Cocktails & Culture
Explore Providence and Newport’s vibrant culture and coolest cocktail joints.
Welcome to Providence! A city of art, history, beautiful old buildings, a richly diverse community, occasionally flaming rivers, and creative, welcoming people. The urban landscape here is peppered with outdoor art with murals and paintings adorning buildings, utility boxes, and underpasses. As you make your way to the RISD Museum, home to a collection totaling more than 100,000 pieces from ancient to modern art; don't forget to look up, down, and around so you don't miss anything.
After the museum, head to the distinctive Fleur de Lys building to explore the galleries at The Providence Art Club. Founded in 1880 by 16 men and women, the second-oldest art club in the country hosts events and ever-changing exhibits featuring members’ works. Fun fact: The Fleur de Lys is on the National Register of Historic Buildings and the setting for Providence’s own H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu.”
From there, stroll the Benefit Street Mile of History, home to one of the most extensive collections of 18th and 19th-century architecture in the country. Along the way, you can visit Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, the First Baptist Church in America, the Providence Athenaeum (a favorite haunt of Edgar Allen Poe), and the John Brown House Museum.
If you like weird and quirky or are a fan of the fantasy/horror genre, as you head downtown swing by the Providence Arcade (oldest indoor mall in America) and pop into the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council (open Thursday-Sunday, 12-5 pm. This nonprofit organization and bookstore celebrates famous local author H.P. Lovecraft.
Thirsty yet? Grab a seat at The Eddy and order a Wizard Howl, Salamander Tears, or something else from their excellent cocktail menu. If you like a dark, speakeasy vibe, try the imaginative cocktails at Justine’s (accessed through a lingerie shop front) or The Avery. Or take a walk along the river at WaterPlace Park and stop into The River Social for delicious Mediterranean food and hand-crafted drinks, like the Berries & Bubbles or the Riverwalk Rum Punch. Finally, make your way to The Dean, an artfully designed boutique hotel in one of DownCity’s historic buildings. And if you want to stop into The Dean’s BoomBox karaoke lounge for a song and a nightcap before turning in, you go for it.
Welcome to Newport! This city by the sea is overflowing with history and features a rugged coastline, gilded age “cottages,” fantastic museums, rare car collections, world-class tennis, amazing cocktails, and dreamy accommodations. Channel your inner Gatsby as you explore swanky mansions and enjoy the swellest cocktails.
Start off with a tour of Ocean Drive or a stroll along the Cliff Walk. Check out glimpses of the famous Newport Mansions and the rocky coastline they’re perched on. During your walk, you can stop in at The Chanler, the first mansion built on the Cliff Walk and now a boutique hotel. Grab an early lunch (or brunch-type cocktail). Next, make your way to Bellevue Avenue to check out the inside of some of those mansions. The Breakers is the grandest, but The Elms and Marble House are also spectacular. While you’re on Bellevue Avenue, you can stop by an art museum housed in a historic mansion: The Newport Art Museum (open Tuesday-Sunday), which houses an impressive collection in a building that is itself a work of art.
Keeping with the Colonial theme, head to the White Horse Tavern – a National Historic Landmark, the oldest tavern in the United States and 10th oldest in the world, serving guests since 1673. Have a drink, or a meal in the same place as founding fathers, pirates, British soldiers, and who knows who else.
Now, it’s time to explore Newport’s cocktail culture. First, stop by Perro Salado, a terrific Mexican restaurant best known for their margaritas, but also serving up tasty cocktails like the Burning Passion and the Bourbon Blood Orange Sour. Make your way to Smoke House, home of excellent BBQ and fun, mason jar bevvies like the Watermelon Fresca, Piggy Back Ryed, and Smoked Pineapple Hugo. Next up, Fluke. Fluke doesn’t play when it comes to craft cocktails with drinks with names like Fire Dancer and Juniperotivo (try the 3rd-floor bar for great sunset views). The Fifth Element has a cool vibe, a fresh, seasonal menu, and intriguing-sounding drinks like the Mexican Short Rib, Cooper Union and Rye Knot. Last on the list is The Reef, on the waterfront serving Caribbean-influenced food and craft cocktails with tongue-in-cheek names like SummerThyme and The Baller.
Whether you're flying into Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) taking the train, it's no sweat getting here. Our airport is super easy to navigate, and the train brings you right into the heart of Providence. Another easy and affordable option is buses. You can catch a bus from both New York City and Boston to Providence and Newport. Once you've arrived, you'll love how walkable both Providence and Newport are. There are also RIPTA buses (the #60 bus runs from Providence to Newport and back), Uber, and Lyft. Getting from here to there couldn't be easier or quicker. Through October 11, you can travel between Providence and Newport via ferry, as well.
Where to Stay
As to places to stay, direct your Uber to either the Vanderbilt or Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina for luxurious accommodations worthy of, well, a Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt is actually a Gilded Age mansion (built by a Vanderbilt, of course) lovingly restored to its former glory, and current sumptuousness. It’s minutes from the waterfront and features museum-quality artwork, a rooftop bar, elegant fireplaces, and views of the water. Gurney’s is on Goat Island and offers a luxurious resort atmosphere, 360-degree water views, a saltwater pool, spa, and the seclusion of a private island within walking distance from downtown Newport. Check out all of Newport's hotels, inns, and B&Bs here.