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9 Must See Places in Providence

September 12, 2021

Providence is home to eight college and university campuses, and as students are settling into their collegiate back-to-school routine (and parents eagerly await their next visit to The Creative Capital), there are so many cultural, cool and captivating places that both newcomers and locals alike should be sure to see as they each add to what makes Providence so extraordinary.

Prospect Terrace Park 

Founded in 1869, Prospect Terrace Park offers one of the most inspired west-facing views of Downtown Providence. Perched on the highest point along Congdon Street in the city’s College Hill neighborhood, this postage-stamp park is known as “The Jewel of the City.” Its elevated location affords panoramic views of the majestic Rhode Island State House and the iconic white steeple of the First Baptist Church in America founded by Roger William and completed in 1775, among other prominent local landmarks. Many people are familiar with the park’s view from the popular NBC medical drama television series Providence, which made Prospect Terrace Park the cornerstone of the show’s opener. A striking stone arch marks the park and stone pathways invite a leisurely stroll there, while a striking 35-foot tall granite statue of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams marks his final resting place. 

RISD Museum

The museum at the place many consider to be the best art and design school in the country has high expectations, and the RISD Museum does not disappoint. Established in 1877, the RISD Museum showcases works of art representing diverse cultures from ancient times to the present – with more than 100,000 pieces in the entire collection. Here you’ll discover paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, costume and textiles, and furniture from all over the world. Some popular events here include after-hours experiences in the galleries as well as exhibition openings and other artful happenings. Gala events have welcomed famed faces in the creative community including Andre Leon Talley, contributing editor at Vogue magazine; interior designer Miles Redd, and fashion designers Todd Oldham and Nicole Miller, among others.

Providence River Pedestrian Bridge

One of the city’s newest attractions, the architecturally alluring Providence Pedestrian Bridge, spans 394 feet over the Providence River, marrying the city’s East Side with the Innovation District. With a pair of riverfront parks on each side, the curvaceous wooden bridge also features benches to take in the view –  perfect for when local musicians play mid-span. Conceptualized nearly two decades ago, the bridge finally came to fruition in late 2019 to the tune of $22 million. Both sides of the bridge have experienced parallel reinventions as well, with wide pedestrian walkways, new housing, chic restaurants and places to recreate. Another new addition is the West Side’s Wexford Innovation Center, a 196,000-square-foot state-of-the-art innovation center on Dyer Street as well as Johnson & Wales University’s John J. Bowen Center for Science and Innovation.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island Market Hall 

Located on the corner of Kinsley Avenue and Sims Avenue in Providence’s Valley Arts District, this unique, industrial-inspired and purpose-designed 60,000 sq. ft. facility houses a beloved year-round farmers market in addition to space for Farm Fresh RI’s programs and headquarters for their operations. The organization has been a nonprofit food hub since 2004, connecting local farmers and fisherpeople with restaurants and the food community. They also operate Market Mobile, a local food delivery service linking local growers with chefs and restaurateurs. The market halls are accessible via eight, large garage-door-style entry points with ample space to social distance and shop from the many  food- and farm-related businesses. The community vibe here is palpable, and whether stocking up on fruits, veggies and artisan food stuffs for the week or simply enjoying locally roasted coffee and taking it all in, the Market Hall is a fabulous space to peruse when you have a chance. 

The Steel Yard

What’s cooler than a non-profit industrial art center and shared studio that serves as “an arts maker space?” The Steel Yard is a funky, non-traditional craft school offering courses and educational programs in blacksmithing, welding, jewelry, foundry and ceramics. This vibrant community of artists, makers, and learners makes its home on a 3.8-acre award-winning city campus and hosts cool events, including the annual Halloween Iron Pour. Dubbed “Providence’s raddest and hottest Halloween party,” the Steel Yard’s entire space is transformed into a theatrical display of fire and art with larger than life sculptures activated by fire and 2,500 pounds of luminous, molten iron. Food and drinks, live music and entertainers add to the festive spirit of the event.

The Providence Flea

It’s local and it’s legendary — and it’s not a traditional flea market! The Providence Flea is a vintage and indie maker market inspired by Brooklyn’s famous flea featuring vendors who are carefully selected, all of whom are small- and micro-businesses. Their wares are hand-picked, homemade, handcrafted and small batch — you won’t find any mass-produced stuff here. Enjoy the flea outdoors in the summer and early fall every Sunday along South Water Street in downtown, and indoors, from mid-fall through winter and in the spring every Sunday at the Farm Fresh RI Market Hall on Sims Avenue. 

The Arcade

Built in 1828, The Arcade is the oldest indoor mall in the United States. Located on iconic Westminster Street in the heart of downtown Providence, the striking Greek Revival architecture is captivating. Designed by noted architects Russell Warren and James Bucklin, the three-story stucco rubble building, which takes up the width of a city block, has an interior covered walkway, intricate wrought iron work, and is flanked by two temple front facades covered by a sky lit gable roof that allows natural light to flood the entire space. It is a testament to Providence’s economic prowess during the mid-1800s as a leader in manufacturing (among items produced in the city was machinery, tools, silverware, jewelry and textiles). Fully restored, the property is now home to 48 micro-loft apartments on the upper two floors, while the first floor houses small businesses including retail and restaurants. 

WaterFire

Almost synonymous with Providence itself, WaterFire is a recurring art installation event, the brainchild of visionary Barnaby Evans who first “ignited” it all 27 years ago. Along the three rivers of downtown, more than 100 installed braziers are filled with wood and set aflame, torch lit one by one via boat, creating illuminating pyres that captivate the city. All of the senses are engaged as the scent of aromatic wood burning wafts through the air and music from around the world is pumped throughout the paths of Waterplace Park. Millions of people have experienced WaterFire over the past two and a half decades and today, many travel from all corners to witness this extraordinarily signature Rhode Island event.  

Federal Hill

Centrally located in the heart of the city, the Federal Hill neighborhood welcomed Italian-American immigrants around the turn of the century and the reflection of that history is what largely shapes the culture there today. Peppered with dozens of Italian eateries including restaurants, delis, cafes and markets, Federal Hill is a lively neighborhood, anchored by well-known Atwells Avenue and the surrounding streets. On the whole it is known for its hospitality and charm. A gateway arch that extends over the avenue is one of Providence’s most recognizable landmarks and the pine cone sculpture that hangs from its center, The La Pigna, is a traditional Italian symbol of welcome, abundance, and quality. DePasquale Square is the heart of the neighborhood where a quatrefoil fountain is the centerpiece of a large plaza where people dine and sometimes dance. Costantino’s Venda Ravioli, an Italian food emporium, proffers gourmet pastas, pasta sauces, meats, fine Italian foods, olive oil, vinegar, cheeses, espresso, Italian gift baskets, cookbooks, and much more. Our recommendation: don’t miss Pastiche Fine Desserts, where the cannoli is on point!

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