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Providence, Rhode Island, New England's second-largest city, is an old city, established in 1636 by Roger Williams; but Providence is also young in spirit, with a youthfulness replenished by a steady flow of immigrants.Free Providence Vacation Package Quote


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The hub of culture, governance and commerce in Rhode Island, Providence is also very accessible to other travel destinations in New England, making it both a convenient gateway city as well as an attractive place to live for young professionals, empty-nesters, and Boston and New York refugees.

Six universities call Providence home, including the prestigious Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design; both are located on the East Side, one of more than a dozen walking neighborhoods in the city. On Smith Hill, you'll find the Rhode Island State House, which has the world's fourth-largest self-supported marble dome. Perched atop Providence's gleaming white Capitol is a bronze statue of The Independent Man—a 10-ft/3-m reminder of Williams and the small band of nonconformists who followed him and founded Providence. In the shadows of the State House building, you'll see massive, centuries-old four- and five-story homes.

Providence is also known for dirty politics, potent organized crime and other assorted controversies. One of Providence's most flamboyant characters is Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., the former and longest-serving mayor, who held office for 20 years. Cianci served five years in a federal prison for a 2002 racketeering conviction. (He also bottled his own pasta sauce.) Another mayor, David Cicilline, is the son of a reputed Mafia lawyer and was also the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capital.

Since the 1970s, downtown Providence has been the focus of a large and successful urban renewal project. At its heart are the upscale Providence Place Mall and WaterPlace Park, a 4-acre/2-hectare public area with riverwalks, an amphitheater and a tidal basin created at the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers. The renaissance has placed the city on any number of best-cities lists, and whether you're interested in early U.S. history, the arts, authentic Italian food or just hanging out on popular Thayer Street, with its trendy bookstores, eateries and shops, Providence is well worth a visit.


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Providence


Providence, Rhode Island, New England's second-largest city, is an old city, established in 1636 by Roger Williams; but Providence is also young in spirit, with a youthfulness replenished by a steady flow of immigrants.

The hub of culture, governance and commerce in Rhode Island, Providence is also very accessible to other travel destinations in New England, making it both a convenient gateway city as well as an attractive place to live for young professionals, empty-nesters, and Boston and New York refugees.

Six universities call Providence home, including the prestigious Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design; both are located on the East Side, one of more than a dozen walking neighborhoods in the city. On Smith Hill, you'll find the Rhode Island State House, which has the world's fourth-largest self-supported marble dome. Perched atop Providence's gleaming white Capitol is a bronze statue of The Independent Man—a 10-ft/3-m reminder of Williams and the small band of nonconformists who followed him and founded Providence. In the shadows of the State House building, you'll see massive, centuries-old four- and five-story homes.

Providence is also known for dirty politics, potent organized crime and other assorted controversies. One of Providence's most flamboyant characters is Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., the former and longest-serving mayor, who held office for 20 years. Cianci served five years in a federal prison for a 2002 racketeering conviction. (He also bottled his own pasta sauce.) Another mayor, David Cicilline, is the son of a reputed Mafia lawyer and was also the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capital.

Since the 1970s, downtown Providence has been the focus of a large and successful urban renewal project. At its heart are the upscale Providence Place Mall and WaterPlace Park, a 4-acre/2-hectare public area with riverwalks, an amphitheater and a tidal basin created at the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers. The renaissance has placed the city on any number of best-cities lists, and whether you're interested in early U.S. history, the arts, authentic Italian food or just hanging out on popular Thayer Street, with its trendy bookstores, eateries and shops, Providence is well worth a visit.

Must See or Do

Sights—City views from Prospect Terrace on College Hill; the bronze statue of The Independent Man atop the Rhode Island State House; WaterPlace Park and Riverwalk; WaterFire Providence; Providence Place Mall; historic homes along Benefit Street's "Mile of History."

Museums—John Brown House Museum; The Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design; Museum of Natural History at Roger Williams Park; Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America; Culinary Archives and Museum at Johnson and Wales University.

Memorable Meals—Unforgettably huge sandwiches at Meeting Street Cafe on the artsy East Side; fresh seafood at Hemenways; the best pizza of your life at Caserta's Pizzeria.

Late night—Catch a foreign film at the Cable Car Cinema; Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, the hot spot for live music.

Walks—Strolling along the East Side; meandering through WaterPlace Park; Atwells Avenue in Little Italy.

