Providence: The Top of Everyone’s List
By : Lauren Price
While some may assume that being the backdrop for a hit television series or the Farrelly brother’s Dumb and Dumber film is what makes this town famous, it probably has more to do with the fact that Providence is on one "favorite" list or another year in and year out. Like being selected as the "Best Place to Live in the Eastern U.S." for 2000 and 2001 by Money magazine. In 1999, Travel & Leisure named Providence’s Roger Williams Park one of "America's Top Ten Zoos, " and in 2001, Nation’s Restaurant News put Providence on it’s "What’s Hot" list. Even way back in the ’80s, Newsweek magazine called Providence one of the "Ten Best Places to Live and Work."
"Providence is where three and a half centuries of preserved history meets a nationally acclaimed urban renaissance, " said Jim Wood, President and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Safe, walkable, and compact, Providence exemplifies the charm of a historic New England city, but with the vibrancy of a thriving arts, cultural, and academic community."
Long known for setting the standard for preserving and restoring historic houses, (the city has one of the largest concentrations of 18th and 19th-century homes and public buildings in America), Providence is a city of neighborhoods well worth exploring on foot. From George M. Cohan Memorial Boulevard in Fox Point (named after the famous composer born there in 1878) to Federal Hill for the best Italian food in town and strolls along cobblestoned Benefit Street to Waterplace Park and Riverwalk at the foot of State Capitol hill, there’s something fun happening in Providence almost every day of the week.
Head to Thayer Street for Providence’s answer to Greenwich Village and Harvard Square, where locals love to sit and sip at any one of the countless trendy coffee hang outs after browsing through the shops and galleries of this quaint little community. The glass-roofed Greek Revival Arcade Building on Weybosset Street is also a must-see, given that it was built in 1828 as the nation’s first enclosed shopping center. A definite don’t miss is the mesmerizing free art installation called WaterFire by artist Barneby Evans. Several evenings a month from April through October, hundreds of bonfires are lit along the river from sundown until well after midnight. Dine riverside as the fires burn or take a 45-minute gondola ride past them sipping wine and munching on cheese for an experience that will be hard to forget.
Its cultural resources include a Performing Arts Center, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, two ballet companies, an excellent art museum (the RISD Museum of Art) and the Providence Children's Museum where kids (from ages one to 11) can explore the swirling, whirling ways of water and discover the secret world beneath the city streets.
Shopping can be done right in town at the relatively new Providence Place Mall or just a short car ride away at some of the best outlet centers in the country, like Wrentham Village (it’s actually in the state of Massachusetts) home to Donna Karan, Versace, Barneys New York and Calvin Klein.
With more than 250 restaurants to select from, locals say the best is the Empire where the menu changes daily, offering such specials as French fries with a lemony mayonnaise, courtesy of the two award-winning chef/owners, Loren Falsone and Eric Moshier. What some like to think is the city’s best kept secret is CAV Restaurant, Café, Antiques and Gifts. Incredibly eclectic, it’s a fusion of creative food mixed with imaginative gifts and antiques for show and for sale. Each year, the owner travels the globe for all the items she sells–from kilims to Asian bronzes to African masks.
Sleeping in Providence is another unparalleled experience, almost certainly due to the historic bed & breakfast establishments that seem to thrive here. One is the antique-decorated Cady House built circa 1839. C.C. Ledbetter Bed & Breakfast on Benefit Street is another good choice, as is the State House Inn on Jewett Street, originally built in 1889.
For more information on Providence, including some excellent getaway packages from the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, visit www.goprovidence.com or call 800-233-1536.
Photos compliments of Providence Warwick CVB
Book your trip today! Visit www.aa.com, call American/American Eagle reservations at 1-800-433-7300, or call your travel agent for more information.