Rhode Island is a small state with a big surprise when visiting this delightful New England destination.
Experience some of the best Rhode Island attractions and activities for all ages to immerse into the state’s rich maritime history, museums, and fun venues where even the kids will have a blast.
Discover the top things to do in Rhode Island for bucket list destinations to put on your travel itinerary.
First, see how Rhode Island lives up to its nickname as the ‘Ocean State’ when you visit the sandy beaches nestled along the rocky coastline.
Next, take a walk through history when visiting historical sites dotting the state. Finally, witness the staggering wealth of the families who changed America when touring inside the iconic Newport Mansions.
From the lively capital metropolis of Providence to the sleepy coastal towns lining Narraganset Bay to the offshore islands floating regally in the Rhode Island Sound, we’ll cover what to do in Rhode Island and give you the top places to visit in Rhode Island.
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Climb aboard the Block Island Ferry at Point Judith, where you'll cruise to the lush Block Islands. These verdant islands are one of the best tourist spots in Rhode Island to experience natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and scenic views.
Take one of the island bike tours, where you’ll explore notable landmarks around the island. Learn about the famous Native American battle at Mohegan Bluffs, which named these green-covered cray cliffs.
Mohegan Bluffs is located on Block Island’s southern shore, towering 200-ft over the sandy beaches. Take in the ocean views before descending the 141 steps when your feet will finally touch the warm sand.
Spend the day in this secluded oasis soaking up the sun on the beach, hiking the 6.9-mile Mohegan Bluff Trail, or catching the waves offshore.
Address: 121 Mohegan Trail, New Shoreham, RI 02807
The sound of waves crashing against the rocky coast below the promenade set the soundtrack for a stroll on the Newport Cliff Walk.
Explore the 3.5-miles of New England’s first National Recreational Trail for some of the best sights in Rhode Islands, on and off the coast.
Arrive early to Easton’s Beach to find a parking spot and start the journey on the cliff walk.
Panoramic maritime vistas spotlight the beauty of Easton’s Bay as the paved path winds past some of the most notable Rhode Island attractions like The Breakers, Marble House, and McCaulay Hall.
Take in the scenic views from Rose Cliff and Rough Point, or spend a few moments admiring the views from the white cliffside pavilion.
Address: Cliff Walk, Newport, RI 0284
The Vanderbilt Family is one of the richest families in the history of the United States.
With wealth spanning generations, thanks to holdings in the New York Central Railroad, the Breakers is one of many houses that rose from this Gilded Are in Rhode Island.
Did you know that the Breakers was initially built as a summer residence? Something so opulent and commanding on the Newport coastline seems anything other than seasonal, but it’s only the beginning to understanding the family’s lavish lifestyle.
Tour inside The Breakers to see the wonders preserved inside this Beau-Arts masterpiece.
Walk through the Butler's pantry, the elegant billiard room, the insightful library, and that's only the first floor. Upstairs, you'll see how even guests had rooms worth living in and a safe designed explicitly for silverware.
Address: 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840
Also Read: Top 10 Most Famous Historic Homes in America
As the sun begins to set, crowds start to form on the Woonasquatucket River banks in anticipation of WaterFire.
Within moments, over 80 flames erupt on the water surface, delivering the roar and crackle of the mature flames and the fragrant scent of burning wood.
WaterFire is an award-winning public art sculpture designed by Barnaby Evans. This symbolic interpretation of community is a half-mile display extending through Downtown Providence.
Every night until midnight, the fire burns as if floating along the river. This popular Rhode Island attraction brings out many tourists to go for walks beneath the star-shaped street lights lining the river.
It’s a place perfect for families to spend a relaxing night out or couples seeking a bit of romance during their Rhode Island visit.
Address: 100 Canal Walk, Waterplace Park, Providence, RI 02903
Experience how America’s 19th-century upper society lived by touring inside the Rough Point Mansion.
Located on the Newport Cliff Walk, it’s one of the many mansions famous in Rhode Island built during the Gilded Age and is now open to the public to peek inside the lives of the wealthy.
Rough Point is the waterfront mansion where Doris Duke spent her summers, one of the many property tours dedicated to her, such as the Duke Farms in New Jersey.
Tour inside many of the grand home’s 105 rooms showcasing decorative furniture, art exhibitions, rooms full of living plants, and others dawning gold in every detail.
