Return to Content

Providence, Rhode Island | A Slice of the Renaissance City

History begins to whisper when you pull into the city of Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1636 by religious exile, Roger Williams, the Ocean State’s capital is not only one of the oldest cities in New England, but perhaps also one of the quirkiest. Home to Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University, its vibrant art, cultural, and culinary scenes collide, casting an eclectic mix of contrast and creativity.

Prospect Terrace Park

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Prospect Terrace Park offers sweeping views of the city skyline.

I was in Renaissance City—also referred to as the Creative Capital—recently to meet my guide for the day, Elizabeth Duvivier, founder of Squam Art Workshops and Provy Love, for a whirlwind tour that would showcase some of Elizabeth’s favorite places. Though we would be sticking primarily to the east side, the small slice of Providence she revealed would paint a picture of the diversity that fuels the culture of the city.

providence mural
Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
When I arrived at her office, Elizabeth sprang some exciting news on me—I would be tagging along as she and her assistant, Kaitlyn, filmed video for the top-secret Squam in the City workshop. (Don’t worry; I didn’t just let the cat out of the bag. She announced the gathering earlier this week.)

historic architecture providence

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Historic architecture can be found in every corner of Providence.

lilacs
Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch

Flowering trees line the streets in Providence, making the month of May an ideal time to visit.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Flowering trees line the streets in Providence, making the month of May an ideal time to visit.

As we wound our way through the grid of streets, and past an abundance of blossoms—wisteria vines draped over garden gates, lilac bushes pushed against fence posts, and fruit trees dripping with flowers lined up along the city’s sidewalks—we decided to make our first stop at Tea in Sahara for some jasmin tea to fuel us through the day ahead. Tucked away in a residential section of Governor Street, this tiny café exudes a relaxing atmosphere that’s infused with the spirit of the Sahara.

Tea in Sahara.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Wander away from the crowds and enjoy a cup of tea at Tea in Sahara.

interior of Tea in Sahara

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The interior of Tea in Sahara has been decorated with a Moroccan theme.

You can’t visit Providence without stopping at Prospect Terrace Park on College Hill, where a statue of Roger Williams looms over the city. After all, who can resist getting a close-up peek at Providence’s founder?

The Roger Williams statue in Prospect Terrace Park

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The Roger Williams statue in Prospect Terrace Park overlooks Providence.

Prospect Terrace Park

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Prospect Terrace Park.

Step inside the Providence Athenaeum, and it’s easy to understand how it has become entrenched in the hearts of city residents and visitors alike. Billed as “a library, culture center, and more,” this independent, member-supported institution has been a vibrant part of the community since 1836.

Providence Athenaeum

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Though supported by its members, the Providence Athenaeum is open to the public.

Providence Athenaeum interior
Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
In stark contrast to the uber-traditional Athenaeum, The Dean in downtown Providence is reimagining how a building with a somewhat dubious past can function today. Once home to a brothel, and more recently, a strip club, The Dean is now a cosmopolitan 52-room boutique hotel that whole-heartedly embraces the local movement.

The Dean hotel in Providence.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The Dean hotel in Providence.

Guest rooms at The Dean forgo passe items such as phones and dressers in favor of decor created by local artisans.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Guest rooms at The Dean forgo passe items such as phones and dressers in favor of decor created by local artisans.

Providence prides itself on being a dog-friendly destination, and water bowls set out for those furry four-legged friends can be spotted at many establishments. In Wayland Square—a mecca of eateries, funky boutiques and places to gather—colorful umbrellas were popped up and restaurant walls were thrown open, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces, inviting restaurant patrons to mingle with passers-by.

Providence is a very dog-friendly city.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Providence is a very dog-friendly city.

Teas and Javas

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The exterior walls at Teas and Javas can be thrown open to create an indoor/outdoor dining experience.

L'Artisan Cafe and Bakery in Wayland Square.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
L’Artisan Cafe and Bakery in Wayland Square.

