Providence is the capital of the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island, but is the third largest city in New England. As a victim of religious persecution, Roger Williams built Providence (one of the original 13 colonies) on the idea of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Visitors can get a taste of United States history through the city’s landmarks, including the literal First Baptist Church and the Rhode Island State House, home to Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington.
In the 1920s, Providence’s jewelry industry began to boom, but was hit hard during the Great Depression. The extreme poverty that resulted afterward led to a large organized crime community from the 1950s to the 1980s. In the 1990s, Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., decided to turn Providence around, investing millions in the arts, entertainment and the city’s natural landscape. Ever since, Providence has been called the “Renaissance city.”
You can’t talk about Providence without acknowledging it as an impressive education hub, home to Brown University, Johnson and Wales University (and its renowned culinary program) and the Rhode Island School of Design. Ever heard of filmmaker Gus Van Sant or Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane? They’re both RISD alums.
Providence is a compact city, perfectly designed for walking. Make sure to spend some time exploring downtown, where the Moshassuck and Woonasuatucket rivers meet—a beautiful juxtaposition of urban life and nature. Add a visit to WaterFire to your bucket list, an art installation featuring 100 bonfires sitting on the river. For American history buffs, art and food lovers, Providence won’t disappoint.