Rhode Island Travel Guide

The small state of Rhode Island packs a big punch when it comes to vacations. Once you start to discover the variety of Rhode Island attractions, you might just be surprised that you hadn’t been lured to this state before! Plant your umbrella somewhere along 400 miles of coastline or head to Newport for a classic summer sailing experience.

Rhode Island rentals have been a fashionable choice for decades, and this tradition continues through today. If you can picture yourself sipping a cup of morning coffee on the terrace of your own beach villa, than let VacationRentals.com tempt you with some options. For a quintessential family summer vacation, look no further than Rhode Island.

What to Do in Rhode Island

rhode island beaches

Sun, Surf & Sand

It is difficult for most beach-lovers to believe that there is indeed over 400 miles of coastline packed into teeny Rhode Island. You will have over 100 beaches to choose from during your vacation, but no matter where you choose, your trip will be accompanied by the cool sea breezes and warm sunshine. Families with small kids should choose the beaches of Narragansett Bay where the surf is especially mild. Bring your childhood beach memories to life with the pristine beaches of Rhode Island. Whether you fall asleep listening to the sound of the gentle waves or take the time to build a sandcastle with your kids, your trip to Rhode Island will leave you feeling relaxed. Other great beach activities include beachcombing for shells, getting into the water with a boogie board, and even surfing.

Rhode Island rentals will be spread across many beaches. South County is known for its beautiful beaches, including Atlantic Beach Park, Charleston Breachway State Beach, and South Kingston Town Beach. Other areas of the state boast excellent beaches as well, including King Park in Newport County, and Mansion Beach in Block Island.

Rhode Island for Families

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has stepped foot in the state that some of the top Rhode Island attractions are on the water. Fishing is an important pastime in this state, and families will love chartering a boat and trying their luck. Saltwater fishing is considered an important sport in Rhode Island, and if you think fishing is boring, you will be proven wrong with the first catch of a giant marlin or swordfish! If you would rather try freshwater fishing, this is available across the state as well. Spring, summer, and autumn is the best time for trout fishing in rivers like the Pawcatuck River. Some visitors would rather take in the sights on the boat instead of fishing. For a hassle-free day of family fun, book a small boat for your family with a package deal that includes food, drinks, and a guide.

Charter companies also offer one of the most popular Rhode Island attractions: whale watching tours. Head out on the water for a half day or a full day on the water and if you’re lucky you might see humpback, finback, or minke whales. Don’t take your eyes off the water—you might also encounter sharks, sea turtles, and giant sun fish on your tour.

There are plenty of adventures for families not on the water as well. The Museum of Natural History is a great choice for a rainy day while the Roger Williams Park Zoo is always a favorite with kids. For kids under the age of 11, a visit to the Providence Children’s Museum promises to be a hands-on experience. Sports fans will like the International Tennis Hall of Fame while animal lovers will enjoy visiting a working farm such as Casey Farm, dating back to 1750.

rhode island vacation

Rhode Island for Lovers

Couples will find many excuses to sneak a kiss or two during a trip to this northeastern state. Beyond the romance of Rhode Island restaurants, there are many excursions and activities that will send sparks flying in your relationship. Head for the sailing capital of the world, Newport, for a romantic sunset sail. Pack along a bottle of champagne and some strawberries and you can pretend it's your honeymoon all over again.

Let the landscape set the mood during your vacation. Beyond charming Rhode Island rentals, there are many special places to visit that will allow you to reconnect with your sweetheart. Wake up early and go for a stroll by a historic lighthouse as the sun rises, paddle your kayaks out onto Narrangsett Bay, or watch seals basking on the rocks. Adventurous couples might want to plan a parasailing adventure together or spend a day together on one of the many golf courses.

Another romantic landscape is Rhode Island wineries and vineyards. Spend a day touring Newport County and visit Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth, Newport Vineyards and Winery, and Sakonnet Vineyards. After sampling local wines, keep your eye out for them on the menu at Rhode Island restaurants or bring a few bottles home to remember your trip! Another way to unwind together is with a spa treatment or two. Let the Jacuzzi or a massage sooth away your worries.

The Simple Pleasures of Rhode Island

Some of the best Rhode Island attractions are the simplest. Beyond the pleasures of the beaches and boat tours, there are many state parks and nature trails to be enjoyed. Whether you want to set out on a hike or pack along the binoculars for some bird watching, Rhode Island has a trail for you. The Coastal Nature Trail in South County will wind along the coastline revealing historic lighthouses and amazing sea views. You’ll also pass through a conservation area that is known for migrating birds. Rhode Island has developed other nature trails as well including a Bird Watchers Nature Trail, Garden Nature Trail, and Hiking Nature Trail.

Outdoor enthusiasts might have a hard time just relaxing on the beach in Rhode Island. Cycling is a popular activity, and East Bay has a beautiful coastal bikeway where you can combine exercise and sightseeing. If you like history, the mansions of the Gilded Age in Newport will be a thrill. Some of the top Rhode Island restaurants are located in Providence while the unspoiled landscapes of Block Island might entice you into spending an entire day doing nothing at all!

