Hey Providence.

Providence, Rhode Island. A city founded by religious exiles from the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Plymouth, exiles who believed in ideas such as the separation of church and state, that civil courts should not try matters of religious offenses, and that Native Americans should be treated with dignity and respect. It is home to many institutions of higher education including Brown University and the world’s largest culinary school, Johnson and Wales. One of the largest museums in the United States is located in Providence. The fourth oldest library in the United States, favorite haunt of two of the fathers of American horror literature,  is in this city. Providence is home to a vibrant arts and music scene, and is quickly becoming a top destination for foodies. And despite having spent considerable time during my adulthood in and around New England, I had never visited.

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Thursday, my wife and I decided to wait until the weekend to celebrate the holiday, when we could have more time with each other. My wife asked to plan the day and surprised me with a day trip to Providence. Rather than a lengthy write-up of the trip, however, I thought I would instead offer a suggested guide of cool places in the city to visit, awesome sights to see, and great restaurants to enjoy.

Map of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, with a red pin in the location of Providence.
Located in the heart of the smallest state in the USA, Providence is a three hour drive from New York City.
New Jersey Turnpike, with the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
How do you do a day trip to Rhode Island? By starting your journey early in the morning. Cars were few and far between on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Manhattan skyline is visible in the distance.

Destination One: The Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art was founded in 1877, and is the 20th-largest art museum in the United States.
Desk and chair on a plinth in the museum, with a painting on the wall beside it.
The museum has a unique blend of paintings and sculptures alongside costumes, textiles, and decorative art. The turn of the century desk and chair are displayed beside a painting by Pablo Picasso (The Diners, 1901).
Dress on mannequin, two chairs, and four paintings, in a gallery.
The Grannoff Gallery displays textiles, furniture, decorative arts, and paintings, including one by the French artist Henri Matisse (left).
Three paintings by Monet.
The big draw for my wife were these works by Claude Monet. The gallery of Impressionist artists was small, but stunning. Beside Monet, there were also works by Degas, Manet, Cezanne, and Renoir.
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, View of Auvers-sur-Oise, which has a small town above a field of grain.
One painting that captured my attention was this work by Vincent Van Gogh: View of Auvers-sur-Oise.
Close-up of Auvers-sur-Oise, with thick brush strokes evident in the painting.
With a museum guard watching me to make sure I didn’t accidentally bump the painting, I moved in as close as I dared. I wanted to try to share the texture and irregular brushstrokes of this beautiful painting.
Glass chandelier with tentacles emerging from the top and glass globes in black netting at the bottom. A window is installed on the far wall.
Passing between corridors, we saw this: Gilded Frost and Jet Chandelier. My wife thought of Medusa, and it struck me as something from a story by H.P. Lovecraft.
Black wood palanquin with gold painting. A large rail above the litter is used for attendants to carry the litter.
The museum also houses a number of historical artifacts, including this litter from 18th century Japan, which would have been used to transport an upper-class woman to the site of her marriage ceremony on her wedding day.
Painting of Japanese warriors fighting through a barrage of arrows.
This painting, of a famous battle in Japan in which a small clan fought to the end against a far superior force, caught my eye. The painting, exquisite in its detail, took almost five years for the artist to create. The artist worked on it from 1847 until 1852.
Statute of Shiva Nataraja, surrounded by a wire hoop with flames emanating from it.
This statute is of Shiva Nataraja, one of the primary Hindu deities. The statue, from the Indian region of Tamil Nadu, is approximately 600 years old.
Mummy, resting on a plinth in a glass case.
This is the mummy of Nesmin, an Egyptian priest who lived approximately 2300 years ago. Nesmin’s body is contained within this coffin. A small display by the mummy explored the ethics and morality of displaying the dead in museums.
Brick mosaic of a lion on a wall.
The highlight for me, though, was this… a two thousand and six hundred year old mosaic of a lion. This lion, which once stood on the walls of ancient Babylon (in modern-day Iraq), represents Ishtar, the goddess of love and war.

