25 Best Things to Do in Rhode Island — From Stunning Beaches to Historic Mansions

Here are 25 fun things to do in Rhode Island, the country's smallest state.

Springtime in Providence, Rhode Island

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Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but it still has something exciting to do at every turn. The Ocean State is packed with activities for the young, old, and young at heart, solo travelers and families, leisure seekers and adventure lovers, and everyone in between. Don't believe me? Here are 25 things to do in Rhode Island — my home state. 

Related: The 10 Best Resorts in New England

See the Newport Mansions. 

A mansion in Newport, Rhode Island

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No trip to Rhode Island is complete without crossing the bridge to see the famed Newport mansions. Built by some of the most famous titans of industry (including the Vanderbilts and the Astors), these architectural gems have stood the test of time and remain in pristine condition for you to view, thanks to The Preservation Society. 

Enjoy the scenery along the Cliff Walk. 

Mansions along the Cliff Walk, Rhode Island

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Before leaving Newport, take a stroll down the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile trail snaking along the ocean's edge. See the mansions on one side and the Atlantic on the other on this free adventure. 

Visit the Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Hang on because there's one more thing to see in Newport — the Tennis Hall of Fame. Honor the greats by learning all about tennis history through various permanent and rotating exhibitions. 

Paddle out at Narragansett Beach. 

Beach, Narragansett, Rhode Island

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The "Ocean State" has no shortage of beaches to explore, but if you're here for the first time, or even the 100th, it's never a bad idea to make your way to Narragansett Beach. The stretch of shore has long been a favorite to tourists and locals alike, thanks to its soft sand and typically docile waves. Though every now and then, a good swell comes through, making it a prime place for a surf lesson. Seek out the pros at Warm Winds, who will happily show you the ropes. 

See the animals at Roger Williams Zoo.

The Roger Williams Zoo is more than just a place to view animals (though it's great for that too). The non-profit zoo also provides environmental education to guests so they can walk away with both a new appreciation for the animal world and lessons on how to conserve it for future generations. 

Watch the flames at WaterFire. 

Make your way to Providence, the state's capital, to see one of the most spectacular displays along its riverbanks. For more than two decades, the city has put on WaterFire, a show every few weeks (typically on Friday and Saturday nights), lighting up the river with various fire displays. The show is free, but donations are always welcome.

Check out the local talent at RISD Museum… 

The Rhode Island School of Design is world renowned for its talented student body. At the RISD Museum, you can see their works and then some. The museum, founded in 1877, is home to more than 100,000 works of art across mediums from ancient times all the way to modern masterpieces. 

…And at Trinity Repertory Company.

More into live-action art? Check out a show at the Trinity Repertory Company. The non-profit regional theater company puts on intimate performances of classics like "Sweeney Todd" and always moving takes on "A Christmas Carol." 

Grab a lobster roll at Monahan's.

Coming to Rhode Island and forgoing a seafood meal is downright criminal. Stay on the right side of the law by paying a visit to Monahan's and ordering its famed lobster roll, which comes loaded with chunks of lobster, lightly sauteed in drawn butter, and secret seasoning. 

Find inspired landscaping at Green Animals.

Make your way back to Newport to find a little lawn inspiration at the Green Animals Topiary Garden. The garden boasts some 80 topiary masterpieces, all depicting a different animal. Visitors are even welcome to pack a picnic and eat beside their favorite creature. 

Spot a few live animals at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Fisherman fishing off rocks at Sachuest Point, Rhode Island

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Want to see a few live animals? Take a walk through Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown. Come walk its plentiful trails and see how many different bird species you can spot, including the Saltmarsh Sparrow and Piping Plovers. 

Take a spin on the Flying Horse Carousel.

Go for a ride on the oldest continuously operated carousel in America at the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill. Since 1883, generations of kids (and adults) have spun around with pure joy and tried their hand at the brass ring game. Grab a horse for as little as $1 a ride. 

See the starfish at Beavertail State Park.

