Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Providence: More Than Just a TV Series


Article and Photo by Eric H.
Providence, RI, has transformed in little time from a city to pass by quickly to one of New England's most impressive cities. With former Mayor Buddy Cianci helping pave the way to his city's renaissance, Providence quickly saw its skyline grow and its cultural, shopping and dining scenes turn into a viable travel alternative to Boston -- and a city with parking! Additionally, the Providence TV series didn't hurt the city, either, by making it the trendy place to visit. Providence, however, goes way beyond being trendy, given its historical preservation and recent political and citizen visions to make the city a place for all walks of life to enjoy.

Providence always had potential, given its charming, tree-lined, somewhat quaint College Hill area (home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design), the Italian-flavored neighborhoods and restaurants of Federal Hill, the mile of Colonial homes of Benefit St., and the Roger Williams Zoo -- one of the best in New England. Additionally, the Rhode Island State House has always been an amazing sight, built in 1904 with its dramatic neoclassical architecture and with one of only four self-supported marble domes in the world.

Providence's growth has filled out some of the rougher areas, helping create a city worth visiting. Providence Place Mall not only has anchor stores, but sort of anchors the city with its huge presence right off Route 95. With 160-plus stores on three levels of grand, modern architecture, Providence Place Mall surely stands as one of NewEngland best shopping malls. By the way, those anchor stores include Macy's, J.C. Penny, and Nordstrom.

Waterplace Park is an exemplary model of what can happen when citizens and politicians work together, as this four-acre oasis in the heart of the city features a scenic one-acre pond, cobblestone promenade, an amphitheater with events and entertainment, arched Venetian-style bridges over the water and charming, authentic gondolas and water taxis.

The arts in Providence have always been intact, but now greatly enhanced by small to large companies bringing more culture to this once famous "jewelry city." Some cultural attractions include the Tony Award-winning Trinity Repertory Company, Providence Performing Arts Center, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the Museum of Art/Rhode Island School of Design and alternative theater and dance productions.

The Children's Museum (100 South St., Tel. 401-273-5437) is quite, special, too, featuring all the interactive bells and whistles you would expect from a children's' museum, but with some added features: Waterways, where children can "build fountains, float boats and explore the swirling, whirling ways of water"; and an interactive "Rhode Island" section that informs and entertains on Rhode Island history. The museum also seems a tad more colorful than others on this genre!

Providence also features many fine hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts, ranging from the modern to the charmingly renovated. You'll also find a great diversity of restaurants, rivaling bigger cities in terms of quality and quantity. We particularly like the Federal Hill area for a nice Italian meal or pizza. Camille's (71 Bradford St., Tel. 401-751-4812) is a great spot for a slightly upscale homemade Italian meal, while Sicilia's (181 Atwells Ave., 401) 273-9222) has thin and deep crust, Chicago-style pizzas that are hard to beat!

Ultimately, Providence has something for everyone. It's a city definitely worth visiting, something we couldn't have said 15 years ago. Now, Providence is a city we look forward to visiting and sometimes prefer to Boston -- a wonderful city, one of the best in our country, but sometimes overwhelming in regards to expense, traffic and still getting lost. Providence is compact, there always seems to be a parking space, and you'll never be bored given its amazing diversity of things to do -- the way a city should be.

Read more about Providence at VisitingNewEngland.com.

Research, compare rates, and book a hotel in Providence, RI.
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