Seasonal tours are available to see the outdoor gardens. Walk around the manicured lawn to see artistic works of topiary and or even a picnic.
Address: 680 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840
The moment you step inside the Providence Athenaeum, you’ll understand why it’s one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
Find out what makes the main reading room an Instagrammer’s paradise or discover some of the rare books hidden on the shelves of one of the nation’s oldest libraries.
Nicknamed “the Ath,” it’s one of the popular Rhode Island attractions for immersing in an epicenter of the local culture, famous for inspiring the minds of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
Enter the main reading room where multi-story book stacks tower above the hardwood floors.
The public is welcome to browse to find something worth sitting a few moments at the tables alongside locals studying and reading. Check the local calendar to catch one of the local author talks o book signings.
Address: 251 Benefit St, Providence, RI 02903
It’s hard to decide on a favorite out of the famous Newport Mansions, but it’s easy to see why the Elms is always a contender for the top spot.
Touring the mansion is one of the top things to do in Rhode Island when you want to spend an hour in the shoes of a wealthy individual during the Gilded Age.
The Elms mansion was inspired by an 18th-century French chateau and built for coal magistrate Edward Julius Berwind. Now designated as a National Historic Landmark, it’s an excellent example of the period lifestyle.
Grand light fixtures illuminate the art-lined halls with a golden aura as you Navigant from the Grand Entrance Hall to the dining and breakfast room and even peek inside Mrs. Berwind’s private bedroom.
Address: 367 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840
Visitors experience true bliss when admiring the beautiful landscape of the Blithewold Mansion & Gardens. Built in 1895, this Gilded Age Mansion maintains a picturesque garden spanning 33-acres.
Blitheworld Mansion is a massive 45-room estate located In Bristol. It greets visitors with views overlooking Narragansett Bay before entering the mansion for a guided tour.
Navigate the halls that take you to rooms exhibiting preserved family heirlooms and decorative designs.
But as stunning as the inside of the mansion is, the outdoor gardens truly make it one of the must-visit Rhode Island tourist attractions.
Gardens inspired by Colonial-revival times stretch towards the property-edge woodlands, creating a spectacular vista of lush greenery.
Colorful flowers, decorative garden structures, and a public greenhouse are just a few of what to expect when winding around the floral-scented pathways.
Address: 101 Ferry Rd, Bristol, RI 02809
Exciting wildlife from around the world reveals themselves with every section of the Roger Williams Park Zoo you explore.
With multiple themed zoo areas, circling the park’s 16 acres is as close to an around-the-world trip as you can get without leaving Providence.
Journey into the Fabric of Africa, where you'll see adult lions showing off their sharp teeth while feeding during lunch, giraffes strutting gracefully through the fields, and elephants splashing around during their afternoon baths.
Next, venture into Australasia, where baby kangaroos give you a warm, down-under greeting and the panda bears exhibit their beautiful black and white coat.
Roger Williams Park Zoo offers many programs and activities for all ages. For the kids, Breakfast with Elephants is always an engaging hands-on activity. Adults can take part in a Sip n Stroll tour.
Address: 1000 Elmwood Ave, Providence, RI 02907
Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the USA
It will be hard to keep your child calm as you check in at the Providence Children’s Museum entrance.
Playful screams from other kids having a blast will make them overly joyed to be visiting one of the best Rhode Island attractions for kids.
The Providence Children’s Museum is an interactive museum that creates an environment for fun and education.
Get ready for some wet fun as you first enter the water room. A wooden table stands as the room centerpiece with hands-on activities to manipulate the water flowing around it.
Create your own whirlpool, or see if you can balance the balls in the fountain. Next, head upstairs for crafts, an exhibition about Rhode Island’s early settlers, and a Share Space to play with other kids.
Address: 100 South St, Providence, RI 02903
The quiet exhibition halls inside the RISD Museum of Art are accompanied by echoing steps across the wooden floors, the soft murmur of museum patrons interpreting contemporary artworks, and audio from multimedia exhibitions.
Immerse yourself into the world-class art housed in one of the premier museums in the state.
The RISD Museum of Art opened in 1877 along with the Rhode Island School of Design. The museum’s collection of over 100,000 works of art exhibits multi-century-old artifacts alongside modern art created by enrolled students.
You’ll spend a few hours touring the museum’s galleries across different floors. First, discover the elegantly framed portraits in the Grand Gallery.