Destination Two: Brunch at Nick’s on Broadway.

Menu on red countertop in foreground. Chefs work in open kitchen of restaurant in background.
Stop for brunch at Nick’s on Broadway, a neighborhood restaurant that has won numerous awards and accolades, including Esquire magazine asserting that Nick’s is “one of the best places for breakfast in America.” A friend who recommended Nick’s urged us to sit at the counter if possible. We took that advice and had the best seat in the house as we watched the chef prepare our food.
Eggs Benedict on focaccia bread, on a white plate.
My wife ordered the Eggs Benedict on gluten-free focaccia bread. Nick’s prepares their own gluten-free bread (unlike other establishments which purchase pre-made bread from suppliers).
Chicken sausage and egg on an english muffin, with roasted potatoes and greens, on a white plate.
I ordered an egg and chicken sausage sandwich on an english muffin, with roasted potatoes. How was it? A-MA-ZING.
Apple cake on a white plate, with a candle in the cake.
Upon learning that we were visiting from out of town, the chef prepared for us a special dessert (not on the menu) – gluten-free apple cake with an apple compote and slice of apple. It was divine.

Destination Three: The Providence Athenaeum.

Exterior of the Providence Athenaeum, with a tree branch in the foreground.
First founded in 1753, the Providence Athenaeum is the fourth-oldest library in the United States. Its current home was built in 1838.
Main hall of library, with rows of bookshelves on either side of a large open area in the middle. Marble busts rest on shelves at the top of each bookshelf.
The main hall of the library is a warm, inviting place to sit and read. Marble busts of famous visitors and patrons of the library adorn the tops of the bookshelves.
Card catalog drawer, open with a card for GAMES 793 F18 FALKENER E GAMES ANCIENT AND ORIENTAL is displayed.
The card catalog takes up a large space of the floor of the main hall. Opening it up to explore the collection, we found that many of the cards were hand-written.
Old books, bound in leather, on a bookshelf.
Unlike many of the public and university libraries I have visited, the Athenaeum, a member-supported subscription library, felt more like someone’s overgrown personal book collection.
Book of typesetting, opened to two pages of Houghton Series script, on a wooden desk.
Before the days of desktop publishing, printers would purchase the typefaces and font designs from type foundries. This “Desk Book of Printing Types” from 1892, is essentially a massive catalog of available typefaces. I was able to take it off the shelf and examine it in detail.
Table with books and a painting of Edgar Allan Poe. A raven doll is on a perch in the foreground.
A special exhibit in the basement displayed items from the life of one of the Athenaeum’s most famous patrons: Edgar Allan Poe. The founding father of American horror tales, the exhibit detailed his brilliance, but also his deeply troubled and unhappy life. Never achieving financial success, Poe’s personal life was equally difficult: his first wife, Virginia, died at age 24. His engagement to poet Sarah Helen Whitman ended abruptly when Sarah broke up with Edgar in the Athenaeum after learning that he had resumed drinking. He finally found happiness with his childhood sweetheart, but he died four days after their engagement.
Book of stories, open to The Raven, by Poe.
Largely unheralded during his own lifetime, Poe would only find fame after his untimely death at age 40. While the publication of The Raven (first edition, pictured) would bring him some level of success near the end of his life, the first publisher Poe tried to sell the poem to rejected it. The second publisher agreed to publish it, but only under a pseudonym (“Quarles”). For a poem that would go on to achieve lasting fame and recognition, Poe was paid the sum of $9 (about $250 in today’s money).
Bronze bust of HP Lovecraft in the main hall of the library. The card catalog is in the background.
Near the entrance is the bust of another famous visitor to the Athenaeum: horror author H.P. Lovecraft. A Providence native, this creator of stories macabre and fantastical inspired authors such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Allan Moore.
Panorama of Brown University campus.
Near the Athenaeum is the main campus of Brown University. Founded in 1764, Brown is the seventh-oldest university in the United States and is a member of the Ivy League.
Carrie Tower, a brick and marble clock tower.
Dominating one corner of Brown’s campus is Carrie Tower. It was built in 1894 by the husband of Caroline (Carrie) Brown to honor her after her death. Carrie was the granddaughter of Nicholas Brown, for whom the university is named.
Broken chain sculpture in front of a brick dormitory.
Brown University has struggled in recent years with its ties to the slave trade during the early history of the United States. The Brown family were slaveowners and profited from the slave trade. This sculpture is part of a larger effort to confront the university’s past history.

