Top Ten Things for Families to do in Rhode Island

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Top 10 things to do with kids in Rhode Island

At just over 1200 square miles, Little Rhody may be the smallest state in the USA, but it packs in a bunch of spots for family fun and entertainment. The northern part of Rhode Island is rich with history while the southern area, with over 400 miles of shoreline, claims some great beach and water activities. Take a peak and think about visiting the “Ocean State.”

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10. Take them out to a ball game

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The Pawtucket Red Socks (Paw Sox) are the minor league AAA affiliates of the Boston Red Sox. Folks in most parts of New England are die-hard Red Sox fans. Here you can catch a glimpse of some stars in the making. Famous players the likes of Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Jim Rice have played here. Baseball fans will have a field day, literally. Kid-friendly theme games such as Star Wars Day and several free youth clinics are held by coaches and players throughout the season if you want to dig into a bit more than a game.

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9. All Aboard for a riverboat ride

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Explore history and conservation on a riverboat ride on the Blackstone Valley Explorer. This riverboat tour hosts over 25,000 people each year and provides education about America’s hardest working river- the Blackstone. The narrated tour teaches kids about the industrialization of the area and the revitalization of the river. This is true testament to Rhode Island’s conservation mindset. Nearby, the over 10 mile Blackstone River Greenway will allow you to tour other areas of the region by bicycle or on foot where you can catch a glimpse of history and nature. The Blackstone Valley Visitor Center  is the first on America’s heritage river system.

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8. Arts & Entertainment abound in Providence

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Providence offers many options to tour and enjoy the city. Walk through historic neighborhoods including Federal Hill to get a bellyful of Italian foods. Visit the Providence Children’s Museum or the Museum of Art at RISD, which houses artwork by the masters including Picasso and Monet as well as pieces of silver from the famous silversmith patriot Paul Revere.  After exploring the historic and cultural facets of Providence, relax on an evening ride with La Gondola. This Venetian replica boat ride along the Woonsocket and Providence rivers can also be taken during the day, but  at night offers a grand vantage point of the spectacle known as Waterfire: on scheduled evenings 100 bonfires float upon the river with music played throughout the city.


7. Go Fish

Seafood is a staple in Rhode Island. There are so many restaurants and clam shacks just waiting for you to sample some of their best. Some like Georges or Champlain’s are located right near the water so you can watch the boats bring in the day’s haul. You can also tour the piers and watch the fisherman at work. If your kids are not necessarily seafood fans, perhaps they would actually like to try their hand at catching some of the critters. Many of the beaches in Rhode Island have attached salt ponds. Ninigret Salt Pond is full of all sorts of sea life; bring a net and see what you can catch. The Frances Fleet offers fishing trips to set out for striped bass and more.

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6. Explore the tunnels of a real fortress

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Visit the relics of another era at Fort Adams State Park, which was used from the Civil War to WWII.  Don an explorer’s helmet and walk into the tunnels that once helped  protect our country from foreign invasion. The park also holds special functions that are great for kids; Civil war reenactments, Family Fun days, and Music Festivals like the famous Newport Jazz Festival. At nearby Jamestown, Fort Wetherill offers a similar yet more rustic site where you can explore the outside of the fortress in a beautiful seaside park. Watch for the scuba divers making their way to shore.

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5.  Be on the look-out for stars

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At the Frosty Drew Observatory at Ninigret park be on the lookout for stars and planets. Open on Friday nights, the observatory allows for star gazing and planet watching. Volunteer astronomers are on site to point out constellations and there is a big telescope for some excellent viewing opportunities. The activity is free, but donations are accepted for this awesome attraction. They will stay open until the last visitor leaves, but I suggest you get there early to avoid a long line. While the star gazing is better late in the night, if your little ones are cranky or sleeping, it won’t be worth it.  If this late night activity is not in the stars for your kids, check out some starfishBiomes Marine Biology Center, located in nearby North Kingston, is a privately owned facility houses the largest collection of New England Marine Life in the world. A hands on location, the center allows for some great exploration and conservation education.


4. Talk to the animals

Photo by: Flickr/Dean Ruben

Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, is located in Providence on over 40 acres with over 100 species. Animals from all over the world are housed here with a special focus on species preservation. Highlights include giraffe feedings  and elephant baths as well as special exhibits like Hasbro’s’ Our Big Backyard Fun Area which features hands-on activities for kids and a water garden. Your family can experience animals a bit differently at Coggeshall Farm in Bristol, RI. The Coggeshall is the oldest farm in the state and still operates as if it were the 17th century.  Everything is done by hand, with no machines, and the farm animals roam freely.

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3. Bike on Block Island

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When the weatheris nice, take a 13 mile ferry ride to Block Island and explore this little 9-square-mile island in the Atlantic. This part of Rhode Island is an unspoiled and undeveloped jewel ripe for exploration. Rent some bikes or mopeds, take the kids on hike overlooking the bluffs, explore the North Lighthouse and the Southeast Light, swim at a protected beach, go on a horseback ride, or rent some kayaks. At the Hotel Manisess visit with some exotic animals and have a bite to eat before heading on your ferry ride back to the mainland.

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2. Explore the ‘Cottages’ of Newport

Cross the beautiful Newport Bridge and spend some time visiting the Newport Mansions What was once referred to as summer cottages for the rich and famous of the Gilded Age are now mansions open for guided exploration. The Breakers offers a family tour allowing the kids to feel like what it would have been like to be a kid at one of these beauties.  Take a walk on the Cliffwalk for some great sightseeing and visit nearby Easton’s Beach for a carousel ride and trip to the Save the Bay Aquarium, a small hands on learning center. You might want to take your explorations further and hop on a boat and do some sea exploring with Seal Watch Cruises to take part in a seal safari.

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1. Relax at a Beautiful Beach

Families really appreciate the beauty of the Ocean State and its 400 miles of coastline which allow for a variety of beach experiences. If you like a bustling beach, head for Misquamicut  State Beach with a strip near the beach that includes a playground. For a  more quiet rustic experience, visit East Beach with smaller crowds, great waves, and the Ninigret Salt Pond which is especially great for small kid exploration. Roger Wheeler State Beach is also great for smaller kids because it is breakwater protected and has a snack bar. Older kids will revel in the waves of Charlestown Breachway Beach and East Matunuck State Beaches. Pack your beach bag and head out!!!

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About the author

Michelle Brennan is and her husband are Yankee born and raised and are loving life as they raise their 3 children in New England. They love to learn through travel and head out on excursions whenever possible.The suitcases are always packed....literally!!!!
1 Response
  1. Becca

    You mention all the fun things to do to a vacation like this. Hope you had a wonderful time.have a safe trip.

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