Named after Bristol, England, Bristol, Rhode Island is a deepwater seaport in the historic Bristol County. Known for boat building, manufacturing, and its abundance tourism industry, the town is a gorgeous destination for every season—whether you want to see New England’s spectacular fall foliage, a snow-covered sea town, or a summer beach vacation.
In 1676, four colonists purchased a tract of land as part of Plymouth County. This, which was to become Bristol, was originally a Massachusetts town. The Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747. Until 1854, Bristol was one of the five state capitals of Rhode Island, but it eventually ceded the title to Providence. Its proximity to the ocean crystallized the city as a fishing town, with much of its industry coming from trading and marine-related ventures. It is currently home to Roger Williams University, which is named for the Rhode Island founder of the same name.
Bristol has a fascinating maritime history, and the America’s Cup race is deeply ingrained in Rhode Island culture. The Herreshoff Marine Museum, located in Bristol, provides the opportunity for visitors to understand the history of sailing and racing. The museum has restored ships from the late 19th century, including one that is considered to be the most beautiful hull ever created, and houses the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.
A haven for history-lovers, Bristol is also home to several sites on the National Register of Historic Places. The Town Common often hosts community events, and the Town Hall, War Memorial, and Bristol County Statehouse provide remarkable examples of colonial architecture. Outdoor enthusiasts will love Colt State Park, and the Roger Williams Zoo is just a short drive away.
Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island—around 37 miles southeast of Providence. It is known primarily as a New England summer resort town. Famous for historic mansions, world-class regattas, and a bustling social scene, Newport should be on everyone’s New England summer hit list.
The city was founded in 1693 by a group of colonists who had been part of the Portsmouth settlement with Ann Hutchinson. After leaving Massachusetts, however, these colonists left Hutchinson and her followers to settle Newport on the southern side of the island. It quickly grew to be the largest of Rhode Islands original four settlements. The state received its royal charter in 1663, and—interestingly—Benedict Arnold was elected its first governor at Newport. The city’s commercial activity and access to ports cemented it as a place of wealth in the 18th century.
Newport is home to some of the most spectacular architecture on the East Coast—The Breakers. The city’s most celebrated Gilded Age mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family in 1895. Their Italian Renaissance “summer cottage” has seventy rooms, including a three-story dining room, ceiling paintings, mosaics, marble columns, wood paneling, and carved stucco. Visitors can get there via the Cliff Walk, a pathway along the rocky shore which allows pedestrians to glimpse the beautiful mansions and stunning ocean views.
If gigantic mansions aren’t really your thing, don’t worry: Newport has much more to offer. Aquidneck Island is home to many beaches—both public and private. Easton’s beach is the largest, and it has a view of the famed Cliff Walk. The city is also home to a series of yacht races for the America’s Cup, and regattas are a common occurrence on summer weekends. From gorgeous buildings to beaches, sailboats to award-winning seafood, Newport is the perfect summer destination.
The capital and most populous city in Rhode Island, Providence is rich in culture, history, and adventure. From award-winning restaurants to a gigantic zoo, this city has something to entertain every member of your family.
Providence is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Founded by Roger Williams in 1636, the city was built on the ideals of freedom and tolerance. In addition to this colonial history, Providence was also one of the first American cities to industrialize—noted for its textile manufacturing and subsequent machine tool, jewelry, and silverware industries, ghosts of the industrial revolution are present in the area’s architecture and planning.
Currently, Providence is home to eight hospitals and seven universities. This shift away from industry resulted in a massive rebranding process. Formerly known as the “Beehive of Industry,” Providence is now know as the “Creative Capital” to emphasize its educational resources and art community. Five Rhode Island colleges and universities are lucky enough to have central locations in Providence: Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Many of the city’s visitors come for academic-related reasons, and Brown University is Providence’s second-largest employer.
If you do not fall into the “History Buff” or “Academic Travel” sections of Providence tourism, don’t fret—we have much more to offer. The city, sharing the state’s affinity for coffee, has the most coffee and doughnut shops per capita in any city in the country. Additionally, thanks to the centrally-located Johnson & Wales culinary school, we also have the highest number of restaurants per capita in all of the United States major cities.