Destination Four: Roger Williams Park Botanical Center.

Glass and steel greenhouse at Roger Williams Conservatory.
Our next stop was the Rogers Williams Park Botanical Center. Located in a park named after the founder of Providence, the Botanical Center features over 12,000 square feet of indoor gardens.
Indoor view of greenhouse, with a fountain and pool in the foreground and palm trees around the building.
With temperatures in the mid 30’s, the greenhouse was a welcome respite from the cold. The palm trees soared above us, making me feel like I was in Palm Springs instead of Providence.
Red powderpuff blossom on a tree branch.
This red powderpuff tree, native to Florida, had blossoms that caught my eye.
Dew drops on pink leaves.
The colors of the leaves of this plant were particularly vivid.
Bird of paradise plant.
As were the colors of this bird of paradise plant, which is native to South Africa.
Close-up of white orchid with yellow highlights.
The orchids were particularly lovely.
2014 white Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked in front of trees near a fence. Some snow is on the ground.
Leaving the Accord at home for a well-deserved rest, we took my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee on this trip. Now at over 34,000 miles, it continues to purr along without complaint.

Destination Five: Dinner at Flatbread Company.

Cuban pizza with ham, pickles, cheese, and mustard on a flatbread crust.
Opening in 1998, Flatbread Company is a New England pizza chain that sources all of its ingredients from local farms. We ordered the Cuban Sandwich pizza – ham, pickles, pork, swiss cheese, and mustard, all on a gluten free crust. It was delicious!
Brownie and ice cream sundae, with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, on a white plate.
Neither my wife nor I are big on dessert, but we definitely indulged with Barbara’s Gluten-Free Brownie Sundae. The sundae is warmed in the same wood-fired ovens that are used to make the pizza. Yum!

Destination Six: Minor League Hockey at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

View of hockey game from behind the goaltender.
Before departing, we took in a hockey game, watching the Providence Bruins battle the Charlotte Checkers. The Bruins are the minor league team for the NHL Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, on the day we went, the Bruins lost, 3-2. Still, though, it was a fun game!

Providence is a great city to visit, and with a little planning, you can attend a lot of events for very little money. The RISD Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Tickets for adults are $15, seniors are $12, youth 18 and under can enter for free, and college students can enter for $8, but the museum is free every Sunday. The Providence Athenaeum is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm, Friday-Saturday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Sunday from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. While becoming a member does cost money, the Athenaeum is free to visit, and free staff-led tours are also held at scheduled times throughout the week. The Roger Williams Park Botanical Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, and costs $5 for adults, children ages 6-12 $2, children under 6 can enter for free, and seniors and active duty military personnel pay $2. Attending a Providence Bruins game will run you between $20-30, depending on your choice of seats.

Although there is still plenty more to see and do in Providence than what I have chronicled, it is quite possible to explore quite a lot of this cool, under-appreciated city in only one day!

As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.


7 thoughts on “Hey Providence.

  1. Providence has been on my list for quite some time now! This gives me a few ideas of specific things to do, places to go, and food to eat! Thanks for that. Especially loved the old card catalog – takes me back to my elementary school library days. Nice crystal-clear blue sky day you had, too. You have me drooling with the Eggs Benedict from Nick’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you’ve got some destinations to add to your travel spreadsheet! The card catalog was awesome- it really felt like I had entered a time machine. Thanks for reading! (And yes, the Eggs Benedict were as good as they looked in the photo!)


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