24 Hours in America’s Renaissance City – Providence, Rhode Island
That catchy nickname – Renaissance City - is one of several nicknames for Providence, along with the Creative Capital, the Beehive of Industry, “Prov” and PVD (the IATA airport code)! No matter what you call it, Providence is a really great place to visit! We visited for the day and spent the night and here's what we did!
Here are some quick facts about Providence:
Founded by Roger Williams in 1636
Williams named the area in honor of "God's merciful Providence" which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers.
It’s the state capital of Rhode Island
The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River, at the head of Narragansett Bay.
It’s the home of Brown University and Johnson & Wales University.
It’s called the Renaissance City because of all of the revitalization that took place in the 1970’s.
Why We Went:
We were on our way to Nantucket (read the post) and didn't want to get up in the middle of the night to make the 6-hour drive to Hyannis, Massachusetts to catch the ferry to Nantucket. So we looked for a place to spend the night and decided on Providence, about a two hour drive from Hyannis. Although we had both visited Providence before, it had been a while. And, never ones to pass up an opportunity to revisit a place when we’re in the neighborhood, we decided to do just that.
Where We Stayed:
Hotel Providence, located on Mathewson Street, was very comfortable with a really friendly staff. We stayed in a King Room and it was plenty big - you could also move around in the bathroom (which was good, because we had to hang our stuff to dry after a rainstorm). The front desk informed us of a block party that was going to take place right next to the hotel that night, just in case there was some noise, but we didn’t hear a thing.
Note: And, Hotel Providence is part of the Stash Rewards Program – a loyalty program of independent hotels. I am really excited to have found them, because I happened to have made reservations at another participating property, and didn’t realize that the upcoming hotel was also part of the Stash Rewards Program!
Where We Ate:
With Johnson & Wales University located in Providence, you know the food had to be good and it didn’t disappoint. We arrived around 11am in Providence. So, by the time we checked in, got to our room and settled down, it was close to noon and we were ready for lunch.
Lunch: Viva Mexico!
For some reason, we were both in the mood for Mexican food and randomly came across Viva Mexico! It was brightly decorated and the lunch crowd hadn’t quite made its way in just yet. In the window, we noticed a couple enjoying their meal and whatever they had looked fantastic! We’re in! I had veggie fajitas and hubby had a chicken burrito. Perfect!
I read about Persimmon on Thrillist as one of the top restaurants in Providence. It sounded delicious, and I checked the review, but I’m always a bit skeptical. But that skepticism was quickly put aside. When we checked in to our hotel, the person helping us asked if we needed dinner reservations anywhere. I told her that we already had them at Persimmon. She said, “Oh my god the food is delicious! And don’t forget to try their cocktails! So good.” ‘Nough said. It was one of the top meals I’ve ever had. Ever.
The chef is a six-time James Beard Award nominee for best chef in the Northeast. It was even named “Best Farm-to-Table in Providence.” 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick. The service was impeccable. When I made our reservations, I let them know we were celebrating a special occasion and when we were seated, our server brought us two glasses of champagne – my fave! After the champagne, our server asked if we wanted cocktails. Why not? I’m not a big cocktail drinker. Not because I dislike cocktails. I just don’t drink them very often. But because they were so highly recommended, I went for it and had a bourbon peach sour that was to die for. Hubby had a scotch highland cocktail. Both great.
Persimmon is small plates, so we asked our server for recommendations. We ordered what seemed like one of everything – creamy broccoli soup, cured jumbo scallops, agnolotti, radish and radish kimchi salad, 40-day dry aged prime beef. And you know we had to have dessert. I had sweet corn ice cream and my husband had the mixed berry ice cream. It was all amazing and totally worth every dollar.
Breakfast: Seven Stars
We were leaving relatively early for the 2 hour drive to Hyannis, so we wanted a quick bite to eat. Not a lot was open at 7am on Sunday morning. Luckily we found Seven Stars. 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Artisanal Bread.” We didn’t get a loaf of bread, but picked up two delicious pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants) and split a cup of coffee. That’ll be $11 please. Yikes! And it was totally work it.
What We Did:
Eat delish food. See above.
Went for a Walk:
It was a beautiful day, so we walked. I found Providence to be very walkable, albeit a bit hilly. We checked out the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau website, called Go Providence, to see what we could see walking. While you could take an organized group tour or follow one of the self-guided walking tours offered on the website, we modified the self-guided tours and mapped out our own walking tour to cover the things we were interested in seeing. Of course we walked along the riverbanks where we saw people taking gondola rides – no kidding! And, we strolled by all of these sights in less than three hours - the State House, Providence Art Club, First Baptist church, the Providence Public Library, RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), Providence Performing Arts Center, Johnson & Wales University, the Custom House, Memorial Park, DePasquale Square, and more!
As we were walking to Federal Hill, the Little Italy section of Providence, we got caught in a ridiculous rain storm. When I tell you it was raining sideways, that would not be an understatement. While we had umbrellas, they were totally useless. The wind blew them inside out! We squished back to our hotel, wrung out our clothes and got ready for dinner!
Not to be missed: Providence also has great street art!
What We Missed:
Waterfire: Well, we missed one of the lightings by a few days, but I still thought it worth a mention in case you’re in Providence. It’s actually considered a living sculpture, created by artist Barnaby Evans, but to put it more simply, it’s hot coal containers (called braziers), placed in the three rivers, lit on fire and set to music. Pretty cool! Lightings are scheduled throughout the summer and it’s meant to be a fun night out for the community. According to its website, Waterfire lightings, “light up over eighty braziers from Waterplace Park to Memorial/South Main Street Park on scheduled evenings throughout the season. Lighting occurs shortly after sunset and they remain lit until half past midnight.”
Went for a Paddle: Not really, but we could have. We were interested in kayaking, but we weren’t really sure what time we’d get to Providence and we also wanted to walk around and take our time before dinner. Ultimately, it was the right decision to not rent kayaks since it rained. But if you are in Providence during warm months and want to go for a paddle, I found Providence Kayak.
Have you been to Providence? What did you do? Shoot me an email, leave a comment below or reach out to me on Facebook!