It has begun. My last hundred days in the greatest little state. I’ve been throwing around the phrase “Rhode Island Bucket List” whenever I go someplace new (thanks, Tiffany!), and people have been asking me what’s actually on my list. Wiser folks than I have have been making recommendations, and a few newcomers have asked me what should be on their RIBLs.
This list has two purposes: To collect in one place all the circa-Rhode Island experiences I still want to have (leave your suggestions in the comments!) and to compile some of my favorite things I’ve done as recommendations to others.
Most of these things I’ve already experienced (✓). Some are goals for the next three months (☐), and I’ll update them as I go (checkmarks on things I did after I first published this post are in red). Some I’ve pretty much missed my chance for. Maybe I’ll tackle them when I come back to visit? If I’ve resigned myself to not checking something off this time around, you’ll see it marked with a BLNT, or Better Luck Next Time.
I’m surprised to find that I ended up listing a lot more favorites than goals—I think I’m a bit hesitant to commit to doing new things here, and eager to just enjoy my old standbys before I’m gone. But if I’ve missed out on anything life-changing, I still have time! So tell me, friends: what are your top Rhode Island recommendations?
What do you think of my picks? What’s missing? What do I absolutely have to get done before I leave Rhode Island in July?
Eat and Drink
Providence really does have a good food scene, and this list could be twice as long. Here are some of my favorites, as I can think of them right now, and a few other places that people just won’t shut up about.
- Loie Fuller’s ✓ $5.00 Monday mussels are the worst-kept best secret in the Providence food scene. Expect to see many uncloaked bosoms rendered in the Art Nouveau décor.
- New Rivers ✓ Dollar oysters on Tuesdays, yummy fancy meals every day.
- Los Andes ✓ Peruvian food. Pisco sours. Ceviche I would do unspeakable things for. They just opened a new and beautiful outdoor space. Can’t wait to come back in the summer for some of my last Providence goodbyes!
- Chez Pascal ✓ The best wurst kitchen.
- Mi Ranchito ✓ Guatemalan food, so good and so affordable.
- La Lupita ✓ Tacos!
- Chilangos ✓ Mexican fusion and huge margarita pitchers
- Abyssinia (RIP) ✓ Its reign was short lived. Can someone else start a new Ethiopian place in the next three months?
- The East-Side Indian Food Circuit ✓ Kabob and Curry, Taste of India, India, Not Just Snacks, Rasoi. One time I accidentally called in a pick-up order from Taste of India in Malden, Mass, instead. Don’t do that. But do support them if you’re in the area; they were super nice about it.
- Spike’s Junkyard Dogs ✓
- Making it into the “Kennel Club” wall of fame by eating enough Spike’s Junkyard Dogs. ☐
- Rogue Island ✓ I’m still kind of mad they beat me to my dream brewery name, but though they’re not a brewery, they do have a lot of great beer. Also tons of locally-sourced food, and the best veggie burger around. And they are in the Arcade, which makes it extra fun.
- What Cheer Tavern ✓ Looks like a dive but it’s not. Fancy beer, fancy fusion food, but you can totally wear your sweatpants.
- E&O Tap ✓ Another neighborhood favorite not-too-divey dive. Sit outside in the summer, or watch weird old scifi movies inside from the bar.
- Haven Brothers Diner ✓ It’s a special experience. But I’m still mad about the time they charged me $17 for a burger and a shake.
- Ogie’s Trailer Park ✓ New spot. Super campy aesthetic and frothy sixties cocktails. It was unchecked and urgent on the list until recently. I’ll be back.
- The Avery ✓ Only drinks here, not food, but it’s got a cool Art Nouveau vibe and rivals Loie Fuller’s for wall nipples.
- Julian’s ✓ My neighborhood love. Great food, great beer, many vegan option. Super awesome brunch.
- Pizza J ✓ Julian’s new pizza spinoff. More vegan options!
- Olga’s Cup + Saucer ✓ More good brunch!
