The City of Providence is located approximately 15 minutes north of TF Green airport. It is both the capital of the state, as well as an important regional business and cultural center, and has a great deal to offer for the visitor.
It could be said that the three defining characteristics of the city of Providence are history, universities and the recent phase of explosive development referred to as the Providence Renaissance.
The city was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams as a bastion of religious freedom and tolerance (after having been banished from the conservative Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston). Fans of colonial and American architectural history will appreciate the fact that the US architectural preservation movement started in Providence, and there is a wide range of architecture to be admired from the charming, tree lined streets of 18th and 19th century homes in a wide range of styles to notable religious, commercial and industrial structures. (Tip: the Providence Preservation Society offers a walking tour booklet).
The industrial revolution also started just north of Providence and the city exploded as a result, boasting many of the "industrial wonders" of the world and attracting dreamers and laborers from around the globe. The city's Italian population swelled to become one of the most important Italian communities in North America by 1930, and bestowed upon the city a legacy of Italian culture and cuisine.
Providence is home to a number of colleges and universities, but three of them have had the largest impact on the city: Brown University (an Ivy League institution with an individualist approach to education and a strong tradition of public service), Rhode Island School of Design (one of the county's finest art and design schools, founded in 1877), and Johnson and Wales University (with its renowned culinary school). All of the schools attract a diverse and vibrant community of students and professors from all over the world, and thankfully many of them stay on to leave their mark on the city. The result is an intellectually vibrant community, a pulsing arts scene, and a unique variety of great restaurants.
Despite all of the above, the city fell into decline through the 1970s, the type of which afflicted many northern US industrial cities. The Providence Renaissance refers to the tipping point the city hit over the past decade, as a complete riverfront restoration project was finalized, real estate development boomed, a new life and spirit began to breathe back into streets and people flowed in from Boston, New York City and other parts of the country to call the city home. Century old buildings long empty are now bursting with restaurants, shops, cafes, galleries and theaters, as well as hundreds of luxury loft spaces. It is a city well worth the visit, and if you come any time between spring and fall, be sure to see Waterfire, a unique public art event that draws tens of thousands to stroll along the newly constructed river front promenades which wind through the heart of downtown (consult schedule online).
Area Guide & Transport