- Where to Go
- The Best of Vermont
- Rumblings of Revolution
- New, New England Dining
- Boston’s Artistic Expression
- Vermont Leaf Peeping
- Into the Wild
- Vermont Skiing at Its Best
- Visit Vermont’s Maple Sugar Shacks
- Connecticut for Kids
- Vermont’s Covered Bridges
- A Shore Thing
- Vermont with Kids
- Portland Maine Art Galleries
- Small-Town Flavor
- Connecticut’s Wine Trails
- New Hampshire’s Farmers Markets
- A Weekend of Vermont Art
- Family Matters
- Maine Wilderness Camps
- Vermont Cheddar Houses
- Connecticut Spas
From its beginning, Providence has been a fiercely independent city. Roger Williams got the title to its land from Narragansett chiefs in 1636, after being exiled from puritanical Massachusetts for his religious beliefs. He then promptly founded Rhode Island’s first Colonial settlement here, in the name of religious and political freedom. It wasn’t long before the city was a thriving farming area and, with its active port, a player in foreign trade. Nor was it long before the city showed the spirit of defiance on which it was founded: In 1776, Providence became the very first colony to declare independence from England.
Once the war was over, the city lost no time becoming a center for—arguably even the cradle of—the Industrial Revolution. It was here that the country’s jewelry industry was started by Seril and Nehemiah Dodge. And in 1793, down the road in Pawtucket, Samuel Slater built a water-powered cotton mill; as word of its success spread, other cities followed suit.
The area continued to be known for its industrialization in the 19th century. Three brothers—Nicholas, Moses, and John Brown—had a huge impact on the town’s success, starting, among other industries, the area’s textile trade. (And, it has been well documented, the rum and slave trades.) Immigrants from Europe and Canada, looking for manufacturing jobs, began making their way to Providence, adding to the cultural diversity that defines the city today.
After years of renovation, the ever-evolving city centers around the State House, with its marble dome and abutting green park in the Downtown neighborhood. The most sight-packed areas are concentrated around it—in the entertainment district, along the riverfront, up College Hill where Brown and RISD lie, and on the hill’s other side on funky Thayer Street, with its eclectic shops and restaurants. (Most of the city’s bistros and trattorias don’t serve breakfast—only lunch and dinner, and sometimes only dinner. Call ahead to be certain, and rely instead on the area’s abundance of cafes, diners, and hotel restaurants for earlier meals.)
Getting to Providence
By Air: The state’s airport is T. F. Green (2000 Post Rd., Warwick, 401/737-8222, www.pvd-ri.com), an international, clean, and efficient facility with plenty of parking. About a 30-minute drive from downtown Providence, the airport is also easily accessed by buses run by Rhode Island Transportation Authority (RIPTA, 401/781-9400, www.ripta.com). Many Providence hotels also offer free shuttle service.
By Train: The commuter line that runs frequently every day between Boston and Providence is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (617/222-3200, www.mbta.com). Also, Amtrak (800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com) runs regular service between Providence and Washington, D.C, stopping in Boston and New York, among other towns, along the way.
By Bus: Peter Pan Bus Lines (401/331-7500, www.peterpanbus.com) operates several routes in and out of Providence from key cities— including runs to Boston, New York City, Newport, Cape Cod, and others.
Providence is a remarkably walkable city—indeed, that may be the very best way to admire its historic nooks and crannies, monuments, great homes, and university campuses. But when foot transport isn’t an option, turn to the affordable bus system, well-run by RIPTA (Rhode Island Transportation Authority, 401/781-9400, www.ripta.com). All bus routes start at Kennedy Plaza (in front of the State House) and cover the city for the usual fare of $1.75. Buses run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There’s also an ecofriendly trolley system (running on compressed natural gas), known as the LINK (401/781-9400, www.ripta.com). It runs two lines from Federal Hill to Fox Point and from the State House to the Southside. At a cost of $1.75 per ride, it runs every day until about 6:30 p.m.—except for the trolley between Fox Point and Federal Hill, which runs until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.
© Michael Blanding and Alexandra Hall from Moon New England, 2nd Edition