- Kitchen ✓ for breakfast
- Amy’s Place ✓ Haven’t seen it since the renovation (and I want to go visit my friend Ari).
- The Village ✓ Lesbian(ish) restaurant and nightclub. Also, brunch!
- Nick-A-Nee’s ✓
- Garden Grille ✓ Vegetarian!
- The Grange ✓ Also vegetarian and has INDOOR PORCH SWINGS and live music on Wednesdays.
- North ✓ SUCH GOOD FOOD OMG. And while you wait for a table you can go to the Avery!
- Crazy Burger ☐ in Narragansett. Sign up for the birthday club and bring enough friends and your entree (and a whole cake!) is free. Too late for me though.
- Ten Rocks Tapas Bar ✓ Cape Verdean cuisine in Providence, woo-hoo! Anyway, I need to go here because I have a Groupon.
- Iggy’s Doughboys ✓ Rhode Island classic
- Allie’s Donuts ✓
- Harry’s Bar and Burgers ✓ People keep telling me to go there.
- Al Forno ✓ but I hear I should go back for grilled pizza and an apple tart. ☐
Not to brag, but the historic Providence Athenaeum is kind of a big deal.
- Tealuxe ✓ A good coffee shop was the first thing I asked my WPC about when I got to Brown. But she only knew about Starbucks. So Tealuxe because my café home until I learned about Coffee Exchange. I recommend Yalta Estate Ceylon (or whatever is on as the daily pour).
- Coffee Exchange ✓ East-Side hipster watching. If I still lived in Fox Point I’d be hitting up Malachi’s ✓ and The Shop ✓ as well.
- I still miss Reflections ✓. As I’ve gotten older and out of the College Hill bubble, I would have really loved having this kind of hub for LGBTQ folks.
- Tea in Sahara ✓ Baklava, mint tea, and hookah, oh my! This is a good place to have a meeting with your Trotskyist reading group.
- Seven Stars Bakery ✓ Great bread, pastries, and coffee—my ultimate café-type getaway. They have two locations in Providence and another in Rumford. But beware—there is no wifi here.
- Wildflour ✓ Vegan goodness!
- White Electric ✓
- Small Point Café ✓
- New Harvest Coffee and Spirits ✓
- Vanuatu Coffee Roasters ✓
Me in Newport approximately ten million years ago.
- Paw Sox game! ✓ How have I not done this?
- Seekonk Speedway ☐ (Massachusetts, I know) Is this worth it? Who can advise?
- Providence Gallery Night! ✓ I’ve been meaning to do this one since forever.
- RISD Museum ✓ Not to be missed! Full disclosure, I’m on their education committee, but this is seriously a GEM and it’s free to visit on Sundays and on Tuesday afternoons.
- Providence Children’s Museum ✓ Don’t miss it if you have kids or kid-aged friends. You can probably miss it if you don’t.
- Swan Point Cemetery ✓ This was on the list for a long time before a friend brought me there. Not for play exactly, but lots of great benches for a respectful picnic.
- Roger Williams Park ✓ (no, Brown students, it’s not the same as Prospect Park or the National Memorial down the hill).
- Waterfire ✓ Kind of kitschy, kind of silly, but it’s fun to bring visitors kere. And I might still decide to be the ultimate cheeseball and spring for a gondola ride ☐.
- PVD Fest ✓ This is a new one, June 2-5 this year, started last year as the Providence International Arts Festival. Did anybody go? What was it like? I’m still really bummed that I missed out on the reign of the now-defunct but apparently awesome Sound Session. Planning to check it out.
- AS220 ✓✓✓✓ is a Providence treasure of a restaurant and gallery space that could also be under the Food category. I’ve satisfied my bucket list there with poetry readings, gallery shows, a meal or two, and even a letterpress printing class. (Watch this cool video of my letterpress teacher showing how it works!) Unfortunately, I never made it to Foo Fest. Better Luck Next Time.
- Newport Folk Festival. Pro tip: go while you are a student. It’s so much cheaper. I’m not really a pro, though. I never made it, but it’s staying on my bucket list for life. BLNT.