Next, admire original works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and other European Masters. Lastly, check out monuments preserved from Egyptian and Roman cultures.
Address: 20 N Main St, Providence, RI 02903
A Newport Summer during the 19th century meant that you could see a lot of activity taking place on Bellvue Avenue.
It’s a time when some of America’s wealthiest families, like the Vanderbilt family and the Astor Family, returned to their summer cottages to enjoy the season.
Today, Bellevue Avenue remains in its glory. The 2.5-mile avenue extends towards to coastline, with its final block being home to the landmark Newport Mansions.
Drive through the Bellvue Avenue Historic District to see a different perspective of The Elms, The Breakers, Ochre Court, Kingscote, and more.
This street view of the mansions lets you experience how the former residents saw their homes when arriving, while the cliff walk perspective shows why it was such a desired place to live.
Address: Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI
With 400-miles of shoreline boarding Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island is one of New England’s best beach destinations.
When the weather is nice, it’s home to beautiful sandy beaches and a bay awaiting you to enjoy all the water activities it offers.
Unique beaches line the state coast. Narragansett Town Beach sits on the bay where tourists can swim in the cool waters or sunbathe in the summer sun.
Roger W. Wheeler State Beach is a large 27-acre beach located on Block Island South.
Check out the state park to visit Scarborough State Beach, whose observation deck offers Atlantic Ocean views, or go for a walk on the boardwalk.
Address: Narragansett, RI 02882
On a nice day in Bristol, Colt State Park is the go-to destination for locals and tourists. Combining recreation, leisure, and history, it’s one of the Rhode Island attractions you can enjoy with the entire family.
Rent bikes and go for a ride on the paved paths. Four miles of hiking and biking routes wind around the state park, passing by statues, the historic stone wall, and incredible views of Narragansett Bay.
After exercising, lounge out on the grassy fields for a scenic picnic in the park.
One of the best times to visit Colt State Park is during the evening. It’s known for having the best sunset view in Bristol.
Address: Route 114, Bristol, RI 02809
Walk the Mile of History when exploring Benefit Street. Sitting atop College Hill, this one-mile stretch includes notable homes, landmarks, and interesting stories about the city’s past.
Admire the 18th- and 19th-century homes lining Benefit Street. Beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture creates picturesque views of history preserved for today’s tourists to enjoy.
The most famous house on Benefit Street is the John Brown House. Built in 1786, it became Providence’s first mansion.
The home was constructed for John Brown, who would become one of the founding fathers of Brown University, and the house is currently adjacent to the college campus.
Walking tours are available to explore Benefit Street, and the John Brown house is open to the public for guided tours inside of it.
Address: 52 Power St, Providence, RI 02906
Rhode Island is steeped in maritime history, a busy boat port and fishing industry. Uncover a bit of its rich heritage at the Herreshoff Marine Museum.
This museum is an excellent example of one of the successful boating companies in the past that helped keep Rhode Island afloat.
Located in Bristol, the Herreshoff Marine Museum is established in the former manufacturing facilities of the company.
Walk through the building that built over 2,000 vessels, exhibiting scale models, information about the boats, company history, etc.
In addition to building boats, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company was also instrumental in harboring a yachting community.
It hosted events like America's Cup, a boating competition. The museum includes the America's Cup Hall of Fame.
Address: 1 Burnside St, Bristol, RI 02809
Fortified walls have stood erect on the site of Fort Adams State Park since the 19th century.
Visit Fort Adams in Newport to learn about the history of the second-largest fort in America and how it was never used before witnessing spectacular ocean views.
During the 19th century, defenses were ramping up to protect the Newport harbors from an attack, and Fort Adams was strategically placed on a peninsula jutting into the harbor.
Take a guided tour to hear stories about life on the fort, explore the fort’s secret tunnels, see museum exhibits showcasing historical artifacts, and see cannons that have never been fired.
After the tour, spend a few moments looking out into the picturesque, white sail-lined harbor offering beautiful golden hours views of the oncoming sunset.
Address: 80 Fort Adams Dr, Newport, RI 02840
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US
Drive down Beavertail Road until you reach the southern tip of Jamestown, where the Beavertail Lighthouse has sat perched atop the cliffside since the mid-1800s.
With scenic waterfront vistas and onsite museum exhibitions open to the public, there is plenty to experience at this historic landmark.