Especially for Kids—Providence Children's Museum; Roger Williams Park Zoo; the carousel at Roger Williams Park; Bank of America Skating Center; Brown University's Ladd Observatory.

Geography

Providence, called Downcity by some, nestles in a bowl circled by College Hill (the neighborhood home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design) and the East Side and Smith Hill (with the marble-domed Rhode Island State House) and Federal Hill (known as Little Italy). South of the city, past the Jewelry District—now known for its nightclubs and converted factories—lie the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay. The small Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket rivers slip along either side of Smith Hill, meet at what is now WaterPlace Park, join together as the Providence River and flow south to join Narragansett Bay at India Point Park. Another finger of the bay, the Seekonk River, marks the eastern boundary of the city.

The major arteries include Interstate 95, which runs north and south, connecting the city to Boston to the north and New York City to the south; I-195, which begins at downtown Providence and runs east across the Washington Bridge through East Providence and onward toward Cape Cod; and the 6-10 Connector, an inner-loop bypass of I-95.

History

Exiled from the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony for preaching religious tolerance and Native American ownership of the entire New World, Roger Williams established Providence in 1636. He divided up a mile-/kilometer-long stretch of riverfront and hillside among his followers and established the first Baptist church in North America. With official recognition of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from King Charles II, Providence flourished as a haven for people who thrived in an atmosphere of tolerance.

Although tracts of the state had been purchased from the Narragansett Indians, many Europeans moved into Native American lands in violation of treaties, eventually provoking a 1675-76 uprising led by Wampanoag chief King Philip. The conflict, called King Philip's War, resulted in tremendous loss of life on both sides. Providence was spared complete destruction through the personal intervention of Williams, who called on his friendship with the local natives and his solid reputation for honesty and integrity. After the wholesale massacre of the Pequot and Narragansett tribes, many of the Pequot warriors were enslaved and later traded for black slaves in the West Indies. This marked the beginning of the triangle trade of slaves, rum and molasses upon which many Rhode Island fortunes were based.

The 1772 sacking and burning of the British tax ship Gaspee by Providence Sons of Liberty near the village of Pawtuxet was one of the first acts of violent rebellion against British rule. Rhode Island later became the first of the American colonies to declare its independence, via passage of the Rhode Island Independence Act on 4 May 1776. Until the American Revolution, Providence had been a poor cousin to nearby Newport with its excellent harbor, but the British occupation and near-destruction of Newport made Providence the dominant city in the state. Following the Revolution, global trade expanded rapidly, and merchant ships embarked on lengthy journeys to the Mediterranean, through the Middle East, and to China and the Far East.

This dominance was solidified with the establishment of water-powered textile mills along the Blackstone River in the 1790s, making Providence the most practical port for imported cotton and exported cloth. Providence became a center of manufacturing and commerce well into the 20th century.

Since the 1970s, Providence has been abandoning its industrial roots. Old factories have been renovated and turned into offices, artists' studios and lofts; docks have been removed; a convention center and hotels have been constructed downtown; and the Providence River (formed by the joining of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers) through downtown has been opened up into WaterPlace Park.

Potpourri

The Industrial Trust Building, Providence's tallest building, is sometimes called the Superman Building because of its resemblance to the Daily Planet Building in the 1950s Superman TV series.

Nibbles Woodaway, a giant blue termite gracing the roof of New England Pest Control next to I-195 in Providence, is 9 ft/3 m tall, 58 ft/18 m long, weighs 4,000 lbs/1,818 kg, and is exactly 928 times the size of an actual termite.

Edgar Allan Poe conducted his literary courtship of Sarah Helen Whitman in the alcoves of the Providence Athenaeum. A library copy of the American Review for December 1847 contains an anonymous poem, Ulalume, below which Poe wrote his signature in response to Mrs. Whitman's praise.

David Byrne, with fellow RISD students Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, founded the groundbreaking punk band Talking Heads in 1977.

Rhode Island has more shipwrecks per square mile/kilometer than any other state.

In 1997, director Steven Spielberg used the Rhode Island State House in Providence as a stand-in for Washington's Capitol Building in the movie Amistad.

Too shy to ask that hot guy or girl in your chemistry class for a date? Brown students traditionally rub the nose on the bust of John Hay in the entrance to John Hay Library—it's supposed to bring good luck.

Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment (Prohibition).




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