Our Day Trip Guide to Providence
Where you can browse the stacks of the Providence Athenaeum, admire art of all kinds, and more.
We all need a break from city life sometimes, if even just for a few hours. Our day trip guides highlight all of the gems within a short drive from Boston. Here, we explore Providence, Rhode Island.
Distance from Boston: 50 miles
Driving time: 1 hour
Rhode Island’s capital city is chock full of the kinds of stuff Boston is trying its best to maintain: a thriving arts scene, lots of local businesses, and a healthy dose of grit. It’s what makes a day trip to nearby Providence feel almost like an adventure. The only thing you have to be careful about? Being lured away to live there by its affordable cost of living.
Begin exploring New England’s third-largest city (it clocks in right behind Worcester) by grabbing brunch at Grange. The hip vegetarian spot’s menu changes with the season, rotating in fresh, new dishes that feature in-season produce. Decked out in salvaged and upcycled decor, the place’s atmosphere is elevated by both a cocktail bar and a juice bar. After an oyster mushroom po’ boy and a carrot-fennel bellini, make your way to one of the city’s not-so-hidden gems: the RISD Museum. Its exhibitions run the gamut, showing pieces by artists from Monet and Picasso to Andy Warhol and Coco Chanel. There are more than 100,000 works of art on display, but you’ll definitely want to check out its textile collection, considering the region’s mill history.
Since you’re mere steps from the stately homes of College Hill, take a spin through the neighborhood’s charming streets. Architecture buffs will want to head to Benefit Street. The cobblestone lane lays claim to one of the highest concentrations of Colonials in the United States.
You have two choices for afternoon snacking. First, you could delight in the “snuggery” that is Duck and Bunny. Defined as a cozy and comfortable place, the snuggery/tea room/restaurant is tucked inside a pale pink Colonial. Opt for a savory crepe or a selection of housemade mini cupcakes and be on your merry way. Or, if you’d rather sample some local brews, head to Bayberry Beer Hall. An order of beer cheese and a pint of Proclamation pale ale should do the trick. Those who want to round out the afternoon with a juicy IPA should head next door to Long Live Beerworks.
Time to switch gears. Put beer and contemporary art behind you as you enter the Providence Athenaeum, a historical membership library once frequented by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe. Browse its beautiful stacks, and see if you can find which books Poe checked out back in the day. Next, open your wallet for some shopping downtown. You’ll first want to hit The Arcade, the country’s oldest shopping mall. Pop into Carmen & Ginger, a so-called vintage department store, and Chamonix Antiques, where you’ll no doubt spot the midcentury modern coffee table of your dreams. Do head around the corner to scope out Modern Love, a sleek little lifestyle boutique on Westminster Street, as well as the Vault Collective, a space where local vintage dealers sell their wares. If time allows, Modern Love’s sister boutique, Queen of Hearts, is a one-stop shop for both name brands and handcrafted pieces.
Top off that PVD retail therapy with a taste of the South at Bucktown. This cozy little joint serves up fried chicken, fried bologna, fried hushpuppies, fried you-name-it. (Good luck choosing what to order off the restaurant’s whimsically illustrated menu.) If one bite of chef Ashley Faulkner’s Southern comfort food has you hooked, fear not. She’s opening a second Bucktown location in Mission Hill sometime soon.