First Timers

Cliff Walk

Despite being the smallest of the states, Rhode Island is an interesting place to visit that is jam-packed with things to see and do during your stay. As it was one of the original colonies, there is a cleat historic theme to many of Rhode Island’s attractions. However, historic attractions are not the only option as there are plenty of other activities and attractions to keep you entertained. It makes sense to plan your itinerary in advance so that you get the best experience possible. To help you plan your vacation, the following are the 20 best things to do in Rhode Island for first-timers.


20. Have a Night at Columbus Theater

Vacations Made Easy a night at Columbus Theater as a good option for evening entertainment. Located in Providence, the Columbus Theater was originally a 1920s vaudeville theater. The performances hosted at this theater are predominantly various genres of live music. If you intend to spend a night at the theater, you should check what is on in and book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

White Horse Tavern

19. Dine at The White Horse Tavern

When dining out in Rhode Island, you will have many outstanding restaurants from which you can choose. One that you should definitely try to visit is the White Horse Tavern as it is one of the oldest taverns in the United States having first opened its doors in 1673. Now, this restaurant has a farm-to-table ethos, using only locally-sourced ingredients. They specialize ins fresh fish and seafood dishes, and it is also known for the artisan cheese on the menu. It is a classy establishment that requires formal dress.

Rhode Island Gondola

18. Ride a Gondola in Providence

One of the distinctive features of Providence is its waterways. You can take a ride in a gondola along these waterways, which is an interesting way to view some of the city’s sights from a different perspective. The main gondola company offers rides that have live music and a gondolier wearing the traditional Italian outfit. If you are visiting Rhode Island as a couple, this is one of the most romantic activities you can enjoy together. However, it is also a fun activity that you can enjoy with children.

Newport Car Museum

17. Newport Car Museum

An interesting museum to visit in Rhode Island, especially for car enthusiasts, is the Newport Car Museum. This attraction is a celebration of the art and design of cars. There is a collection of more than 50 automobiles that span six decades of automotive design. Some of the featured cars include the Chrysler Mopar, Corvettes, Fin Cars, and Ford Shelby Cars. There are also some interactive features for visitors to enjoy, such as a driving simulator. There is a coffee bar in the museum for you to grab a hot drink after your tour of the collection.

Newport Brewery

16. Tour Newport Storm Brewery

The production of various alcoholic drinks is big business in Rhode Island, so you should take a tour of a distillery or brewery during your stay Somewhere that you can combine both activities is at Newport Storm Brewery. Not only do they produce beer in their brewery, but this company has also had a rum distillery for more than 150 years. Tours begin and end at the visitor's center, and visitors have the chance to learn about the production of both beer and spirits. At the end of the tour, there is an opportunity to sample some of the company’s products and to buy some of the goods to take home.

Green Animals Topiary Garden

15. Green Animals Topiary Garden

Green Animals is a topiary garden that is in the grounds of a mansion in Portsmouth, although the property is maintained by the Preservations Society of Newport County. The shrubs and trees are shaped into a menagerie of animals and geometric shapes. The garden has been designed in this way more than 140 years ago. This is an attraction that children will also enjoy as they find the gardens enchanting.

Flying Horse Carousel

14. Ride the Watch Hill’s Flying Horse Carousel

There is something whimsical about the old-fashioned carousels, and there are three of these historic rides in Rhode Island. The one that is most often recommended is the Watch Hill’s Flying Horse Carousel. This carousel was built in 1883 and then abandoned on the shores of Rhode Island by gypsies. It is believed that this is the oldest surviving carousel in the United States. For its history alone, the carousel is worth seeing. This is also an activity that any children in your traveling party will love. Another fantastic carousel to visit is the one in Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence.

Rhode Island Grill

13. Roger Williams Park Zoo

If you are visiting Rhode Island with children, one of the top attractions to visit is Roger Williams Park Zoo. It is the third oldest zoo in the United States as it opened in 1872, and one of the best animal-related attractions in New England. A particular highlight of a visit to this attraction is seeing the elephants. However, there are plenty more species to see during your visit. This activity is both fun and educational, and it is suitable for people of all ages.

Rough Point

12. Tour Rough Point

An impressive property to visit is Rough Point in Newport, which was once home to Newport heiress Doris Duke. Inside the mansion, visitors will see Doris Duke’s personal collections. It is known that Duke did not follow the latest trends when collecting items. She only built collections of objects that she found personally interesting. It is best to take a guided tour, as this will allow you to learn more about the house and the woman who once lived there. The house was opened to the public after Doris Duke’s death per the instructions in her will.


