The state of Rhode Island may only be 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, but don’t be fooled—what it lacks in size, it makes up for in heart.
Officially the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” (the longest state name!), it’s often called “Little Rhody” by those who love it dearly—even though it’s only home to about a million of us.
We sport bumper stickers that say, “I never leave Rhode Island,” and if something is more than a 20-minute drive, it’s a “road trip”. We have wicked state pride, and only one area code. We all know the Block Island Ferry theme song by heart, and we know there’s more to our state than Family Guy suggests. (We say “wicked” a lot, too.)
There is so much packed into such a small space, from nature to small businesses to public spaces to music. We have city life, coastline, wooded trails, islands, even skiing! And bonus–you can easily get anywhere in the state within an hour or so.
Here are six reasons why you should make Rhode Island your next destination:
1. The sense of community.
Since Rhode Island is so small, you can’t really go anywhere without bumping into someone you know or recognize. Six degrees of separation is an overstatement—it’s more like two or three. While this can sometimes feel stifling, it’s also pretty special to have such a close-knit community spanning the entire state.
And no matter where you go, there’s a sense of familiarity even if you’ve never been there before. People are welcoming and open (which can be rare for New England…) and the whole state just feels like your backyard.
2. The local food.
Where to begin? The state has a slew of local traditions particular to Rhode Island alone, and none of it is to be missed.
There’s Olneyville New York System, a state fixture since the 1930s—order a hot weiner and ask for it “all the way” for one of the best hot dogs of your life. On hot summer days, don’t skip an ice cold Del’s, a frozen lemonade made with chunks of lemon peel (squeeze the cup and drink straight from its edge—never from a straw—if you want to look like a local). Then there’s the official state drink, coffee milk, which is made with cold milk and the famous Autocrat Coffee Syrup (think chocolate milk with a hint of coffee).
Combined with its plethora of food trucks (get a $2 taco from Poco Loco), diners (you can’t miss the one on wheels, Haven Brothers, which sets up next to City Hall until 3AM), and Italian bakeries, Rhode Island’s food scene is a pretty big deal.
3. Over 400 miles of coastline.
That’s right—over 400 miles! Rhode Island’s shoreline on Narragansett Bay seems to stretch on and on, and while the state itself isn’t an island, it does include over 30 of them in its bay.
There’s a beach for everyone, almost literally. Head to Misquamicut for big waves and busy shores. Try Narragansett Town Beach for a picturesque view of the historic Narragansett Towers. Visit the tiny city of Newport for a beach day followed by a night out on the town. If you’re after a quieter summer experience, there are numerous beaches along the bay—try Barrington, Portsmouth, or Wickford. And of course you can’t miss Block Island, with its stunning bluffs, sweet cafes (try Persephone’s Kitchen), and quaint streets—all just a short ferry ride away.
4. The universities and culture.
Despite being small, Rhode Island is home to nine different colleges and universities, including the Ivy League Brown University. As such, there’s always an influx of new people and never a shortage of things to do.
Providence is home to Rhode Island School of Design, one of the country’s most prestigious art schools whose alumni include James Franco and Seth MacFarlane. The RISD Museum boasts an impressive collection—and admission is free every Sunday.
There’s always something good on at Providence Performing Arts Center, a gorgeous 1920s theater listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Johnson and Wales University’s notable culinary program—and the fact that so many alumni continue to cook here in the city—contributes to Rhode Island’s exquisite cuisine. Alumni include Emeril Lagasse and a multitude of reality cooking show winners, so you know it has to be good.
And you can’t forget Waterfire, the annual public art phenomenon that’s a community art event, urban festival, and performance piece combined. It’s the kind of thing you have to see to believe—imagine 86 sculptures of flickering firelight dotting Providence’s downtown rivers, punctuated by arched bridges and the eerie silhouettes of floating vessels and firetenders. The festival now brings in nearly two million visitors per season, making it a symbol of Providence’s revitalization.
5. The endless things to do outdoors.
“Endless” almost doesn’t do it justice. From farmers markets to music festivals to state parks, Rhode Island is never without an event to get you outside.
The Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival are two of the biggest music events in the state, but there’s so many more opportunities for live music (ones that you have a better chance of getting tickets to, too). There’s the Burnside Music Series And Trinity Beer Garden every Thursday in July and August, the Rhythm and Roots Festival on Labor Day weekend, and a new festival, the Rhode Island Blues Fest, in August.
Beautiful farmers markets abound across the entire state (and even happen indoors during the winter, too). There are a whopping fifteen state parks in tiny Rhode Island, and each packs its own punch—Colt, Beavertail, and Lincoln Woods State Parks never disappoint. Markets like the Providence Flea happen all summer long, and usually offer live music and delicious food in addition to good shopping. There’s also plenty of opportunity for pick-your-own fruit in the state, like the 2.5 acre Rocky Point Blueberry Farm. (And even in the winter, you can get out for skiing and tubing at Yawgoo Valley!)
6. It’s family friendliness.
Between the beaches, the food, and the endless list of things to do, living in RI is a kid’s dream. And indeed, you see them out and about everywhere—playing at the shore, visiting the zoo, watching a minor league baseball game, dancing along to live music, or checking out Rhode Island’s many local libraries. In fact, the state offers tons of resources for families, like the Rhode Island Family Guide, KidoInfo, and Rhode Island Families in Nature.
In general, anywhere you go in the state will feel welcoming to all, with plenty for kids specifically to enjoy. Rhode Island is not only a supportive place for raising children, but for bringing children to visit as well!
For a state so small, there’s no doubt that it has a lot to offer. Is it really any wonder that Rhode Island is the smallest state with the biggest heart?
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