RI’s ‘walk-spots’ offer beautiful views, history, architecture and unique shopping experiences
Many savvy travelers are aware of Rhode Island’s premier “Cliff Walk” experience, but its Newport’s Thames Street that has visitors perpetually buzzing. The 1.5 mile cobblestone strip runs north to south through the heart of the of City’s retail district and along the wharves of Newport Harbor. On a typical summer and fall day, thousands of people hit the strip with one intention: To explore the hundreds of shops featuring unique eats, crafts produced by local merchants, art galleries displaying native works, and other authentic shops.
On the other side of Narragansett Bay is its namesake, a sleepy coastal town that awakens with a burst of outdoor activity during the summer/fall season. A strip of Ocean Road is where townies and visitors walk, bike or sit along the famous seawall – just a few feet above the Atlantic – for a panoramic view of sailboats, waves and even the Newport coastline in the distance. The seawall is book-ended by a local clam-shack on one side and Narragansett Town Beach to the north. Top-notch seafood restaurants and ice cream shops also dot the strip. Cars, motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians travel through the scene’s visual centerpiece, the archway of the iconic Narragansett Towers, a former casino and resort that ranked among America’s most prestigious at the turn of the 20th century. Families, bikers and surfers all play an equal part of the action at this summer ‘walk-spot.’
To the north, visitors experience Providence’s “Mile of History” situated on the hilly east side. Benefit Street features some of the finest examples of preserved Federal and Colonial-style architecture in the northeast, an assortment of all shapes, colors and sizes. Benefit’s cobblestone sidewalks also lead to key pieces of American history, including the Old State House, where Rhode Islanders declared independence from the British two months prior to the rest of the colonies; the Providence Athenaeum, America’s oldest subscription library and a site that inspired the works of Edgar Allen Poe; and the John Brown House, which captures the fascinating story and rich collections of the Brown family, who endowed the Ivy League university that bears their name just a few blocks away. Just a short stroll (downhill) toward downtown, visitors can experience the First Baptist Church of America, founded in 1638 by Roger Williams, a minister who preached the true separation of church and state, and who named his settlement ‘Providence’ in gratitude to God’s blessing.
Last, but not least, is historic Bristol, just 10 miles south of Providence. Bristol’s Hope Street is the quintessential New England “main street,” with tree-lined sidewalks that host local coffee shops, antique shops, specialty stores and fine dining opportunities. The neighborhood landscape is also lined with an assortment of Greek revival, Italianate, Georgian, Federal and Victorian inspired mansions. Further south on Hope Street is the Herreshoff Marine Museum, which hosts the America’s Cup Hall of Fame – the most extensive archive of world-class sailing competition dating back to 1851. The Museum is located on the former site of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, the legendary boat-builder that produced five successful, America’s Cup defending sloops. Exhibits include 60 original Herreshoff boats, steam engines and artifacts, as well as brilliant photographs. Visitors are also shown design models to reveal the cutting edge engineering and design innovations that took place during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.