11. Blithewold, Bristol

Built for Augustus Van Wickle in 1908, this mansion is in the style of a 17th-century English country manor and it overlooks Narragansett Bay. There are 45 rooms for visitors to tour, each of which is filled with the furnishings and personal collections of the family that once lived in the property. On display, visitors will see 30 sets of fine china, along with impressive collections of dolls, Tiffany lamps, Baccarat crystal, and Gorham silver. Guests can also explore the 33 acres of gardens. These include 500 varieties of trees, a water garden a rock garden, display gardens, and an enclosed garden.

Block Island

10. Block Island

A nice place to enjoy a day trip is Block Island, says Trip Savvy. This island is ten miles off-shore and is reached by ferry. You board the ferry at Point Judith in Galilee. Once on Block Island, you can enjoy scenic walks, cycle, enjoy the beaches, and visit the Victorian Southeast Lighthouse and the North Lighthouse. This is an interesting place to visit if you like birdwatching, and nature lovers should take the time to visit the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Narragansett Bay Beaches

9. Narragansett Bay Beaches

Along the beautiful coastline of Rhode Island, there are many wonderful beaches. If you only go to the beaches once during your stay, you should choose the Narragansett Bay beaches. These beaches are picturesque and equally suitable for relaxing walks or having some fun with the children. As you walk down the beach, you will come across Narragansett Pier, which has restaurants and lodging.

Herreshoff Marine Museum

8. Herreshoff Marine Museum

There are many museums to visit throughout Rhode Island, but one of the best is the Herreshoff Marine Museum. Sailing is an important part of the history of Rhode Island, especially Newport. You can learn more about this at this museum. One of the main topics covered is the America’s Cup Race. There are restored boats and models that show the stunning designs of the Herreshoffs. Part of the museum is America’s Cup Hall of Fame, which has more than 60 sailing and power yachts, along with videos and displays relating to the event. This attraction is located on One Burnside Street in Bristol.

John Brown House

7. John Brown House

An interesting property of historical significance to visit is John Brown House, which is the former residence of a prosperous colonial merchant called John Brown. Located on a hill in Providence, the elegant house boasts views of the wharves at India Point. The home is filled with antique furnishings, including the work of the finest cabinetmakers in Rhode Island. Also on display in the home are some excellent examples of early decorative arts.

Mile of History

6. Benefit Street Mile of History

If you are interested in learning more about the rich history of Rhode Island, then the best place to do this is at Benefit Street Mile of History. This street is considered the historic, cultural, civic, social, intellectual, and artistic heart of Providence, the state’s capital. Although the street is home to many historic buildings and attractions, it remains a vibrant neighborhood. Visitors will see period homes, interesting architecture, beautiful gardens churches, and a family burial ground. This is a lovely place to spend some time and to absorb yourself in the history of the state.

RISD Museum of Art

5. RISD Museum of Art

Art Lovers visiting Rhode Island should head for the RISD Museum of Art. This is a fascinating attraction to visit due to the staggering number of collections and also because of the various topics covered. One of the most interesting collections is the historical and contemporary textiles and dress collection. There are more than 26 thousand objects in this collection, which includes clothing fragments from Ancient Egypt, Japanese Noh theater robes, Elizabethan needlework, and the work of 20th-century American designers. Other impressive collections are the decorative arts collection and the painting and sculpture collection.

WaterFire Providence

4. WaterFire Providence

WaterFire Providence is a non-profit arts organization that hosts a variety of events and performances in Providence throughout the year. The best place to enjoy these is at the four-acre Waterplace Park and the River Walk, both of which border the Woonasquatucket River. You will see street performers, vendors, and musicians as you walk around the area. Throughout the year, the river is celebrated by lighting 100 bonfires in iron pans floating on the river. Attending these events is completely free, and it is often listed as one of the top free attractions to enjoy in Rhode Island.

Th ELms

3. The Elms

The Elms was the residence of coal magnate Edward J. Berwind. The design was inspired by the 18th-century Chateau d’Asniere. The interior is filled with French furniture and Venetian paintings. In addition to touring the house, visitors can take a walk around the restored Classical Revival gardens. The lower gardens are particularly impressive as they feature marble pavilions, a sunken garden, and fountains.

Cliff Walk

2. Cliff Walk

Rhode Island is known for its breathtaking coastline, which consists of pretty beaches and rugged cliffs. One of the best ways to admire one of the best sections of the coastline is to complete the Cliff Walk in Newport. As visitors walk along the pathway, they can enjoy spectacular ocean views with the waves crashing against the base of the cliffs below. They will also pass by many of the most magnificent mansions in Newport. Make sure you take along your camera on this walk to capture some of the views and landmarks along the way.

The Breakers

1. The Breakers

According to Planetware, the best thing to do in Rhode Island is to visit The Breakers as this is the most popular attraction in the state. Although there are many magnificent mansions to visit in Rhode Island, this is one of the best. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895 as a summer house, there are 70 rooms including a three-story dining room. Visitors will see the amazing architectural details, the luxurious materials used to create the mansion, the antique furniture, and the stunning grounds.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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