Ah, divine Providence. No, no… not God’s intervention in the world. Providence, Rhode Island. You know- that little city in that little state that you probably never think about. It’s ok, I don’t blame you. Why would you think about a smudge of a spot when the world is vast and amazing and full of wonderful places to visit? Why, indeed. Well, because it’s pretty wonderful in its own right, that’s why. No, really- I’m serious. I’ll share with you what a day in Providence might be like for you, and then maybe you’ll come see for yourself (and yes, you should come see for yourself).
Start your morning off at Olga’s Cup and Saucer in the Jewelry District. The coffee is fantastic and the food is even better. You should buy a baguette and eat the whole thing. Why not? You’re on vacation.
And you can put that carbo-loading to use by taking a stroll down by the river. Down by the river is where it’s at (well not really, it’s actually fairly quiet, but it’s a pretty walk with nice views of the city).
I love the mix of the old and the new. And sharp angles and rounded corners. It’s so, well I don’t know what it is… it just speaks to me.
There’s a really vibrant arts community in Providence and the vibe Downcity is decidedly artsy. Street art, galleries and little shops selling locally made products abound (well abound in the small city definition of abounding, which I guess is not really abounding, but more just existing in a state more than not existing at all). This is Umberto Crenca’s work. He’s pretty badass.
Make sure your feet take you to Westminster Street. There are lots of independent shops to peek in and support. No Gap or Banana here. You have to go to the mall for that (but don’t do that). This is Symposium Books. It’s my fave. I think I’ve established that I like books. They have loads of used and new ones. And also they have records. Which is very cool.
After you finish digging, you can have lunch at Small Point Cafe. I love this place. Good food, good people, good vibes only.
After you finish your sandwich, or soup, or whatever, head on up to College Hill. Once you catch your breath (they don’t call it College Hill because it’s flat) stop and take a look around. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time. And there’s a good reason for that! This neighborhood is home to some of the oldest buildings in America, and it’s on the National Historic Register. It’s also considered one of Americas Best Places because it’s so well preserved. I read that somewhere, so it must be true.
Brown University takes up a good amount of real estate on College Hill and that’s not a bad thing. The campus is crazy beautiful. The buildings, the green space, everything. It’s got a storied history, but I’ll let you discover more about that when you come.
See what I mean? It’s beautiful. I come up here to eat lunch sometimes to remember what it feels like to be a carefree college student. I didn’t go to Brown, but I could have if I’d studied harder in high school. A lot harder. But I can visit every day now and that’s almost the same thing. And, I don’t even have to go to class! Winning.
There’s more to Brown than meets the eye. If you get tired of all the lovely old traditional buildings, take a deeper look. This is the stairwell at the List Art Center.
It’s 5 or 6 floors dedicated to freedom of expression and nods to modern culture and society. I see there are fellow Lost fans out there who are also still upset that it wasn’t Penny’s boat. Why wasn’t it Penny’s boat? The ending would have probably been so much better.
Here’s a good reminder of what needs to happen more.
Freedom of expression doesn’t just happen in hidden stairwells on campus, don’t worry about that. This is Urs Fischer’s giant blue gummy bear (a.k.a Bluno). It’s creepy and cute… creepily cute? You totally will want to climb on it, but that’s not allowed. So you just have to stand in front of it and wonder why????
There’s lots more to see up on College Hill- more of the campus, gorgeous homes, Thayer St & Wickendon St for shopping, and a whole bunch of eating and drinking places, but you’ll just have to imagine what they look like (or come visit yourself). I love this street though so I’m sharing one last pic of the hill before I move on.
And by move on, I mean head just a bit downhill to the Providence Athenaeum which I think is my most favorite spot in the whole city. Because I love books and I love old buildings and this is an old building with lots of books. So… need I say more?
There’s also a lot of these guys hanging around. Oh, and Edgar Allen Poe used to meet his girlfriend here. Amazing right? Who would have thought that he had a girlfriend! He was so morose and morbid, it must not have been much fun to date him. But at least he liked books!
By this time, it’ll probably be afternoon and if you’re like me you’ll need some caffeine to keep you going. Lucky for you Bolt Coffee is across the street. And it’s located inside the RISD Museum, which is what you should check out next anyway.
I love the RISD Museum for its eclectic mix of art. They’ve got masters and student art and everything in between. A little of this, a little of that. Something for everyone!
Currently on now is Justin Kimball’s Elegy. It’s a series of photographs taken in rural Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It depicts life in small towns after they’ve lost the industries that once made them prosperous communities. It’s haunting and lovely and sad and hopeful in a weird way.
Other works of art. I’m not sure if my son is in awe or sleeping on his feet. Maybe this room isn’t the most exciting one in the museum.
There’s even a Chihuly! I’m so excited that this is here this because I really wanted to see the Chihuly exhibit at the NYBG this summer and I missed it. If you missed it too, you can come to PVD and see this one. Yay!
After the museum, spend some time on Main Street. The Federal Style buildings are pretty special.
See? You almost expect Roger Williams himself to come galloping down the street on his trusty steed.
There’s one more book related place you have to check out, and that’s the RISD Library. It used to be a bank and it’s fabulous.
After that fun-filled day, you might need some tequila. So head back to the Jewelry District and stop at Xaco Taco for tequila.
And tacos. They have tacos too. And they make them in a VW Bus. Of course they do!
If beer is more your thing, you have to check out Bayberry Beer Hall. Great beer, great food, great vibe. Great everything.
I might have been there a time or two with my partner in crime.
If you prefer a more subdued dinner, head on over to Oberlin. It’s so pretty and cozy in there, and the food is amazing.
Or you could go to Kleos for a modern take on Greek if you prefer. It’s also very pretty with amazing food. And it’s right next door to Oberlin. I guess you could try both if you’re extra ambitious…
If you’re staying over, you should probably check into the Dean Hotel. I’ve never actually stayed there, but I like the lobby because it’s cool. And, it’s home to an awesome speakeasy that serves up the best cocktails in the city (which I have been to ah maybe once or twice). Not only that, but there’s a karaoke bar and a really popular restaurant right on site. Also, you’ll probably need strong coffee in the morning if you’ve visited all of the places I suggested that serve alcohol, and you’ll find another Bolt right on the premises. So… this place is kind of like a one-stop spot. In fact, forget the rest of Providence. Just hang out at the Dean!
I’m not sure when you’re planning to come (and you know you are after this enlightening post), but maybe it should be in the summer so you can experience Adam Anderson’s 10,000 Suns installation. It’s really fantastical and magical. And anyway, let’s face it, everything is better in summer.
So, that’s Providence in a nutshell. There’s lots more to see and do…well maybe not lots but at least a few more things to see and do..oh OH! like
PV Donuts. How could I almost forget? On your way out of town, you have to stop at PV Donuts and treat yo’self to the craziest, yummiest, most creative, and stomach pain inducing (in a good way) donuts around. You’ll be glad you did!
Providence awaits! See ya’ll soon!