Rhode Island may be America's smallest state, but with 400 miles of coastline and more than its fair share of the country's National Historic Landmarks, it packs a wallop. Because Rhode Island is so petite, you can base yourself in one location—consider Newport, Narragansett or capital city Providence—and set out each day to check off must-see highlights. Here are suggestions for seeing the best of the Ocean State on a five-day summer vacation.
Suggested Rhode Island Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Begin your Rhode Island getaway with a relaxing day at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly. The family will enjoy the surf and the games and amusements at Atlantic Beach Park. Water slide fun awaits at Water Wizz of Westerly if you're up for something more invigorating. Drive-in movies at the beach on select evenings May through October are old-fashioned fun and one of the best deals in Rhode Island. Consider spending the night at the new Hotel Maria, which is across the street from the beach. Or splurge on a stay at the incomparable Ocean House in nearby Watch Hill.
Day 2: Head east to Newport and spend the morning viewing the magnificent mansions from the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk. Venture inside to tour one or two that appeal to you. The Breakers is the largest, most opulent of these famous summer "cottages," and the family audio tour option makes it the best choice if you're traveling with children. You may also want to take a short trip to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to visit whimsical, wonderful Green Animals Topiary Garden. Newport is known for its plethora of B&Bs, and there are elegant hotels like The Chanler at Clif Walk to choose from, as well. On a budget? You'll find affordable chain hotels just outside of Newport in Middletown, Rhode Island.
Day 3: In the morning, take the ferry from Newport to Block Island, and hop in a cab or rent a bicycle or moped to tour the island's spectacular scenery. You won't be able to squeeze in all of the 10 best things to do on Block Island, but check a few off the list. Make reservations in advance at a Block Island hotel if you'd like to spend the night.
Day 4: Return to Newport via ferry, then drive toward Providence, stopping along the way to see the historic yachts at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol or Bristol's Blithewold Mansion and Gardens: home to the tallest Giant Sequoia tree east of the Rockies. Take a romantic evening gondola ride on the Woonasquatucket River in Providence from the urban park, Waterplace, which is at the hub of Rhode Island's capital city. If you can, time your visit to coincide with a WaterFire evening in Providence. If you're looking for cool digs, The Dean Hotel is your choice. Something fancier and more historic? You'll love the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel.
Day 5: Before you say goodbye to Rhode Island, visit the country's third oldest zoo, Roger Williams Park Zoo, in Providence. In the afternoon, ride one of the country's preeminent antique carousels, the Crescent Park Looff Carousel, in East Providence. Or, for more grown-up throwback fun, head to BreakTime Bowl & Bar in Pawtucket: America's last surviving industrial duckpin bowling alley was built in the 1920s for employees of Hope Webbing.
Tips for Rhode Island Visitors
- If you're interested in a quieter beach than Misquamicut, South County's seaside towns provide plenty of other options. There's even a hidden beach in North Kingstown you can have practically to yourselves. The one drawback? Calf Pasture Point Beach is a 1.4-mile bike ride or walk from the nearest parking lot, and there are no restroom facilities.
- Request your free Rhode Island Vacation Guide via this online form.
- Visit one of these Rhode Island Tourist Information Centers to pick up brochures, learn about local points of interest and seek additional guidance for your stay in the Ocean State.
- Summer is Rhode Island's most expensive season. Save money by timing your visit for before Memorial Day or just after Labor Day.