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Rhode Island is the tiniest state in the United States, but you can hardly tell, because there’s so much to see and do in this place it feels anything but small. Start with 400 miles of classic New England coastline defined by beautiful windswept beaches dotted with lighthouses and clam shacks. Fresh seafood hauled from the chilly Atlantic is transformed into local favorites such as stuffies, fried globes of breadcrumb and clams served on the half shell. Rhode Island’s capital city, Providence, is an unpretentious cultural hub, home to lively dive bars, buzzy restaurants, and one of the country’s premier art colleges, the Rhode Island School of Design. Drive 45 minutes south to tony Newport and you’ll be in the land of Gilded Age mansions and yachts. Whether you decide to undertake a driving tour of colonial towns, go museum and gallery hopping, or simply pad around a sunny coastal village in shorts and sandals, diminutive Rhode Island has lots to offer.
T.F. Green International Airport (PVD) in Warwick is the state’s aviation hub, and thanks to Rhode Island’s size, you can reach most destinations in less than an hour if you land here. Some may find it more convenient to fly into Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, an hour’s drive from Providence (depending on traffic), for its greater variety of flights and destinations. A rental car is a great option for zipping around the state, although there are plenty of transportation alternatives. Rhode Island Public Transit Authority Buses serve the entire state, Amtrak trains make stops throughout Rhode Island, and regionally operated ferries will carry you to Rhode Island’s charming islands and coastal towns.
Rhode Island experiences four true seasons. Hot, sunny summers are ideal for beach holidays, while crisp fall months bring colorful foliage and classic seasonal activities such as apple picking. In winter, the landscape is transformed into a snowy wonderland, and towns twinkle with holiday lights. In spring, the warm days signal the start of outdoor festival season, and Rhode Island bustles with celebrations of jazz, chowder, and even daffodils.
For a true glimpse of New England living and scenery, hop aboard the ferry to Block Island, located off Rhode Island’s southern shore in Narragansett Bay. This pretty circle of green ringed with gorgeous shoreline is home to sandy coastal paths, historic brick lighthouses, and miles of old stone walls stretched across verdant farmland.
A trail of more than 80 bonfires is set ablaze atop the surface of the three rivers that flow through Providence, filling the canals with a warm glow and the air with the smell of wood smoke, as onlookers and musicians line the banks. Created by sculptor Barnaby Evans, the work has existed in some form since 1994, and comes alive during the summer months, and additional select days throughout the year. Check the WaterFire website for dates.
A trip to Newport isn’t complete without ogling the opulent Gilded Age mansions here. The Preservation Society of Newport County offers tours of ten of these over-the-top temples to wealth, including The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo built by the Vanderbilt family. The interior looks a bit like a wedding cake dipped in gold and velvet.