Rhode Island
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Aerial panorama of Providence skyline and Rhode Island capitol building

Things to do in  Rhode Island

New England goes miniature

The smallest US state is tiny but mighty, with its compact borders wrapping surf beaches, excellent museums, a stylish city, and a remarkable trove of historic architecture. Since all of Rhode Island is within day-tripping distance—you can drive across the entire state in under an hour—Little Rhody invites edge-to-edge exploring. For travelers, highlights include touring Newport’s Gilded Age mansions, browsing Providence’s museums and art galleries, and soaking the ample summer sunshine on the good-timing southern shoreline.

Top 15 attractions in Rhode Island

The Breakers

The Breakers, the crown jewel of the Newport mansions and the summer estate of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, is an architectural and social archetype of the Gilded Age. The 70-room, four-story structure was built in 1895 and designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who modeled it after 16th-century Italian Renaissance palaces.More

Ocean Drive

The breathtaking Rhode Island shoreline unfolds along Ocean Drive, a 10-mile (16-kilometer) scenic road along Newport’s southern coast. Points of interest include the New York Yacht Club, Fort Adams State Park, Hammersmith Farm (where President Kennedy had his wedding reception in 1953), Brenton Point State Park, and Gooseberry Beach.More

Marble House

The 50-room Marble House, one of the first Beaux-Arts structures in the US, was built between 1888 and 1892 as the Gilded Age summer cottage for William and Alva Vanderbilt. Inspired by the Petit Trianon in Versailles, the $11 million mansion made mostly of marble became a National Historic Landmark in 2006.More

Fort Adams State Park

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay, Fort Adams State Park is a popular recreation area for swimming, sailing, fishing, and field games. The park also has a historic character thanks to sprawling Fort Adams, and is the home of major music festivals each summer.More

Newport Cliff Walk

Rhode Island’s Newport Cliff Walk traces the perimeter of the southern edge of Newport town, high above the crashing surf of the Atlantic Ocean. The 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) public walkway fronts many of Newport’s famous Gilded Age mansions, such as Astor’s Beechwood, Rosecliff, Marble House, the Breakers, Ochre Coure, and Rough Point.More

International Tennis Hall of Fame

The birthplace of American tournament tennis, the International Tennis Hall of Fame showcases a collection of more than 20,000 artifacts, including vintage photos, trophies, tennis equipment, tennis clothing, and video highlights of famous matches. The facility has 13 grass tennis courts and one clay court, all open to the public for play.More


Set among the many mansions on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue, Rosecliff was often the setting of lavish parties, including an evening featuring famous magician Harry Houdini. But the property wasn’t always quite so grand. The story begins in the late 1880s when Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs spent a summer in Newport and met her husband Hermann Oelrichs at Rosecliff. A year after they were married, the couple bought the mansion and additional property along Bellevue Avenue.In 1899, the couple hired an architect and commissioned a home modeled after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. It took three years to complete at a cost of $2.5 million. Rosecliff’s last private owners, Mr. and Mrs. J. Edgar Monroe of New Orleans, later donated the furnished home to The Preservation Society of Newport County in 1971.If you find the estate looks amazingly familiar on your first visit, don’t be alarmed. Scenes from many movies, including The Great Gatsby, True Lies, Amistad and 27 Dresses, were shot here.More

The Elms

Built as a summer residence, The Elms is one of almost a dozen properties cared for by Rhode Island's Preservation Society of Newport County. It was designed and constructed in 1901. Modeled after the mid-18th century French chateau d'Asnieres (c.1750) outside Paris, it cost the Berwind family approximately $1.4 million to build. (Calling both Philadelphia and New York home, Edward Berwind made his fortune in the coal industry.) After the house was finished, elaborate gardens were planted in the early 1900s.The house remained in the Berwind family until 1961. The Preservation Society of Newport County purchased The Elms in 1962 and opened it to the public. In 1996, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.More

Touro Synagogue National Historic Site

In 1658, more than a dozen Jewish families, mostly refugees from Spain and Portugal, founded a Sephardic community. A century later, British-Colonial architect and local resident Peter Harrison designed a two-story Palladian house of worship for this community, the Touro Synagogue. It continues to serve Newport’s Jewish community today.More

Bellevue Avenue

Leafy Bellevue Avenue and its surrounding streets are home to some of the most exclusive properties in New England. The affluent area is mostly residential, and encompasses many of the Gilded Age summer “cottages” built by such iconic names as Vanderbilt and Astor. These include the Isaac Bell House, The Elms, Marble House, and Kingscote.More

Rough Point

Located on Newport’s exclusive Bellevue Avenue, Rough Point is the oceanfront summer estate of philanthropist and 20th century heiress Doris Duke. The only child of James Buchanan Duke, (a founder of the American Tobacco Company, the Duke Power Company, and a benefactor of Duke University) she inherited an estate estimated at $80 million when she was just 12 years old.Doris Duke founded the Newport Restoration Foundation and spent much of her fortune restoring colonial buildings in the area. She also traveled the world, collecting art and furniture, some of which was used to furnish Rough Point. Duke left the estate to the Newport Restoration Foundation to be opened as a museum. Rough Point is still decorated as it was when she called it home. Duke also donated more than $400 million to assorted charities during her lifetime.Group tours are offered April through November. They last approximately 75 minutes and cover the first floor, Doris Duke’s bedroom and special exhibition galleries. Along with touring the mansion’s interiors, be sure to spend time exploring the Rough Point Gardens. The Formal Gardens feature more than 35 different varieties of dahlias. Vegetables grown in The Kitchen Garden are shared with local food banks, staff and used in educational programs.More