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What to See in Rhode Island

rhode island sightseeing

History & Heritage

You might be tempted to only leave Rhode Island rentals for a lazy day at the beach. However, there are many attractions that are worth discovering and will give you a better sense of the history and character of this small New England State. Visit 17th century colonial houses, treat your kids to a visit to the Maritime Museum, or visit one of the numerous art galleries to see work by local and international artists.

Some of the best kept secrets of Rhode Island attractions are specialized tours. Take a ride on the Newport Dinner Train or the Newport Scenic Railway, learn about a fascinating time in history with the Viking Tours of Newport, hop aboard a Trolley Tour in Providence, or take a stroll through Providence with Rhode Island Market Tours. Each of these options will give you the opportunity to meet a local guide with an expertise in one area of history and heritage.

Culture & Nightlife

Who says that your Rhode Island fun has to finish when the sun goes down? There are many ways to enjoy the evenings of your vacation, whether you’re traveling as a family or as a couple. The performing arts maintains Rhode Island’s reputation as a center for theater and dance, including the award-winning performances at the Rhode Island Theater.

If you’re looking for something a little less serious, purchase tickets for spectator sports instead. From hockey to basketball, both professional and college sports are on offer year round in Rhode Island. Other forms of nightlife include an IMAX theater in Providence, Catch a Rising Star Comedy Club in Lincoln, or a variety of nightclubs and bars throughout the state.

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Where to Shop and Eat in Rhode Island

rhode island shopping

The Best Sunblock: A Day of Shopping

True shoppers won’t let the sun, sand, or surf of Rhode Island distract them from the outlet malls, boutique stores, or special sales that are on offer here every day. North Kingston is home to Wickford Village, a favorite for browsing through antiques, unique gifts, and home décor. With more than 60 antique shops packed into Providence, the antique enthusiast won’t know where to begin!

If you have fashion on the mind, the malls of Rhode Island won’t disappoint. Providence Place Mall, Warwick Mall, Lincoln Mall, and Garden City are all Rhode Island attractions in their own right. If you’re looking for outlets, set your GPS for Blackstone Valley. Here you will find not only discounts on designer clothing, but also on furniture, jewelry, and various home goods.

Classic Flavors

The beaches, boat tours, and bike rides may have initially drawn visitors to this state, but it is Rhode Island restaurants that keep them coming back year after year! Somehow this small state has developed a big international reputation for the quality of cuisine it serves up. From the freshest seafood to creative presentations, you will definitely wipe your plate clean every night!

Chances are if you’re interested in food, you may have heard of some of the chefs cooking up a storm nightly in Rhode Island. Some of the restaurants that have recently been causing a stir on the food scene include Rue de L' Espoir, Boathouse Restaurant, Smokehouse Café, The Mooring, 22 Bowens, and Fluke Wine Bar & Kitchen. Each year there is a hot newcomer on the culinary stage as well, so be sure to ask around or read the local papers for up-to-date reviews.

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When to Visit Rhode Island

The most popular time for Rhode Island rentals is the summer. The classic Rhode Island summer vacation includes a vacation rental on the beach, barbecues in the evening, and sailing during the day. For this reason, you will want to book Rhode Island rentals as far in advance as possible, especially during the season when schools are closed. On the other hand, if you aren’t tied to school schedules and are looking to travel on a budget the shoulder season is a wonderful time to visit. Crowds will be smaller, temperatures will be pleasant, and it will still be possible to enjoy all of the best local activities.

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What to Bring to Rhode Island

A Rhode Island vacation is all about classic American style. Bring along pieces that you would want to go sailing with, including crisp white pants, nautical stripes, and don’t forget a hat to block the sun. If you’re traveling during the summer, beach essentials include a bathing suit, straw beach bag, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Pack along some entertainment for kids on the beach, including a boogie board or two and equipment for building a sand castle.

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Local Services in Rhode Island

Rhode Island restaurants and other local services all contribute to the pleasure of these summer getaways. You will be able to rely on locals for advice on where to find the best produce and most affordable prices. Banks, grocery stores, and post offices all operate under normal business hours—but be aware that they may have limited hours during the off season.

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What to Know About Rhode Island

Rhode Island is praised for its laid-back vibe. This means that you can take your vacation day by day, never making reservations in advance. It won’t be necessary to arrange for your fishing charter three months in advance, but you might want to make dinner reservations (especially for a Saturday night in the summer) a few days beforehand. To experience Rhode Island at its most pristine, wake up early one day and go for a stroll on the beach at dawn.

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Getting to Rhode Island

One of the attractive qualities about the beaches of Rhode Island is the close proximity to many areas of the northeast. For this reason, many visitors arrive by their own cars. Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut and Massachusetts, and is easily accessible from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and more. If you choose to arrive by air, Providence Airport is the largest in the state, and it is possible to rent a car from there.

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Why Rhode Island vacation rentals?

A day at the beach in Rhode Island just wouldn’t be complete without waking up at a vacation rental. Enjoy breakfast and coffee on your own balcony without changing out of your pajamas and pack a picnic for your family to enjoy on a hike or on the beach. Hotels just can’t provide the same privacy, and it wouldn’t feel like a summer beach vacation waking up at a crowded hotel anyway. Once you try vacation rentals, you’ll never go back!

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