Weekend Trip to Providence, RI

Even with the extensive number of activities to see and do in NYC, sometimes you’ve got to just get away. It could be the beach, the mountains, or a restful town. But for this weekend away, we were looking for a little more of a city experience. Having visited Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, we were trying to think of a place we could explore that was walkable and diverse. After a little research, we settled in on Providence, capital of Rhode Island, central location for much of the state’s industries, and home to multiple college campuses.

We planned on driving up Friday after work and returning Sunday evening, so location of hotel was one of the more important decisions. We also were bringing along our two dogs, Oakleigh and Skipper, so dog friendly was the first filter we applied. Finally, as with any get-away, an indoor pool and/or hot tub were highly preferred. Based on these factors, the Marriott Downtown seemed like the best match. The dog fee was only $50 for the entire stay and with AAA card the rate was $112 a night. Our dogs were well received, the pool and hot tub were fantastic, and there was a bar in the hotel for a nightcap.

We arrived pretty late on Friday night, after a good deal of traffic in Connecticut on the way up. After checking in and getting the dogs settled, we decided to stroll down to Union Station Brewery in downtown. Walking past the expansive statehouse and the newly revived Waterplace Park reassured us that we had made a great choice on our destination for the weekend. Union Station brews their own beer, and while not exceptional, they had nice even selection. We ordered the chicken pot pie (amazing) and the cuban quesadilla. We probably wouldn’t give it any restaurant awards, but for a late Friday night meal after a long drive, it definitely hit the spot.

We awoke Saturday to drizzle and temperatures just above freezing, meaning that a long walk with the dogs to the Gano Dog Park wasn’t the prudent choice. We instead drove with the dogs down to the park to let them run around. The “dog park” was really just a large fenced in mud-pit and didn’t really fulfill our hope for letting them get some energy out. Instead, we walked over to the soccer field next door and let them run and play in the light rain for half an hour. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Coffee Exchange. We got a quality cappuccino and latte, but the cavacas (a Portuguese-style popover) was spectacular.

The rain had subsided and the temperature was closer to the low 40 so we decided to stroll over to the College Hill neighborhood. We definitely underestimated the “hill” part of the neighborhood name as we climbed our way past colonial and victorian homes, many from the late 1700s. A nice walk around the campus of Brown University and a little shopping later, light snow picked up and we decided it was time for lunch. East Side Pockets had great reviews and a Middle Eastern flare that we had experienced on a past trip to Turkey and Greece. The falafel may have very well been the best we’ve ever had. And at $5.55 for a gyro, the price couldn’t be beat. We made sure to get some baklava to go, just for good measure.

With a solid lunch and some sharp winds, we decided a nice indoor venue would be appropriate. The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has a fairly comprehensive museum and was within walking distance of Brown. We were quite surprised and impressed with the variety and quality of the art and would recommend this to people of differing levels of art appreciation. Modern design mixed with classic art and the attached Pendelton house offered a view into 19th century living.

After a nice swim in the very heated pool, we prepared for dinner out. We had hoped to make our way to Olives (a martini bar) or Local121 for pre-dinner cocktails, but the biting cold made us think otherwise. The temperatures had dropped into the 20s and so we decided to head on for the restaurant. Temple Downtown was listed as an eclectic New American restaurant inside of an abandoned Free Mason temple. However, when we arrived, we realized the decor was forced and it was actually just a restaurant inside of the Renaissance Hotel. But while we were unimpressed with the ambiance, the food was an inspired treat. We ordered the Block Island swordfish (a local catch from Long Island Sound) and the yellowfin tuna dish. The side of spigarello (a leafy green vegetable) definitely opened us up to a new flavor. Finishing off dinner with a pumpkin crème brûlée, we decided to head back past the state house and call it a night.

Arising fairly early (for a weekend away) on Sunday, we headed back to the east side of Providence for brunch. Rue de L’espoir offered local foods with French style. Over two brunch special and some coffee, we recounted our eight miles walking the previous day and plans for the afternoon. However, we we got to Westminster Street downtown after brunch, we realized most of the shops did not open until much later on Sunday. In addition, the historic Italian neighborhood of Federal Hill didn’t really appeal to us this early in the day, as we were still full from our brunch. Dessert from Federal Hill is definitely touted on Providence travel sites, and it’s probably the one area we wished we’d hit.

With our original plans unsuccessful, we decided to pack up and make a detour on the ride home. The town of Newport, RI was a short drive away and home to historic resort homes and a history dating back to 1639. Seeing the mansions on Bellevue Avenue and driving along Ocean Avenue allowed us the ability to peek back into the Gilded era of America.

Despite cold temperatures, much of which is hard to predict more than few days before in the northeast winter, we highly recommend Providence as a destination for a weekend away. Though we drove, the Amtrak station is directly downtown, and the walkability of the central districts makes it an ideal choice for someone in the northeast without a vehicle. Many times, Providence gets lost in the talk of its close neighbor of Boston, but the history and vibe differentiates itself and offers that city experience coupled with variety you hope to get on a weekend away.