Your Next Weekend Escape: Providence, Rhode Island

It may be a fraction of the size of NYC (about 1/48th, to be exact), but the Ocean State’s creative capital packs a major punch in the culinary and cultural departments. And at three hours away (by car, train or bus), it’s worth adding to your weekend-excursion list. Here, everything you need to eat, see and do.

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hotel providence ny
Hotel Providence

Where To Stay

European style meets New England charm at Hotel Providence, a boutique property in the heart of downtown (rates start at $169 per night). The rooms are cozy (with great views of the nearby church steeple and skyline), and the hotel is pet-friendly—there’s even a “doggy lounge” with plush beds and free treats for your canine friend. Looking for something a little more new-school? The Dean, a cool-kid hangout with complimentary bikes, a neon-tinged lobby and an in-house karaoke bar, should be just your speed (rooms start at $99).

Where To Eat

Providence takes its food seriously, thanks in part to the reputed culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University. Case in point: Gracie’s, a locals’ favorite known for seasonally driven dishes (like duck with sauerkraut, bacon and rye spaetzle) and some of the prettiest desserts we’ve ever seen. You’re in oyster country, so head to Mill’s Tavern for seafood towers and a daily raw bar happy hour in a century-old building. Want to try the creations of one of the country’s hottest young chefs? You’ll find them at Oberlin (and its sister restaurant, Birch), where Benjamin Sukle serves up an inventive menu heavy on seafood and pasta (think kohlrabi Caesar with cured bluefish). Oh, and let’s not forget the brioche doughnuts (and damn good cold brew) from PVDonuts.

the dorrance providence ny
The Dorrance

Where To Drink

Naturally, the high epicurean standards extend to the city’s bars. On the highbrow side, there’s The Dorrance, a stunning dining room and cocktail bar in a historic former bank. Order the seasonally appropriate Free Fallin’ (whiskey, pear liqueur, brown sugar, chai and clove bitters) and snap a few ’Grams in front of the stained-glass windows. For the opposite (but no less fun) end of the drinking spectrum, Ogie’s Trailer Park is a kitschy Technicolor watering hole complete with 66 “Ameri-cans” of beer and an on-site kitchen dishing up a Dorito-fried chicken sandwich.

Where To Explore

First and foremost, be sure to check out RISD Museum, which houses more than 100,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary (no surprise, considering it’s affiliated with one of the country’s top-ranked art schools). Then indulge your inner bookworm at the Providence Athenaeum, an independent, member-supported library founded in 1836 and once frequented by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. And in the warmer months, join the crowds that congregate at sunset for WaterFire, a large-scale installation that lights up dozens of bonfires over the three rivers that pass through downtown Providence. 

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Freelance PureWow Editor