Beavertail Lighthouse towers 64-ft high overlooking Narragansett Bay. Its light has a visibility of more than 15 nautical miles, guiding ships in and out of the Rhode Island port.
The beautiful wooden structure is well-preserved and is an excellent photo opportunity.
Learn the history of one of Rhode Island’s oldest lighthouses when you check out the exhibitions inside the former keeper’s house.
Preserved artifacts, documents, and keeper’s notes provide an in-depth look at the lighthouse’s legacy.
Address: Beavertail Rd, Jamestown, RI 02835
Step onto the pristine grass tennis courts at the former Newport Casino to imagine the excitement of the first US Open Championship held here in 1881.
The building preserved its tennis heritage when converted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1954. Today, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of tennis.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame is a museum and sporting complex, complete with multiple indoor and outdoor tennis courts.
Over 260 athletes worldwide are inducted into the hall of fame. Browse the inside exhibitions to learn about tennis greats like Arthur Ashe and Martina Navratilova.
In addition, it displays various archives, memorabilia like rackets and shoes, and a trophy case.
Address: 194 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840
Spending a day at the beach is one of the best things to do around Rhode Island. Visit Misquamicut State Beach to see why it’s a favorite for tourists.
The Misquamicut waterfront is a popular resort area in Westerly, RI, with many restaurants and shops.
Get to the beach early to pick the perfect spot to pitch your tent and lay out your blanket.
The soothing sounds of the gentle waves and playful shouts from kids running around the sand provide the perfect setting for sunbathing. Or cool off on a hot day with a swim in the ocean.
Address: 257 Atlantic Ave, Misquamicut, Westerly, RI 02891
At the Touro Synagogue, history continues to write itself. It’s impressive on its own that the oldest surviving synagogue in the US still has an active Jewish congregation, but it’s also a place of history to explore.
Whether you’re visiting for service or a tour, it’s a place to add to your must-see in Rhode Island list.
When service is not in session, visitors are welcome to tour inside the Touro Synagogue National Historic Site.
Built in 1763, it feels like a walk through time as it maintains many of the original aesthetics. Beautiful white columns emerge from the ground alongside black ire-frame pews as gilded chandeliers hang overhead.
You’ll learn about its history while walking around the natural light-filled congregation hall.
Address: 85 Touro St, Newport, RI 02840
American Illustration is an art class of its own. The National Museum of American Illustration brings this unique form to the frontstage by featuring curated galleries of works from some of the nation’s best artists.
Established in 1998, the National Museum of American Illustration opened its doors.
It has amassed a massive collection featuring art by Normal Rockwell, McClelland Barclay, Harry Anderson, and many other names you'll instantly recognize.
Visitors are welcomed with a film screening about the art collection and learn more about the works with an audio guide.
In addition to the art, the building housing the museum is a work of art in itself! It’s the former Vernon Court Mansion, a Gilded Age Bellevue Ave chateau showcasing exquisite interior design in every room.
Address: 492 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840
As an official US Navy Museum, the Naval War College Museum is one of the top attractions in Rhode Island to delve deeper into its maritime history.
This naval base provides lots of insight into the role of the Navy in Narragansett Bay.
Join one of the group tours as expert guides walk you through the museum’s two floors. See the incredible details of the scale models of historical ships or witness how big actual torpedoes really are.
Exhibits show the colonial-era Navy outfits and provide a glimpse at the secrets of naval warfare.
Plan for a couple of hours inside the museum because it's easy to get lost in the exciting stories detailed on the information plaques.
Address: Luce Ave, Newport, RI 02841
In its heyday, opening night at McCoy Stadium was packed with more than 10,000 enthusiastic fans cheering on their hometown PawSox.
The Boston Red Sox-affiliated Pawtucket Red Sox played their home games at this historical baseball stadium until recently relocating in 2020.
Today, the stadium remains dormant, but it is one of the cool spots in Rhode Island to imagine the exciting baseball scene it once hosted.
The PawSox received professional treatment for over half a century while playing pro-caliber games at McCoy Stadium.
It’s free to visit, where tourists can circle the empty parking lot and peer into the gated stadium. The iconic PawSox letters in front of the stadium are an excellent photo opportunity!
Address: 1 Columbus Ave, Pawtucket, RI 02860
Splash into the fun at Adventureland Family Fun Park, one of the top places to visit in Rhode Island with kids.
With everything from water attractions to roller coasters to games, the park has something for all ages.
