Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Travel: A packed itinerary for a 4 day trip to Rhode Island.

We had the absolute BEST time on our little road trip to Rhode Island.  We traveled as a family of four, with two kids, ages 2 and 7.

Fun Fact:  Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US, but has the longest name.

Don't let the small size of Rhode Island fool you.  It's packed with beautiful scenery, history, famous eateries, and plenty of things to do.  It's definitely an overlooked state when it comes to travel destination bucket lists.  I planned this itinerary so that we would be able to enjoy the best of what Rhode Island has to offer over the course of 4 days.  If we return, I now know how to extend this trip to cover a full week of fun exploration.  Please note, we love action so this itinerary doesn't allow for much quiet time!

road trip itinerary for traveling to rhode island

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4 Day Itinerary - Rhode Island

Where should we stay?

We decided to stay in Providence, RI.  We chose this location because it was central to almost everything we wanted to do.  Luckily, because the state is so small, there really isn't anywhere to go that takes more than 45 minutes to get to.

We chose to stay in the Homewood Suites in Downtown Providence (link) because of its central location, reasonable rates, and generous amenities.  We did a room upgrade to a corner room that had the most gorgeous view of the entire city.  We legit had front row seats to the Providence River, the state building, and local parks.  The room came with a daily breakfast, a light meal in the evening, and other perks.  Parking is not included, but for a small daily fee, you're able to come and go out of a lot across the street for less than full price.

Day One

Morning - Travel time.

Our morning was dedicated to traveling to Rhode Island.  If you'll be flying in, I still recommend renting a car since there are so many fun things to do throughout the entire state.  You don't want to waste the extra time and money on public transportation.

Afternoon - Providence, RI

1:00 - We started our trip with a bus tour from Experience Rhode Island (link).  This was an educational tour that made stops along to way for pictures, historical lessons, and for gelato at Federal Hill.  The kids enjoyed this tour because they loved the experience of a bus and had time to run around Prospect Terrace and Brown University.

travel itinerary rhode island road trip

3:00 - Check out the highlights throughout Providence on your own time or schedule time slots for an official tour.  We opted to skip additional tours, because, you know, young kids!  Here are some ideas to fill the time slot.

1.  The Providence Athenaeum -  This bucket list item is more than a library.  It's like walking into a scene from Harry Potter.  It's filled with history, architecture, and a notable past.  Years ago, it was regularly frequented by Edgar Allen Poe.

2.  The Stephen Hopkins House - This historical site is open for tours if you so chose.  It was the home of Stephen Hopkins, a signer of The Declaration of Independence.  It boasts the bedchamber of George Washington and sadly has historical roots to slavery.

3.  The Arcade Providence - This is the first indoor shopping mall in the US.  It's small with very little to do inside, but is fun to walk through nonetheless.

4.  The John Brown House Museum - This place also offers paid tours.  This mansion was owned and inhabited by an heir of Brown University.  It's filled with artifacts and some original pieces.  The supposed burial place and apple tree that took over Roger Williams' grave is also at this house.

Fun Fact - The Brown family didn't find Brown University.  Instead, it was named for them after they made a hefty donation towards the school at that time.

5.  Annmary Brown Memorial - After an untimely passing, this museum was created by the love of her life.  It's the tomb of the couple filled with their favorite things and original love letters.  Their story is an intriguing one that totally made my bucket list that we unfortunately had to skip because it was closed when we went.

6.  Prospect Terrace - This small park boasts the best view of Providence.  It's up a great hill and overlooks the entire city.  It's home to the moved ashes of Roger Williams along with a gorgeous statue dedicated to him.  It would also be a lovely place to go for a picnic as it's surrounded by beautiful, historical colonial homes.  This is also the park that Edgar Allen Poe would use to take romantic walks and court his love.

7.  Rhode Island State House - The architecture of this building alone is intriguing.  If you're interested in it's history and what lies within, they are open for paid tours.  We only observed from a distance.

8.  Explore the city for your favorite mural.  One of my favorite parts of modern Providence was the gorgeous murals displayed on the walls of the modern buildings.  See the above collage for an example of the art with a mural of angel wings that my daughter found.

9.  Another one for the art lovers is the RISD Museum.  It is known to have beautiful pieces of art from local artists and other famous works.

10.  The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium is another Providence tourist spot.  The building was absolutely gorgeous from the outside.  We chose to skip it because the one in NY is boring for kids and I assumed this was the same.

6:00 - Go to Federal Hill to enjoy one of their famous restaurants.  Don't forget to stop by Venda Ravioli for dessert and Antonelli Poultry for a picture with their giant chicken statue.  Just don't go inside unless you can handle caged animals that are waiting to be picked for dinner and slaughtered.  I'm all for "fresh meat", but no thanks..

