City Spotlight: Bristol

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.