The Providence Heritage Trail
Rhode Island's capital city of Providence offers a rich cultural and architectural heritage that stretches back to 1636 when it was founded by Roger Williams. In recent years its amazingly diverse treasures have been discovered by more and more visitors. That's no surprise, because it has one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of preserved architecture and landmarks in America, a nationally recognized restaurant scene, a vibrant art community, world-class museums, top-notch theatre, great shopping and much more. In recent years, Water Place Park and River Walk, home to the acclaimed WaterFire, have come to symbolize the city's rebirth.
The Providence Heritage Trail provides a look at three centuries of homes and buildings that have played a key role in Rhode Island's and America's social, religious, governmental, commercial and industrial history. Along the trail you'll see America's finest 18th-century mansion, the nation's oldest Baptist church, the world's best culinary museum, one of the world's largest self-supported marble domes, an award-winning zoo and much more.
Governor Stephen Hopkins House
Home of Stephen Hopkins, 10-time governor of Rhode Island and signer of Declaration of Independence. Chancellor of Brown University. Early clapboard house with 18th-century parterre garden. Visited twice by George Washington. Wednesday & Saturday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m., and by appointment. 15 Hopkins Street, Providence; 401-421-0694
Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Oldest Baptist Church in America; congregation established in 1638 by Roger Williams. An artistic triumph, featuring a magnificent Waterford crystal chandelier dating from 1792, designed by Joseph Brown. Flawlessly preserved. Call for times. 75 North Main Street, Providence; 401-454-3418; www.fbcia.org
Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum
Italianate mansion. Home of two Rhode Island governors. Superb interior; decorative details from the Victorian era. May-October, Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tours given on the hour; last tour at 2 p.m.; and by appointment. 199 Hope Street, Providence; 401-453-0688; www.preserveri.org
Old State House
The Rhode Island General Assembly here renounced allegiance to King George III on May 4, 1776. Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission offices are located in the building. Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Closed holidays. 150 Benefit Street, Providence; 401-222-3103
Designed by McKim, Mead and White in 1891-92. Important architectural landmark, made of white Georgian marble, considered to have the fourth-largest self-supported marble dome in the world. Building contains original Rhode Island Charter of 1663 and historic portrait of George Washington by Rhode Island native Gilbert Stuart. Many Rhode Island treasures and battle flags on display. Guided Tours, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Self-guided tours, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 82 Smith Street, Providence; 401-222-3983
Providence City Hall
Designed in the manner of the Louvre and the Tuileries Palaces in Paris. Imposing interior space liberally ornamented. Tours by appointment. Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. ; July & August, 8:30-4 p.m. Kennedy Plaza, 25 Dorrance Street, Providence; 401-421-7740
John Brown House Museum
Described by John Quincy Adams as "the most magnificent and elegant private mansion that I have ever seen on this continent." Three-story Georgian mansion. The house celebrates many aspects of Rhode Island's heritage, including its distinctive tradition of fine craftsmanship, Providence's rise as a city and the state's commitment to preserve the fibers of its unique history. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. January & February, Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. 52 Power Street, Providence; 401-273-7507; www.rihs.org
Roger Williams Park and Zoo
Nestled within 430 acres of the beautifully landscaped grounds of Roger Willliams Park is the award-winning Roger Williams Park Zoo with more than 139 species and over 900 animals. The zoo is home to rare and fascinating animals from around the world including polar bears, snow leopards, moon bears, giraffes and elephants, all in naturalistic settings. Zoo open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fall, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; May-October, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., weekends and holidays until 6 p.m.; Carousel Village open daily, spring-fall; museum open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving. 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence; 401-785-3510; www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org
Culinary Museum at Johnson & Wales University
One of the best-kept secrets in New England, the Culinary Museum is the premier museum devoted to the preservation of the history of the culinary and hospitality industries. The collection of more than a half-million items is often referred to as "The Smithsonian Institution of the Food Service Industry." Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 315 Harborside Boulevard, off Allens Avenue, Providence; 401-598-2805; www.culinary.org
Providence Children's Museum
A hands-on museum for children and adults. Exhibit areas include a time-traveling adventure through the state's multicultural history; a wet and wild exploration of the ways of water; a peek into the fascinating world of teeth; a children's garden of native Rhode Island plants and a hands-on exhibit delving into the human skeleton. Gift shop. Daily programs. Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. 100 South Street, Providence; 401-273-KIDS; www.childrenmuseum.org
Providence Visitor Information Center
RI Convention Center Rotunda
1 Sabin St.
Providence, Rhode Island
Great spots for snapshots.
- Prospect Terrace - best view for overlooking the Providence skyline
- Benefit Street mile of history - some of the area's best historic architecture, church steeples and colonial homes
Great side trips for outdoor fun:
- Gondola Ride at Waterplace Park offering spectacular views of the city's architecture along the waterfront
- River Walk - cobblestone walkway leads from Waterplace Park along river with Venetian-style footbridges
Side trips for that one-of-a-kind find:
- Providence Art Club - nation's second-oldest art club featuring changing exhibits monthly
- Wickenden St. area - concentration of art galleries and antique shops.
Tasty tips along the trail.
- Local favorites: Olneyville New York System hot wieners
- Famous for: Nationally acclaimed restaurant scene. Fine dining at its best. Also, Federal Hill - Providence's Little Italy offers great restaurants, bakeries, cookery and delis.
Here are some tips on shopping along the trail.
- Providence Place Mall - over 150 upscale stores and restaurants.
- The Arcade - 1828 landmark is oldest indoor shopping center in the country
Did you know.
- Alex & Ani Skating Center is twice the size of Rockefeller Center - www.providenceskating.com
- Providence is home to more artists per capita than any other city in the country
Top off the day with an outstanding performance along the trail:
- Trinity Repertory Theatre - award-winning classical and contemporary theatre. www.trinityrep.com
- Providence Performing Arts Center - Rhode Island's home for Broadway productions. www.ppacri.com
- RI Black Repertory Theatre - www.theblackrep.org
- AS220 - Provides performance space, studio space and display space for aspiring artists. www.as220.org
- NewGate Theatre - intimate loft theatre with performances ranging from cutting-edge plays to classical dramas. www.newgatetheatre.org
Learn more about Providence at:
- Providence Athenaeum - one of America's oldest subscription libraries and cultural centers. (Edgar Allen Poe and Sarah Whitman courted here) www.providenceathenaeum.org
- Roger Williams National Memorial - Rhode Island's only national park interprets the life and times of Roger Williams - the founder of the first government in the world with complete religious freedom. www.nps.gov/rowi/index.htm
- Rhode Island Historical Society Library - Extensive collection of materials relating to Rhode Island history. www.rihs.org