8:00 - End the night with a historical and fun Providence Ghost Tour.  Make sure to go with sneakers since it's a long walk.  If you do choose this ghost tour, skip prospect terrace above because that's the meeting point of the tour.  My toddler loved this stroller ride though the city and my 7 year old was intrigued with the spoooooky stories!  In fact, she said it was her favorite part of the trip.

Day Two

9:00 - Breakfast.  You can eat the free breakfast at the hotel or you can enjoy a local place to experience the city.  I'm going to do a second post on the best breakfast spot in Providence, so stay tuned!

11:00 - Wearing very comfortable sneakers, be prepared to spend half a day at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.  We LOVED this zoo.  Since we frequently visit The Bronx Zoo, I thought we'd be left disappointed.  I'm being honest when I say it was better in more ways than one.  You'll get to see lots of different animals, get to enjoy interactive experiences (like zip line & a choo choo train), learn about the animals, and feed farm animals.  For the record, my hubby said this was his favorite part of the trip.  It was also exciting for me to learn that this is the first accredited zoo in the US and that it dates back to 1872!

things to do in providence rhode island; itinerary for travel to rhode island

4:00 - While in the Roger Williams Park for the zoo, head on over to Carousel Village.  It's the second oldest continuously operating carousel in the US.  The first oldest is located about 30 minutes away in Warwick, RI.  We didn't take the ride to Warwick, but it's another option.  Be prepared to spend some time in Carousel Village because it's way more than a 5 minute ride on a fake horse.  There's the carousel that's cheap enough to ride several times, a Hasbro playground that's HUGE, a Candy Land walkway, a choo choo train ride, and a place to get ice cream.

The Roger Williams Park has lots more to do including paddle boat rides, fishing areas, historical cottages, walking trails, a rose maze, a Japanese garden, and a seal house whatever that means.  We didn't have time for this, but it's there if you do!

6:30 - Take a ride down the Providence River on a Providence River Boat Tour.  While I wasn't a huge fan of the tour because it reiterated what we already learned on the bus tour, it was fun to ride up and down the Providence River and see the city from this perspective.  It was also safe for younger children due to the cruising speed and high walls.  If you don't have young children, I'd go on the gondola ride down the Providence River.  It's the same view in a more romantic setting while you're serenaded like you're in Venice.

8:00 - Go for a late dinner at a restaurant you missed in Federal Hill.

Day Three

9:00 - After waking up early and enjoying a quick breakfast, start the 45 drive to Newport, Rhode Island.

rhode island travel road trip itinerary

10:00 - There are several mansions and grounds to tour in Newport.  There are The Elms, The Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, and more (link).  For our itinerary, we only have time to tour one and the kids wouldn't want more than that.  We chose to tour The Breakers because of it's affiliation with The Vanderbilts and Long Island.  It took about two hours to tour the mansion and the grounds, but could have taken longer if we weren't being dragged by our toddler.  It's a scenic place that makes a gorgeous backdrop for pictures, filled with history, a historical walking trail, and views overlooking the ocean.

12:00 - The Lobster Shack was on my bucket list since I'm a huge fan of seafood.  It isn't fancy.  It's a food truck with picnic tables, but the wharf is filled with history and the food is amazing and FRESH.

1:00 - Since we had limited time to explore Newport, RI, we opted to do a private tour of the historical city with Newport Jaguar Tours.  This tour was AMAZING!  The tour guide, Bruce, was a wealth of information.  He took us to see things and places that I didn't even know existed in Newport, such as President Eisenhower's house, Artillery Co of Newport, Goat Island, and The Newport TowerIf you're looking for a good mystery, research The Newport Tower.

4:00 - Visit Bowen's Wharf to check out the little boutiques, climb on a giant anchor, see the ships, and then get an early dinner on the water overlooking the marina.

6:00 - Take a quick stop in the old world looking arcade called Ryan Family Amusements.  While the kids will LOVE it here, it's ridiculously expensive and the prizes stink.  Limit them to a dollar amount and then let that be it.

7:00 - Before saying goodbye to Newport, stop at Sprinkles Ice Cream & Espresso Bar for DELICIOUS ice cream.  All the locals said to skip the popular ice cream chains and check out this local ice cream bar for something better.

Idea:  If you're looking to extend your stay, try spending a day or two on the Newport beaches.  Beach 1 and 2 what they're literally called is ideal for surfing and those who like rougher water.  Beach 3 is much calmer waters that is perfect for the children.  You could also visit Fort Adams State Park to see a real bunker, visit President Eisenhower's house, and enjoy the views of the bay and harbor.

Day Four

9:00 - Grab your final breakfast in Providence and then wave goodbye to this beautiful city!