One of the many impressive Newport Mansions, Chateau-sur-Mer calls famous Bellevue Avenue home. Completed in 1852, it had a reputation for its parties, including the "Fete Champetre," an elaborate picnic for more than two thousand guests in 1857, and the 1889 debutante ball for Miss Edith Wetmore.Chateau-sur-Mer was built for China trade merchant William Shepard Wetmore. When Wetmore died ten years later he left the Italianate-style villa and much of his fortune to his son, George Peabody Wetmore.The son, who went on to a distinguished political career as Governor of Rhode Island and as a United States Senator, married in 1869. He and his wife, Edith, spent a stretch of the 1870s on extended trip to Europe. During their travels, architect Richard Morris Hunt remodeled and redecorated the estate in the Second Empire French style. It was then purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1969 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.More

Easton’s Beach

Easton’s Beach (also called First Beach is Newport’s largest sandy expanse, stretching for nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers with Atlantic surf. Locals and visitors gather here to swim, soak up the sun, and stroll along a boardwalk, while a 1950s carousel and weekly concerts entertain during the summer months.More

National Museum of American Illustration (NMAI)

This fascinating museum specializes in the display of illustration artworks, as designed for books and other print media. Over 150 artists have featured works on its walls, including Norman Rockwell, NC Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Howard Pyle. In fact, it’s the largest collection of illustrated masterpieces in the world.The museum is housed in a former mansion, a stately American Renaissance building with architecture that is worth a visit alone. Vernon Court was designed in the style of a French chateau, and has a ballroom, marble hall, and other elegant rooms now filled with art. The illustrations offer lots of insight into American society at the time they were created, and often reflect social change, attitudes, and behaviors.The art that remains from this era captures a moment in time before electronics, when books and magazines were the main form of entertainment. The mansion even displays period furnishings and decorative arts to create an immersive experience that provides context and reflects the time of the art. Self-guided and guided tours are available.More

Brenton Point State Park

Named for colonial Governor William Brenton, Brenton Point State Park is located where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic. Midway along Ocean Drive, it’s the stretch of land furthest south on Aquidneck Island. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the views.The land became a park in 1976. Complete with tables, it has all the makings for a perfect picnic spot. For visitors hoping to stretch their legs a bit, there’s hiking and walking trails. Strong ocean breezes make for great kite flying conditions. Wandering through the gardens and fishing are also popular activities. There aren’t any playgrounds, but plenty of open space to run makes it a nice spot to visit with kids.More
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All about Rhode Island

When to visit

Warm weather from June through August fills Rhode Island beaches with crowds ready to surf, swim, and sunbathe their way through the busy summer months. Both the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival are major draws this time of year, bringing big names to the small city’s famed stages. Fall means cooler temperatures and cozy activities, from apple picking to corn mazes and leaf peeping, making autumn a popular time to explore.

Getting around

Most travelers use a car to get around Rhode Island—it’s hard to reach the farthest-flung beaches and northern towns without one. If you’re sticking to the area between Providence and Newport, public transit comes in handy and can help avoid some serious summer traffic. A scenic, hour-long ferry ride links Providence and Newport, and Newport’s free hop-on hop-off bus service brings visitors to all the city’s top attractions.

Traveler tips

Keep your eye out for quirky Rhode Island foods you won’t find anywhere else, starting with fritter-like clam cakes popular at beachside seafood shacks. Specialty drinks include sweet, cold coffee milk and slushy treats made by local chain Del’s Frozen Lemonade. The most sought-after snack might be a hot wiener—order one of these sausages served “all the way,” and it will come topped with yellow mustard, celery salt, onions, and beef sauce.

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People Also Ask

What is the number 1 attraction in Rhode Island?

Newport’s Gilded Age mansions are a glimpse into the opulent lives of America’s wealthiest 19th-century elite, and they’re also the state’s top tourist attraction. The most famous of all is The Breakers, the Vanderbilt family’s 70-room, 5-story summer “cottage” renowned for over-the-top decor featuring marble, rare woods, and mosaics.

Is there anything interesting in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island has more to offer than its small size suggests. There are beaches, museums, and historic architecture here, and the state’s famed Rhode Island School of Design has incubated a thriving arts scene. Each summer, the WaterFire festival fills Providence with flaming art installations on downtown’s three rivers.

What is Rhode Island best known for?

Rhode Island is among America’s best places to go sailing. Each summer the waters off Newport and Block Island fill with yachts, schooners, and America’s Cup racing boats. September’s Newport International Boat Show is among the most prestigious boat shows in the United States, featuring yacht parades and boating courses.

What is the prettiest place in Rhode Island?

You don’t need to pay to see Rhode Island’s prettiest place. Newport’s 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail that winds between coastal cliffs and some of the historic Newport Mansions. It’s especially scenic first thing in the morning, when it has unobstructed sunrise views across Easton Bay.

How should I spend a day in Rhode Island?

With one day in Rhode Island, visit the charismatic capital city of Providence. Top attractions include the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art, Roger Williams Park Zoo, and Brown University’s elegant campus. The city’s most historic buildings are clustered along Benefit Street, including colonial-era homes, churches, and museums.

Is Rhode Island worth visiting?

Yes, Rhode Island is worth visiting. It brings together signature New England charms—windswept beaches, historic architecture, and walkable cities—into a compact landscape that’s easy to explore on your own. Annual gatherings like WaterFire, Newport Jazz Festival, and Newport Folk Festival are among the region’s most beloved arts events.


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