The Ladd Observatory, Brown University’s astronomical observatory, opens to the public on Tuesday nights at no cost, weather permitting, of course. This is definitely something to put on the itinerary if you’re visiting the area on a Tuesday.

The Ladd Observatory on College Hill.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The Ladd Observatory on College Hill.

Having spent several hours crisscrossing the city in search of footage and photographs, we headed back to break Elizabeth’s dogs, Daisy and Ollie, out for a trip to Blackstone Park. This 45-acre wood is strewn with walking trails that snake down toward the river.

Blackstone Park

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Dogs are welcome at Blackstone Park.

The trails at Blackstone Park twist down to the Narragansett Boat Club on the Seekonk River.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
The trails at Blackstone Park twist down to the Narragansett Boat Club on the Seekonk River.

A swan drifts along the Seekonk River.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
A swan drifts along the Seekonk River.

With the sunlight waning and the dogs fully exercised, it was time to grab a bite to eat before heading back to New Hampshire. We stopped in at the Garden Grille —a vegetarian café in neighboring Pawtucket—for a butternut squash quesadilla. Yum!

Local 121 is one of the many restaurants in Providence embracing locally harvested food.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Local 121 is one of the many restaurants in Providence embracing locally harvested food.

There’s such an array of fun and exciting things unfolding in Providence, Rhode Island, right now that a mere day spent there just can’t do it justice. It will definitely require another trip to explore this small, lively city further.

In the meantime, for a more traditional tour of the city, read the YANKEE  article: Walking Providence.

Or to see more of Providence’s sites, watch this video.

 

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Brenda Darroch

Author:

Brenda Darroch

Biography:

Digital Editor Brenda Darroch creates and manages content for YankeeMagazine.com, YankeeFoliage.com, e-newsletters, and Yankee's search and social media initiatives. Follow Brenda Darroch on !
Yankee Magazine Advertising

Bring New England Home
plus, get the Tablet Edition FREE!

In this issue: Our Favorite Fall Drives

  • Sweet & Savory Apple Recipes
  • The Mohawk Trail at 100
  • New England's Best Cider Festival
  • Man vs. Seal on Cape Cod
Subscribe Today and Save 44%

8 Responses to Providence, Rhode Island | A Slice of the Renaissance City

  1. Aimee Seavey May 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Beautiful photos (both inside and out!) and fun blog, Brenda! You always find the best dogs on your travels. :)

  2. Janet May 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Love Garden Grille! However, it is in Pawtucket, not Providence.

    • Brenda Darroch May 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks for pointing that out, Janet. I have clarified that in the description.

  3. Jenni Smith May 27, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    I’m sure you had a great tour! Rhode Island is a beautiful place and Kaitlyn is an amazing Rhide Island tour guide!

  4. April Donahue May 28, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    I am disheartened to discover that like many others who extoll the virtues of Providence, the author chose to stay exclusively on the East Side of the city with only a brief foray into downtown. It would have been more encompassing to have visited several areas throughout the city rather than focus so intently on one neighborhood. Perhaps next time!

    • Brenda Darroch May 28, 2014 at 11:37 am #

      Hi April,
      I would have loved to see more of the city, but time did not permit a complete exploration of Providence. It was a very full day.

  5. Sean May 28, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Thanks for visiting our beautiful city! So glad you enjoyed it! The Providence of today is a far cry from what it was even twenty years ago- and it is only getting better. Please do come back soon! There are some real treasures on federal hill, the west side, and in the jewelry district you should explore (among others)!

    If there’s one thing articles and stories about Providence get wrong, it is the immense pride and loyalty it inspires in its citizens. There’s nothing we love more than our hometown and it’s so incredibly exciting to be able to share that with others.

    • Brenda Darroch May 29, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      Hi Sean,
      That sense of pride came through loud and clear when Elizabeth Duvivier was showing me around your city.

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

Register Sign In

©2013, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111

80th-anniversart-calendar600x350-2