Providence, Rhode Island is one of our favorite American cities. As the grit leftover from the ’70s and ’80s continues to give way to trendy shops and restaurants, Providence has evolved into an East Coast gem. Plus, it’s an easy getaway — or even a day trip — from Boston or New York. We’ve told you about its new wave of attractions before, but here’s a glimpse at what’s specifically happening/what to do there this summer and into early fall.
See the Todd Oldham Exhibition at the RISD Museum
The ’90s are back in force, and nothing signals that more than this retrospective at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, which looks at the career of fashion designer Todd Oldham. Oldham himself curated the exhibit, which includes detailed descriptions from the designer about complex dying, fabric transfer, and embroidery processes. Whether you loved MTV’s “House of Style” era, or you’re just a fan of American fashion and pop culture, this is one of the year’s unmissable exhibits.
Have Dinner at Persimmon
This brainchild of James Beard semifinalist Champe Speidel and his wife Lisa recently relocated from its more provincial home in the town of Bristol to a spot on Providence’s East Side. The modern American fare served here is as lovely to look at as it is to eat. Despite the careful presentation, though, dishes are far from pretentious. Think beignets stuffed with seasonal greens, and seared scallops with apples and curry butter. Don’t miss the panna cotta — an ordinary-sounding dessert with extraordinary flavor thanks to wild strawberries. This restaurant was jammed with diners just a few days after it opened, so reservations are a must. Dishes are affordable, at $10 to $15 for small plates and $15 to $30 for entrees.
Have Lunch at Massimo
If you’re looking for a laid-back lunch in stylish digs, Massimo is your place. This newly opened Italian restaurant gives classic dishes a contemporary, indulgent lift in an environment that exudes 1950s chic. Standouts include the pork belly grilled cheese and a surprisingly successful fried burrata served with tomato sauce, onion chutney, and fresh basil. If you have room, finish with a piece of flourless chocolate torte with salted caramel, candied orange, and pistachio dust. To enjoy this restaurant for a bargain, stop in for their $14.95 Restaurant Week lunch menu, which is available until July 23.
Go to a Festival
Providence has become known for its WaterFire festival, where cauldrons and braziers of fire are lit on the city’s canals and waterfronts. Businesses stay open late, and pedestrians crowd the historic streets for live performances and events. Upcoming WaterFire nights will be held on July 23, August 6, August 20, and September 24, plus additional dates through the end of the year. In August, stop in for the city’s international film festival. Hundreds of movies will be screened at venues across the city for six nights, beginning on August 9. To see Providence at its most wildly creative, stop in for Foo Fest on August 13. With 12 hours of live bands, plus an arts and crafts market with hands-on events, the festival is open to all ages and artistic passions.
Head to Newport… by Ferry
New ferry service connecting Providence and Newport means that you can hop between destinations with ease. The 55-minute trip gives you a simple — and scenic — way to get out on the water this summer, and lets you avoid local traffic. You can catch the ferry three times daily in either direction. You can buy tickets in advance online — $10 each way for adults and $5 for kids — and there are even complimentary shuttle buses connecting the ferry terminal to the Providence train station, downtown, and the convention center.