11 Interesting And Beautiful Places To Visit In Rhode Island

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Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US. Yet you could spend your whole vacation (at least!) exploring everything the Ocean State has to offer within its 1,214 square miles. 

With Gilded Age history, opulent mansions, dynamic culture, idyllic coastlines, and excellent seafood, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here. 

As you begin planning your vacation, explore our list of 11 interesting and beautiful places to visit in Rhode Island. Then get ready for a big adventure in Little Rhody! 

1. Cliff Walk – Newport, RI

Newport was once the summer destination for America’s wealthiest families during the Gilded Age of the late 1800s to early 1900s. Many of the town’s most stunning mansions from that era can still be admired today.

The best way to introduce yourself to Newport’s upper-crust charm (and see many of its famous mansions) is to hike the popular Cliff Walk. Meandering along the Newport coastline, you’ll get excellent views of Newport’s grandest neighborhood and enjoy the fresh breeze of the ocean alongside. 

I recommend starting your hike at the 40 Steps, the scenic outdoor descending staircase where Gilded Age servants used to socialize. From here, you’ll get to see The Breakers, Rosecliff, Marble House, Chinese Tea House, and other iconic mansions. 

Exploring Newport’s Cliff Walk

2. Federal Hill – Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island’s capital and largest city, is full of fascinating neighborhoods. Perhaps its most lively is historic Federal Hill, originally settled by Italian-American immigrants in the early 20th century. 

Today, a stroll down Federal Hill will immerse you in Italian culture, from fantastic restaurants and grocery stores to bakeries and gelato shops. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter al fresco live music and dancing, especially along DePasquale Square in the summer.

For a classy Italian dinner, I recommend Trattoria Zooma (mmmm…lasagna!). Afterwards, enjoy dessert at the 100-year-old Scialo Brothers Bakery nearby. 

Federal Hill’s DePasquale Square

3. Del’s Lemonade

Though small, Rhode Island is still big enough to have its own iconic local food and drink. Perhaps its most recognizable fare is Del’s Lemonade, especially in the summertime. 

With permanent locations throughout the state and trucks and carts at popular tourist destinations, the opportunity to try the Ocean State’s beloved soft frozen lemonade is hard to miss. 

You may find yourself making multiple stops at Del’s throughout your vacation. Don’t worry…just keep telling yourself it’s a Rhode Island tradition! 

Del’s Lemonade truck

4. Block Island

Take a short ferry ride from the mainland, and you’ll find yourself at charming and historic Block Island. A popular island escape for area locals, Block Island is a great place to experience some of Rhode Island’s best sand and sun off the beaten path. 

If you’re seeking beachside relaxation, make the drive north to Mansion Beach. Then visit the northern tip of the island and hike through the sand to the isolated North Light, Block Island’s oldest lighthouse.

Another alternative for lighthouses is the picturesque Southeast Light, where you can also see Block Island’s famously dramatic Mohegan Bluffs. 

For an elegant place to stay overnight on Block Island, I recommend the historic Spring House Hotel. Sitting in an Adirondack chair on the hotel’s scenic front lawn is a little slice of heaven. 

Block Island’s Mohegan Bluffs

5. International Tennis Hall of Fame – Newport, RI

The original site of the US Open, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport is a must-see for tennis fans and sports enthusiasts. Here you can pay homage to your favorite tennis players through the decades and learn about those who grew the sport into what it is today. 

The Hall of Fame includes a fascinating museum covering the birth of tennis through the present day. Full of interactive, hands-on exhibits and rare artifacts, you’ll leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of tennis and its global impact.

Plus, the hall of fame still offers grass tennis courts open to the public. Even professional players compete annually here at the Hall of Fame Open, the only grass tournament offered outside Europe. 

Grass court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

6. “The Mile of History” – Providence, RI

Founded in 1636, Providence, Rhode Island is a city rooted in history. With that said, there’s no better place to experience the city’s unique past than Benefit Street, better known as “The Mile of History.”