- The Dominican Festival is in August. BLNT.
- Duckpin Bowling ✓ This was on my list for a long time, and I finally made it to Breaktime Bowl and Bar last week! Way better that regular bowling, with authentic old-timey flair.
- Candlepin Bowling I’ve heard about this, but a little bit of research reveals that Candle-pins are the provenance of northern New England, with Massachussets being candle-duck agnostic. There are some lanes in the Boston area, but I don’t think I’ll make it a priority. BLNT.
- Newport Cliff Walk ✓
- Bristol Fourth of July Parade Too late for me. BLNT.
- Providence Walking Tours (better than the boring one I went on) ☐ Anybody have a favorite?
- Take a Class at the Steelyard. ☐ Doubt I’ll get to this one. But I’m not ruling it out.
- Theaters and Concert Venues
- Special Movie Theater Experiences:
- Indoor and Outdoor Farmer’s Markets ✓
- Purgatory Chasm ✓ (Though it’s technically in Mass.).
- Go to the beach ✓
- Swim in a pond ✓
- Swim, specifically, in “Blueberry Pond” ☐ Once I heard about a pond with an island you can swim out to to pick blueberries. Does anybody know about this?
- Rhode Island (and Boston) Pride parades ✓
- Campus Dance at Brown ✓ One more to go!
- Rhode Island Four Corners Road Trip Thanks Kam for the inspiration!
Bruno recommends Ravenous.
Hell yes, Rhode Island breweries get their own category on my list! And I’m putting on every. Single. One. Is it ambitious? Yes. But so am I.
And the distilleries, why not!
Why is Bristol County its own county?
Cities and Towns
Gotta Catch ‘Em All! I definitely want to visit every town and city in Rhode Island before I move away. This is the easiest state to make that happen in, after all! I’m not counting villages or “census designated places,” only proper municipalities with mayors. Please give me suggestions of what to do in my unchecked towns! I hear there is a good ice cream place in Little Compton. Can anyone confirm?
Rhode Island Intangibles
Unesco’s World Heritage Sites are mostly places, but also include traditional cultural gems like Mongolia’s coaxing ritual for camels and Portugal’s manufacture of cowbells. Similarly, the following Rhode Island cultural and culinary experiences are not location-specific, but are definitely treasures worth experiencing and preserving.
- Pizza Strips ✓ My favorite are from Tomato City. Theirs are greasy, crispy, and sweet.
- Coffee Milk ✓
- Wieners, all the way ✓ (mostly found at New York System)
- Rhode Island Accent ✓ Have thoroughly enjoyed. Have not developed my own.
- Clam Cakes ✓
- Stuffies ✓
- Del’s Frozen Lemonade ✓
New England Destinations
For a kid from the Pacific Northwest, going to Brown and sticking around Providence for a while kind of needed to provide not just my New England experience, but my whole East Coast experience. And it has! But there are a few to-dos that have become didn’t-dos.
- New York City ✓ I did manage this one several times. Most recently saw Fun Home on Broadway and stocked up on books and counterculture sticker business at Bluestockings. But another NYC bookstore, the Strand ☐, remains on my bucket list for early July.
- Cherry Blossoms in D.C. Technically not the Northeast . . . but I’ve driven there from Provience, which I definitely will NOT be doing from Anchorage. Caught the tail end of the cherry blossoms one year, but would have liked to see them in full bloom. BLNT. (Incidentally, the festival seems to be happening right now. NPR graciously reminds us all that it is a NO DRONE ZONE!)
- The Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim & Auction This is kind of a weird one, I know. And Virginia is definitely not in the North, but again, driving distance. Like, for a long weekend, you know? I did kind of think I would see this before I went back West. I read Misty of Chincoteague as a kid, and even though I don’t remember much of it, the whole notion that Chincoteague is actually a real place, and that I live relatively near there now (by Oregon standards) is just too flipping cool. It happens at the end of July, though. Too late for me. BLNT.
So, there it is. What did I forget? What did I get wrong? What do I have to do right this minute?