What to do in Rhode Island
I can’t believe 8 months have flown by since my incredible weekend getaway to Newport and Providence Rhode Island. It’s also crazy to think that I’ve traveled to more cities outside of the US than inside the US, so last summer I was thrilled to visit such a beautiful place a bit closer to home. One of my nearest and dearest is planning a trip there now, and I found myself reliving my time in Newport and Providence through stories and photos the other day, and decided it was more than worth sharing some of my recommendations with anyone looking for a fabulous trip!
The ride to Newport from Brooklyn was just around three hours. On the way there we passed some truly gorgeous scenes; farms, animals, lush greenery, beautiful waterscapes, picturesque bridges, and quaint little towns. All things way beyond the imagination of your average New Yorker, yes it’s true I melt at the sight of a real live tree. (Just kidding, we have trees in Brooklyn, they’re just surrounded by cement.)
THE NEWPORT MANSIONS
Once there we headed to the mansions. There are 9 different mansions to explore, and we spent hours just going to 3 of them. It was so hard to pull away, but you truly can spend all day - and then some - wandering around these incredible architectural feats. My one regret is that we didn’t get to see the topiary garden, but it’s just another reason to plan a visit back. Nearly all of the mansions were designed by hired architects who, along with the home’s owners, were inspired by Asian and European interior design. You can literally see from room to room which countrie’s design style was thematically used in the planning and execution. From the carvings in the walls and balustrades, to the original tapestries and frescos that are still on view, it’s like walking through a cross between a museum and your intimidating great aunt’s home. The collections of instruments, furniture, and priceless works of art are impressive, but also hard to grapple with. It’s difficult to fathom the wealth of the Vanderbilt’s and other families that owned these magnificent vacation homes. As you walk through the mansions, if you use the audio guide, you’ll hear stories about the families that lived there; their success, their losses, their longing for love, and their happy victories. I really appreciated the explanations as it gives new context to the mansions I don’t think I would have gotten out of the visit without it. It’s also really nice to picture the people that once inhabited these homes, and what their day to day life would have been like.
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for ceiling art, and these villas had some of the best I’ve ever seen. In fact, the week after we got home from RI we headed off to Madrid, and the ceilings in these mansions could contest the artwork found on the ceilings in the palaces in Spain. Again, there was definitely some influence there in the design as they were so similar and Madrid’s were clearly there prior to those in Newport, but so much talent went into constructing these magnificent works of art.
WHERE WE ATE
If you’re visiting Newport I’m not giving you an option, you must visit the Castle Hill Inn. We went in August, and sitting atop the little cliff overlooking the water was incredible. Below were people having drinks on lawn chairs and some of the greenest grass I’ve seen. The sun was bright and we were sat outdoors, but it was cool as we were high up. But besides the amazing views and location, the food was out of this world. Trust me on this - get the clam chowder.
OFF TO PROVIDENCE
As much as I loved Newport, we headed for Providence that night as it’s where we were staying for the rest of the trip (aside from a quick road trip to Boston for lunch and some gelato).
THE GONDOLA RIDE
Woonasquatucket River runs right through Providence and it’s really something magical. La Gondola Providence took us all on a beautiful ride along the river which was scenic, and hilarious because our guide was amazing. Drinks, snacks, Italian singing, and a trip under a slightly creepy, slightly romantic bridge on the black water under the night sky. I’d highly, highly recommend doing this with your family, friends, or partner.
WHERE TO EAT
If you’re a fan of bespoke dining you’ve got to visit Enoteca Umberto. It’s a small place, that seats around 20 people at a time, and it books up FAST. We were lucky enough to get a reservation, and I’m so happy we did. It’s almost like dinner and a show, your server (the owner) and his wife (the cook) talk to the crowd the whole time, and it feels like you’re dining with extended family. All of their dishes are seasonally based, and they recommend the best wine pairings for the meal you’re having. If you’ve never eaten at a bespoke restaurant before, there are no menus. You eat what they’re serving, but trust me…you will not be disappointed. The portions were on the smaller side as you share it with your party, but that’s only to make sure you have room for the six, yes six, courses. Freshest pasta I’ve ever tasted, honestly.
Also be sure to visit literally any restaurant or cafe in the square at Providence’s Federal Hill. You’ll feel instantly transported out of America among outdoor dining, a gorgeous fountain in the center of the square, and (if you visit in the nice weather) live music and dancing under the fairy lights at night.
We were lucky enough to be visiting Providence during WaterFire: countless lit torches along the rivers of Downtown Providence. And in the nighttime it’s pure magic. Everyone in town seems to come out to witness this spectacle which is not only visually amazing, but features a constant stream of music from all around the world. It’s almost indescribable, so it’s something you should definitely plan your trip around once they release their schedule if you’re visiting this year.
All in all, I loved the few short days I got to spend in RI. It’s the perfect weekend trip, in my opinion, that has everything; the romantic seaside town feel, the New England charm, the small pretty brick shops that line cobblestone streets, I’d recommend anyone to go 10 out of 10 times.