A view of the Providence © Will Hart

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.


Benefit Street
Benefit Street © Daniel Case

Benefit Street

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.

Telephone: Providence Preservation Society: (401) 831 7440

John Brown House in Providence
John Brown House in Providence © Daniel Case

John Brown House

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.

Address: 52 Power Street, Providence; Website:; Telephone: (401) 273 7507; Opening time: Tour schedules vary, check the website for specific dates.; Admission: $10 adults, $6 children 7-17. Other concessions are available.

Rhode Island School of Design Museum
Rhode Island School of Design Museum © John Phelan

Rhode Island School of Design Museum

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.

Address: 224 Benefit Street; Website:; Telephone: (401) 454 6500; Opening time: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm, closes 9pm on the third Thursday of the month.; Admission: $15 adults, free for youths 5-18. Free admission on Sundays from 10am to 5pm, and the third Thursday of every month between 5pm and 9pm.

Giraffe at Roger Williams Zoo
Giraffe at Roger Williams Zoo © Jude

Roger Williams Park Zoo

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.

Address: 1000 Elmwood Avenue; Website:; Telephone: (401) 785 3510; Opening time: Daily 10am-5pm (closes 4pm October to March).; Admission: $17.95 adults, $12.95 children 3-12, $15.95 seniors.

Virginia State Capitol
Virginia State Capitol © Anderskev

State Capitol

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.

Address: 82 Smith Street; Website:; Telephone: (401) 222 3983; Opening time: Guided tours of the capitol are by appointment only, and operate from Monday to Friday, on the hour every hour from 9am (last tour at 2pm). It's open to the public Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4.30pm, except holidays. Consult the website to schedule a tour.; Admission: Tours are free of charge.

View of Providence from Waterplace Park.
View of Providence from Waterplace Park. © WFProvidence

Waterplace Park

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.

Website: Waterfire Events:; Telephone: (401) 273 1155