Providence is one of the oldest cities in the United States, its name given by a theologian exile Roger Williams from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Founded in 1685, it has undergone recent revitalisation efforts in order to cause an upturn in the poverty problems it continues to face.
Williams established the city as a refuge for freethinkers and religious dissenters, encouraging independence of spirit. The city still reflects this independent spirit today in its academic and cultural realms, countering trends in other New England cities.
Despite the attempted modernisation, the abundance of historic and cultural attractions in Providence remains its most enduring feature. Over 350 years of history populate the streets in the forms of preserved colonial, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses and public buildings.
With 12 colleges and universities filled with students and young people, the city's nightlife is constantly buzzing and Providence is also renowned for its excellent restaurants. It has more restaurants per capita than any other major American city.
Rhode Island's magnificent white marble Georgian state house was inspired by London's St Paul's Cathedral and the US Capitol. It has the distinction of sporting one of only four self-supporting domes in the world, the others being St Peter's Basilica, the Taj Mahal, and the Minnesota State Capitol.
The beautiful building in Smith Street houses the original Rhode Island Charter of 1663 and an historic portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart, a Rhode Island native. The Washington portrait is renowned for being the one used on the American dollar bill.
Designed by Joseph Brown for his brother John in 1786, sixth president John Quincy Adams once described the three-storey mansion on Power Street as being the most incredible and elegant private mansion ever seen on the continent of North America.
The Georgian architecture features elaborate woodwork, French wallpaper, and 18th-century locally-made furnishings. John Brown House also contains silver and decorative oriental objet d'art, gathered by John Brown who made his fortuning trading with China.
Providence's renovated downtown waterfront is known as Waterplace Park, a haven of romantic Venetian footbridges and cobblestone walkways that has won national and international design awards. The river walk was the centre of the shipping trade in the city's early years, sited at the junction of three rivers.
Today it draws enthusiastic crowds to the popular WaterFire events, held several times a year. This multimedia festival involves nearly 100 blazing braziers that rise from the river, seemingly to dance atop the water to the tune of rhythmic music.
WaterFire events are not held to schedule and visitors can find out from the visitor information centre in the clock tower (open daily from 10am to 4pm) when the next is to be held. Free concerts and plays are also frequently held in the Waterplace Amphitheatre.
The small but comprehensive museum attached to the Rhode Island School of Design features many changing exhibitions, particularly relating to textiles. The museum's permanent collection includes the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller collection of Japanese prints, Chinese terracotta, Greek statuary, and some French Impressionist paintings.
Highlights are works by masters such as Monet, Cézanne, Rodin, and Picasso. There is also an American section containing paintings by Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, and John Singer Sargent. Please note that there are two entrances to the museum, the Museum's Benefit Street entrance and the Chace Center entrance at 20 North Main Street.
Providence's zoo is situated in a beautiful 174-hectare (430-acre) Victorian park accessed from Elmwood Avenue on the south edge of the city. The Roger Williams Park Zoo focuses on conservation and also contains two other popular attractions, a museum of natural history and a planetarium, as well as offering a relaxing spot to picnic, feed the ducks, ride a pony, or rent a paddleboat.
The zoo is home to more than 900 animals from 156 different species, with display areas divided into different habitats, including Tropical America, the Plains of Africa, and Australasia. Animals on exhibit include cheetahs, elephants, snow leopards, red wolves, bison, and many more.
Special features include an exhibit focusing on survival and adaption, as well as separate environments illustrating the natural worlds of both Africa and North America. There is also a wetlands trail, a mini trek reproducing the journey of Marco Polo, and an upcoming rainforest exhibition.
One of America's most famous walks in Providence is Benefit Street, lined with an impressive concentration of original colonial-style homes. The 'Mile of History' takes in all the well-restored buildings that were home to merchants and sea captains.
The street overlooking the city's waterfront also features churches and museums. The Providence Preservation Society cares for the area, providing information about the buildings and escorted tours from their office at 21 Meeting Street.
Providence has a humid continental climate. Summer (June to September) has an average daily high temperature above 73°F (23°C) with a low of 66°F (19°C). Winter runs from December to March with an average daily high temperature of 45°F (7°C) dropping to lows around 21°F (-6°C).
In the summer, there are occasional thunderstorms and a slight threat of hurricanes. It is fairly wet, with an annual average rainfall of 45 inches (1,140mm). However, this spreads evenly throughout the year and doesn't interfere too seriously with holidaymakers' enjoyment of the island's hot summers.
During winter there is also light rain, but mostly snowfall. Snowfall is the highest during January. The best time to visit Providence is during spring and summer (May to September).
Providence is one of the unlikely gourmet hotspots in the USA, with a higher per capita number of restaurants than any other city in the country. The Johnson and Wales University of Providence runs well-known culinary arts courses, its graduates contributing to the high quality of restaurants.
Downtown and Federal Hill are two of the most prominent restaurant scenes in Providence. Downtown is an area circled by Memorial Avenue, Dyer Street, Fountain Street, and Empire Street, filled with a variety of cuisines. Popular establishments include Cafe Nuovo and the Capital Grille.
Federal Hill in Providence boasts the highest concentration of restaurants in the city. The Little Italy of Providence, it covers both Italian and international food. Atwells Avenue is at the centre of the neighbourhood and over twenty restaurants line one quarter-mile of the avenue. Angelo's on Atwells Avenue has been around since 1924 and is a Providence institution.
The RIPTA bus service can get one almost anywhere in Providence. It's the most inexpensive way to travel around Providence, along with water taxis and ferry boats which operate daily. The government sets taxi rates but working meters are required in all taxis.
Hiring a car is also a great way to get around Providence, especially for visitors wanting to explore outside the city. Most attractions are near enough to reach on foot when travelling through the downtown area of Providence.
A vibrant destination perfect for a few days away, attractions in Providence include art, history, and recreational activities. Known to be compact, modern, and a little eccentric, the city has a loyal population and is well-loved in the broader region.
The history of Providence means that there are numerous historical sites and districts, such as Federal Hill and the East Side. Exploring them is a wonderful way to immerse oneself in the culturally diverse spaces of the state capital city.
The beautiful Rhode Island State House houses the original Rhode Island Charter of 1663. Visitors will discover other architectural landmarks such as the RISD Museum, which is the leading museum of art and design in the state. Benefit Street helps understand the architectural heritage of Providence, while John Brown House was the first mansion built in the state.
For the artistic, the Providence Performing Arts Center holds concerts, contemporary plays, comedy, and Broadway shows. WaterFire Providence is an exciting attraction for those looking for something different, offering a sensory experience on the river like no other.
Home to the prestigious Brown University, Providence is rich in academics, arts, and student life. The city has some renowned restaurants from which to choose, as well as great shopping districts. Visitors enjoy outdoor recreation at any one of the spectacular parks and golf courses in the city.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination