Top 15 Rhode Island Attractions Not To Be Missed

Last Updated on January 20, 2024 by Nikki Jain

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.

Things To Do in Rhode Island

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1: Block Island and Mohegan Bluffs

Block Island and Mohegan Bluffs

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

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2: Newport Cliff Walk

Newport Cliff Walk
Dreamstime/Marie Elena Sager

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

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3: The Breakers, Newport

The Breakers, Newport

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

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Also Read: Top 10 Most Famous Historic Homes in America

4: WaterFire Providence

WaterFire Providence

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

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Providence, Rhode Island

5: Rough Point

Rough Point

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

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6: The Providence Athenaeum

The Providence Athenaeum

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

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Providence, Rhode Island

7: The Elms

The Elms
Dreamstime/Ritu Jethani

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

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8: Blithewold Mansion & Gardens

Blithewold Mansion & Gardens
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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

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9: Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo
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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

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Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the USA

10: Providence Children's Museum

Providence Children's Museum

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

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Providence

11: RISD Museum of Art

RISD Museum of Art
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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

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12: Bellevue Avenue Historic District

Bellevue Avenue Historic District

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

13: Narragansett Bay Beaches

Narragansett Bay Beaches
Dreamstime/Laura Stone

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

14: Colt State Park

Colt State Park
Dreamstime/Nicole Duperre

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

15: Benefit Street and John Brown House

Benefit Street and John Brown House

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

Wrapping Up

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.

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