See a few of the ocean's smaller creatures by taking a walk along the tide pools at Beavertail State Park. Go it alone or alongside a park naturalist, who will happily point out all the different species calling these little ocean puddles home. 

Dig into the best Italian food in America on Federal Hill. 

Find the best Italian food outside of Italy along Federal Hill in Providence. Home to a large and vibrant Italian population, the neighborhood has long been known as the spot for a great plate of pasta and a delicious slice of (cheeseless) pizza. If you can only make reservations at one place, make it Angelo's

And don't forget a late-night dog at Olneyville NY System.

If you're craving something absolutely over the top to eat after a long night out in the city, stop by Olneyville NY System. The famed little diner is open until 2 a.m. and serves hot wieners that will surely delight. Make sure to order it fully loaded with cheese fries on the side. 

Find a little solitude at the Umbrella Factory. 

Tucked away in Charlestown, visitors can find a little tranquility at the Fantastic Umbrella Factory. It's hard to describe what this tiny enclave really is. Find trinkets both locally made and sourced from around the world, a penny candy station, a garden, a candle store, and more. Don't forget to head to the back and feed the emu before you go. 

Take an oyster farm tour at the Matunuck Oyster Bar. 

An absolute must-visit destination is the Matunuck Oyster Bar. The restaurant is rather popular, so make sure to make reservations well in advance to try its oysters, locally grown vegetables, and regionally sourced fish. But, go a little deeper by taking an oyster farm tour, which will teach you all about how oysters are cultivated for you to enjoy. 

Delight your kids at the Providence Children's Museum.

Take your kids for a fun-filled day of learning at the Providence Children's Museum. Children can learn through interactive displays and play areas, including exhibits like Water Ways, the Children's Garden, and so much more. 

Sip on local varietals at Sakonnet Vineyard.

Come sip and savor a great day at the Sakonnet Vineyard. The Little Compton-based vineyard produces award-winning wines like chardonnay, rose, and red blends, which you can taste in its public tasting room. 

South East Lighthouse over cliffs on Block Island, Rhode Island

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Take a day trip to Block Island.

As the theme song goes, "Sail away on the Block Island Ferry, take a trip back to carefree times." Block Island, located 12 miles off the coast, is an easy-to-access paradise. It's just seven miles long and three miles wide, making it entirely possible to see all in a single day. Rent bikes and head to the Mohegan Bluffs to get the view of a lifetime, grab lunch at Three Sisters, and end your day with a boozy drink at Ballard's. Extend the stay by booking an overnight at the Block Island Beach House, rinse, and repeat.  

Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island

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Explore the Southeast Lighthouse.

While on Block Island, take a moment to visit the Southeast Lighthouse. The lighthouse, built in 1875, sits atop Mohegan Bluffs and is open for both interior and exterior visits. Just make sure to check out the boulder marking its original location, as it was moved in 1993 due to coastal erosion. 

Find a Del's truck on a hot day. 

Del's Frozen Lemonade may very well be the perfect summer day treat. The icy drink originally came from Franco DeLucia, who brought it to Rhode Island when he immigrated from Naples in the mid-20th century. It can be found in various Del's shops sprinkled around the state, though really, it's the most fun to try to spot one of its trucks or carts and grab it fresh. (Note: Never, ever drink it with a straw. Trust me.) 

See what life was like in 18th-century Rhode Island at the John Brown House Museum.

Get a glimpse into Rhode Island's past at the John Brown House Museum. The museum walks guests through what life was like in 18th-century Rhode Island, including for its marginalized communities. Visitors can also walk through the home that displays antique artworks, furnishings, and even a fully restored 18th-century carriage. 

Check out a drive-in movie.

Take in a show at one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in America at The Rustic Tri-View Drive-in. The theater, which opened in 1951, is still projecting major films each week. Check out what's playing here

Time your visit to a festival.

Rhode Island is home to several major festivals, but the Newport Folk Festival is the most well known. Time your visit to align with the yearly event to catch some of the greatest musical acts alive strum out their hits. 

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