10:30 - Start the 30 minute trek to the historic Jamestown, RI  to see a few more sites worth visiting before heading home.

family vacation itinerary for a trip to rhode island

11:00 - Visit the Beavertail Lighthouse to see a historic lighthouse base, GORGEOUS views of the water, tour the museum, and climb to the top.  I've seen countless beaches and shores all around the US, in Greece, and in the Caribbean.  This shore line was the most beautiful and intimidating of all that I have seen.  The trip to Jamestown is worth the view alone.

12:30 - Spend an hour exploring the trails of Fort Wetherill State Park where you'll see more gorgeous displays of the ocean, calm groves of rocky beaches, and historic bunkers that date back to the revolutionary war, WWI, and WWII.  Sadly, they've been destroyed by graffiti but are still worth seeing.  If you're brave enough to explore inside the bunkers, you'll find ancient spools of rope and other large items reminiscent of past wars that are too big to move.

2:00 - Reach out to the Jamestown Historic Society to get a private tour of a working windmill that dates back to 1787 and a Quaker meeting house that is still in use today.  This tour was personal, hands on, and really interesting.  My favorite part was seeing the initials of the town founders carved in the original benches of the meetinghouse.  Plus, a member of the society was kind enough to let my kids hang up their flag!

3:30 - For your final stop on your trip, go to the East Ferry Deli for THE BEST lobster roll I had on the entire trip.  It was even better than the famous Lobster Shack.  We took our food to go and ate on a park bench across the street.  We ate with beautiful views of the harbor and the Newport bridge.

I apologize for the really long post, but when I was researching things to do in Rhode Island, it was tough.  I had to search for days and wished it was all in one place.  I hope this post makes planning a trip to Rhode Island easier or intrigues you to visit it in the first place.

Have you ever been to Rhode Island?



  1. That's one long minute by minute list! What is this Snapfish thingy beneath your posts recently?

    1. It took a long time to write, but now I can forward this instead of my hand written itinerary. People kept asking for it and then would make fun of my handmade graph!!! Snapfish is the company I use to make the annual book that I wrote about earlier in the year. It’s an ad for their site.

    2. I don't like how she is staring at me, like she is waiting for me to go to sleep to eat me up alive...

    3. It's just a cute little fishy!

  2. No, I’ve never been to New England. It looks like a really fun adventure, though I did crack up that your kids would find a natural history museum boring but put up with historical tours! Lol, my kids still say that our vacation to Williamsburg was the worst thing we ever did. We also went to Jamestown, Virginia on that trip and they were not impressed! Lol, it was 98 degrees, so that didn’t help. Was there a warning about taking kids on the ghost tour?

    1. They don't mind the historical tours as long as there is something to keep their attention. Luckily, scenic rides through unexplored territory fascinate them. The Museum of Natural History in NY is filled with stuffed animals and very limited interactive experiences. I'm not sure what this one is like, but I wasn't too tempted to find out either. :)

      The ghost tour was great! My daughter said it was the best part of the trip. There was no warning, but I reached out beforehand just in case. It was mostly a long stroll though historic Providence with quick, spooky tales in front of historic places along the way. This is also where I learned the most about Edgar Allen Poe which was a definite highlight for me.

      I love Williamsburg and remember enjoying it so much as a kid that my grandparents took us a second time. Plus, Bush Gardens was there too (if I remember correctly).

    2. Are you talking about the a Museum of NaturalHistory in NYC? With the huge dinosaur skeleton when you enter? I’m shocked that your kids don’t love that?!

      I would have loved the ghost tour. My husband and I did the one in Williamsburg on our 3rd anniversary. We had such a great trip, that’s why we went back with the kids years later. We probably should have taken them to Busch Gardens, too, but opted for Virginia Beach, which honestly, wasn’t that nice. Oh well, their hatred for that trip is still a bond! Lol!

    3. Yes!! It's almost painful to go through that with them. The Dinosaur gets a quick look at then it's just running down long hallways of stuff that mean nothing to them.

      I did a ghost tour YEARS ago in Williamsburg. They're so fun! I think my favorite ghost tour was in Lake George while walking through an old fort. We went under the fort and it was really spooky!

  3. I’ve never been to Rhode Island but maybe one day

  4. Wow. You sure had everything down. Not that it surprises me that you did. The zoo sounds like a real winner. Sounds like you could find things to do for days there. Zip lining would be fun. Gotta try that one of these days. You mean you actually went near the animals? lol

    I'd skip the food stuff though. No surprise haha

    They sure have a lot of firsts there, even if their mall is tiny.

  5. Who knew there was so much to do in such a tiny state!? The kids are all grown here, so I'd skip the zoo, but I'd definitely check out all of the eateries!


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