Fun is an understatement at this major entertainment center. Climb into striped bumper boats and cruise around the pool with sights of a decorative lighthouse before you get bumped.
Next, choose whether you’ll drive for the red or blue team and get ready to speed along the winding racetrack.
See if you deserve a spot on the PawSox with a couple of swings in the batting cages, or see if you’ll qualify for the next PGA Tour with your hole-in-one on the mini-golf.
Address: 112 Point Judith Rd, Narragansett, RI 02882
The Rhode Island State House stands watch over Providence from atop Smith Hill. If you find yourself downtown, stop by this landmark building to see behind-the-scenes of Rhode Island legislation.
As you walk across the decorative marble and red brick plaza to the entrance, you’ll step into the shadows of the massive dome crowning the grand Neoclassical building.
Walk around the open gallery of art and ornate decorations beneath the gold-painted dome while waiting for the top of the hour.
Rhode Island State House offers free guided tours by knowledgeable volunteers.
The tour includes seeing one of the only official George Washing portraits, an original Gettysburg cannon, and the House Chambers, where you can have a mock debate if an actual session isn’t already happening.
Address: 82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903
Cue the Jaws theme music because you’ll see fins everywhere you look in the Living Sharks Museum.
But don’t worry—the ironic thing is that there are no living sharks in the museum. Instead, it’s a personal gallery curated by Keith, who will gladly show you some of the coolest shark objects from around the world.
Everyone will feel like a shark expert by the time they finish visiting the Living Sharks Museum.
Its exhibits showcase rare shark fossils dating to the prehistoric era, Jaws and other shark film memorabilia, and biological artifacts. There are even life-sized sharks hanging from the ceiling.
Living Sharks Museum is dedicated to showcasing shark history to curious tourists interested in this educational experience about one of the ocean’s fiercest fish.
Address: 53 High St, Westerly, RI 02891
Any time of year that you visit Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, you’ll find it buzzing with activity.
This historic waterfront district is lined with 18th-century buildings now housing restaurants, boutique shops, and more.
Bowen’s Wharf is one of the best things to do in Rhode Island for a relaxing day of leisure on the waterfront. During the day, check out the shops selling the perfect souvenir gifts or New England apparel.
When you get hungry, grab a bite at 22 Bowan’s Wine Bar and Grille to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner.
Finish your meal in time for the sunset over the harbor. The evening doesn’t have to end because Bowen’s Wharf is also a go-to nightlife area.
Public events are hosted at Bowen’s Wharf throughout the year, such as the Newport Oyster & Chowder Festival.
Address: Bowens Wharf, Newport, RI 02840
Witness the beauty of the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge by enjoying the outdoors in this protected park.
Only by seeing it in person can you understand what makes it one of the popular outdoor destinations in Rhode Island for tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Stop by the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center to learn about the best trails.
Scenic routes stretch along the rocky coastline, offering panoramic views of the ocean. Nature trails explore the unique plant life developing in the diverse ecosystems of wetlands and salt marshes to grassy meadows.
Wildlife is abundant in the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. Deer, rabbits, and birds are just a few commonly seen animals in the park.
Address: Sachuest Point Rd, Middletown, RI 02842
Start your engines and speed into the Newport Car Museum. You’ll lap around an impressive collection of cars that is well-deserving of being on display for the public.
As one of the newest Rhode Island attractions, open since 2017, it’s become a trendy stop for anyone passing through Portsmouth.
Car enthusiasts will be in paradise while walking around half a dozen gallies full of exotic cars like McLaren and Ferrari, Ford Muscle Cars, Corvettes, classic fin cars from the ’50s, and more.
There are more than 70 cars on display, with an excellent user experience to get very close to their favorite vehicles.
If you’re itching to get behind the wheel, grab a seat at the virtual driving game and go for a couple of laps.
Address: 1947 W Main Rd, Portsmouth, RI 02871
Rhode Island is a destination that surprises many who visit it. How could the smallest state in the US have so many exciting things to offer tourists?
We’ve covered many of the top things to do in Rhode Island to make the most of your trip to New England.
There are many reasons to travel to Rhode Island. Some tourists want to go sightseeing around the attractions in Rhode Island. Others want to spend the day lounging on the beach, relaxing on a New England getaway.
At the same time, others are looking for some fun for the family. Luckily, Rhode Island is a destination for everybody, with so much more to discover when you visit.