The downtown neighborhood swirls around the State House (Francis St., 401/222-2357), worth a look for its freestanding enormous dome—one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Follow your nose a few blocks behind that to Johnson & Wales University (8 Abbott Park Pl., 401/598-1000, www.jwu.edu ). One of the most respected culinary and hospitality programs in America, Johnson & Wales is the source of many of Providence’s —and the nation’s—best-known chefs and restaurateurs.
You can make like you’re in Venice courtesy of LaGondola, Inc. (WaterPlace Park, 401/421-8877, www.gondolari.com , 5–11 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 4 p.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat., closed on Tues., May–Oct., $79 for first two people, $15 for each additional person). Ride in the company’s (authentically Italian) brass-trimmed boats to tour the city’s rivers—complete with serenade.
You can’t be a graphic artist or interior designer these days without having at least heard of, if not attended, Rhode Island School of Design (Office of Admissions, 62 Prospect St., 401/454-6140, www.risd.edu ). The campus proper runs from Benefit to Waterman Streets.
For more than a century, the Providence Art Club (11 Thomas St., 401/331-1114, www.providenceartclub.org , 12–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) has met in its two 18th-century brick homes, displaying ever-changing works by the Club’s members.