Historic Wickford, Rhode Island | Home to the Wickford Art Festival
You must love a harbor specked with sailboats, embrace dogs of every nation, and enjoy strolling through the 1700s—or the charms of Wickford will elude you.
If, however, such things appeal, this coming weekend, July 13 and 14, might be the perfect time to indulge. You can enjoy Wickford at the height of summer season, while the village is saturated in the ultimate arts experience: the yearly Wickford Art Festival. This major event draws over 200 artists from around the country, descending on a town festooned with artwork and popup tents. With this as the backdrop.
Here’s the backstory. Just 25 minutes from the bustle of Providence and Newport, RI, is an echo of bygone times and a Main Street so authentic it’s been called one of America’s 10 best. But the real heart of historic Wickford, settled in 1637, is its harbor, a deep-blue indentation halfway down Narragansett Bay. Wickford Harbor insinuates itself into the center of the village, sidling around to the far end of Main Street and reaching under the bridge at Brown Street to drift alongside the casual Tavern By the Sea restaurant.
Pleasant Street shoots down to a boat launch sandwiched between the Yacht Club and a classic boatyard. There really is water everywhere, if you’ll excuse the trite and true.
You almost have to close your eyes to not see water, slivered between gaily-painted houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. The houses have a lively presence of their own. It’s one of the densest collections of historic homes in New England, with buildings wearing placards that bear names like Remington Straight, Jabez Bullock, and countless others–reminders that this iconic town and Main Street were centuries in the making.
Speaking of massive collections, are dogs a requirement here?
“It’s one of the bylaws,” says a man out walking his Golden Retriever. The two of them are stopped in front of Shaggy Chic, a dogtique on Main Street. “I come here once a week to walk my dog.”
Well you would, too. This seaport nugget has been named One of America’s Ten Best Main Streets, in Remembering Main Street, by Pat Ross.
It also served as the model for John Updike’s novel The Witches of Eastwick, but that’s heading into a whole other dimension…. Meanwhile, here are some more reasons why this village is so bewitching.
You can have your morning coffee in full view of paddling swans at the Beach Rose Café, overlooking a harbor darting with sailboats and kayaks;
take your lunch on the water across the street at Tavern By the Sea (dogs wait tableside with infinite patience for good fortune to drop their way);
rent a kayak right in the center of Wickford at The Kayak Centre, and thread your way through the fishing vessels and sailboats scattered around the harbor;
and top it off with a few leisurely forays into the tawny brick shops that are postcard stand-ins for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, only here you’ll be scooping up kitchen goods, garden salvage, dog treats, and 60s nostalgia instead of magic wands.
Inspiration is on hand in decorating shops and antiques corners. This place, The Wickford Collection on Main Street, is a living still-life everywhere you look, and attracts an unexpected variety of shoppers, as you will see.
Given Wickford’s charms, it should come as no surprise that the village hosts such a major yearly arts festival every summer. It’s the perfect setting, really. There could be no lovelier canvas than Wickford itself.