Originally the home of Providence’s wealthy families in the 1700s, Benefit Street today is packed with a number of Rhode Island’s historically and culturally significant places to explore, including: 

  • Providence Athenaeum, built in 1836
  • First Baptist Church in America, founded in 1636
  • Stephen Hopkins House, built in 1707
  • John Brown House, built in 1788
  • Rhode Island School of Design, founded in 1877
  • Brown University, founded in 1764
Inside the Providence Athenaeum

7. Beavertail Lighthouse – Jamestown, RI

Located on the very southern tip of Conanicut Island stands one of the most scenic lighthouses in all of Rhode Island: Beavertail Lighthouse

America’s third-oldest lighthouse, the first rendition of Beavertail Lighthouse was built in 1749. Today, you can visit the current lighthouse and its charming museum within its historic buildings.

After immersing yourself in the museum’s interactive exhibits, take in the views of the rocky coastline at Beavertail State Park surrounding the lighthouse.

On select days throughout the year, you can even climb the lighthouse tower to see views from the top!

Beavertail Lighthouse

8. East Bay Bike Path – Bristol, RI

Stretching for 14.5 miles from Providence to Bristol, the East Bay Bike Path meanders through several parks, communities, and waterfronts along Narragansett Bay. 

I suggest renting bikes in the quaint town of Bristol and starting the path there for some enjoyable scenery, including a detour to the popular Colt State Park. You’ll find yourself wanting to stop several times for photo ops! 

If you’re in Bristol in early July, stick around for the nation’s oldest Fourth of July celebration. Originally starting in 1785, Bristol annually celebrates America’s Independence Day with its beloved local parade.

Waterfront views along East Bay Bike Path

9. The Breakers – Newport, RI

There are numerous mansions in Newport, but the grandest is The Breakers, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in the 1890s. When you vacation in Rhode Island, a tour inside The Breakers should be at the top of your itinerary. 

Considered the “summer cottage” of the Vanderbilts, this massive 70-room mansion will give you a unique look into the lavish lives of one of America’s wealthiest families from the Gilded Age.

My favorite highlights include the opulent Great Hall with its fifty-foot ceiling, the Music Room, the fascinating kitchen, and the sprawling backyard.

If you’re pressed for time to see Newport, I recommend a trolley tour with tickets to visit The Breakers built in. 

The Breakers – the Vanderbilt family’s “summer cottage”

10. Watch Hill – Westerly, RI

The Victorian-style resort community of Watch Hill, located in the southwestern tip of Westerly, has drawn vacationers to its tucked-away luxury for decades. 

Combining history, elegance, natural beauty, and culture, Watch Hill provides plenty to see and do, including:

  • Flying Horse Carousel – America’s oldest continuously operating carousel, since 1883
  • East Beach – a relaxing, scenic beach ideal for surfing
  • Napatree Point Conservation Area – this nature preserve provides a 3-mile hiking trail, isolated beaches, and birdwatching 
  • Ocean House Hotel – built in 1868, this elite historic hotel is a great place to stay in Watch Hill but also worth a visit if staying elsewhere

Plus, this quaint village offers a number of local shopping and dining options as well. 

Watch Hill’s sunny coastline (Photo by Rick Monteiro on Unsplash)

11. Flo’s Drive-In & Schultzy’s Snack Shack – Portsmouth, RI

Eating at a roadside seafood shack is a popular pastime in Rhode Island and throughout New England. Here you can get fresh seafood (often fried) quickly from a walk-up window and enjoy your meal while admiring coastal scenery outside at a picnic table. 

In Portsmouth, you’ll find two of these local institutions along the beach—right next to each other! Flo’s Drive-In and Schultzy’s Snack Shack have both been serving up roadside seafood to hungry visitors for generations. 

Flo’s offers classic options like clam chowder, stuffed quahogs, lobster rolls, clam strips, and more. At Schultzy’s, I recommend trying the clam cakes (a Rhode Island staple!), as well as their excellent burgers. 

Schultzy’s Snack Shack

Did we miss any of your favorite places in Rhode Island?

Let us know in the comments if there are any more places in Rhode Island that you would add to our list!

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