Located at the head of Narragansett Bay is the City of Providence, the capital of the state of Rhode Island and its largest city. Founded in 1636 by Massachusetts exile Roger Williams on land purchased from the Narragansett Indians, the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was initially established as a safe haven for those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. Williams named Providence as a tribute to what he saw as God’s guidance in this endeavor. In the late 19th century, Providence served as the focal point of the nation’s textile industry. By the early 1900’s, the city became known for jewelry manufacturing, an industry which to this day retains its prominence.
Like the city of Rome, Providence was founded on seven hills. Among the more prominent of these are College Hill (home to the Ivy League’s Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design), Federal Hill (the city’s Italian district noted for its choice restaurants), Smith Hill (which contains the State House), and Weybosset Hill (encompassing part of the downtown area).
A major undertaking that took place during the late 1980s and early 1990s was a downtown renaissance that forged a rebirth of the city’s arts, shopping, and entertainment offerings. One particular offshoot of this initiative was the introduction of the popular WaterFire Providence, an evening event that takes place on scheduled Saturdays from May through November. Visitors stroll to the sounds of instrumental music which accompany dozens of flaming bonfires that burn brightly just above the water’s surface, illuminating the rivers that pass through the middle of the Downtown Providence area.
Things to Do in Providence
The Trinity Repertory Company, a renowned theater group, has been a Providence staple since 1963. The city is also home to the Providence Performing Arts Center, which hosts several touring Broadway shows yearly; and to the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the nation’s only professional orchestra fully integrated with a music school.
Providence is also filled with history. The city’s East Side is replete with buildings representative of Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian periods. Roger Williams Park, home to the city’s zoo, also houses an historic casino building, a carousel, and the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium. Other museums in the city include the Museum of Rhode Island History, the Heritage Harbor Museum, the John Brown House Museum, the School of Design’s Museum of Art, the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University, and the Providence Children’s Museum. Providence is also home to the oldest Baptist Church in America, established by Roger Williams in 1638.
See below for more of the great attractions in Providence.
Providence Weather and Climate
The Providence climate generally mimics that of most of New England: fairly warm summers and freezing cold winters, although the city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean tends to moderate the weather slightly as compared to many inland sites in New England. Humidity remains fairly high most of the time. Providence gets its share of precipitation year-round and can be especially vulnerable to the types of storms known as “Nor’easters” which follow the Jet Stream to the northeast from the south and can bring blizzard conditions in winter months.
The coldest month in Providence is January with an average high temperature of about 37 degrees Fahrenheit and an average low of about 20. The warmest is July, in which the average daily high reaches 83 degrees. Precipitation is fairly steady throughout the year; the highest amount occurs in November (4.4 inches on average) and the lowest amount in July (3.17 inches).
Getting To and Around the City
With its proximity to Boston (about one hour away) and New York City (3 hours away), Providence is easy to reach and once you get there, easy to navigate too. Air travelers generally arrive to the city via the T.F. Green Airport, which is actually located in the nearby city of Warwick, RI (about 15 minutes south of Providence).
Those who like to take the train can take advantage of Amtrak’s high speed express service, which can transport passengers to or from New York City in about two and a half hours. Providence’s location on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Washington, DC and Boston also affords passengers ample rail transportation to numerous other cities.
After getting to Providence, there are many ways a visitor can get around. There are plenty of car rental choices available, although visitors may want to note that there can be traffic congestion at certain times of day, particularly on the entrance and exit ramps to Interstates I-95 and I-195. Public transportation is available courtesy of the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA), which offers low-cost bus service throughout Providence and from the capital city to other points in Rhode Island. RIPTA also offers trolley service to the city’s Downtown, Federal Hill and East Side neighborhoods.
Providence Arts / Culture
- Dance: Festival Ballet Providence, Providence, Rhode Island
- Music: Opera Providence, Providence, Rhode Island
- Music: Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, Providence, Rhode Island
- Music: Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, Providence, RI
- Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, Rhode Island
- Theater: Perishable Theater, Providence, Rhode Island
- Theater: Trinity Repertory Company – Providence, Rhode Island
Providence Attractions / Things to Do
- Museum of Art – Rhode Island School of Design – Providence, RI
- Providence Children’s Museum – Providence, RI
Photo credits: The image of the Providence Waterfire was provided by WaterFire Providence.