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Day trips in and around Rhode Island

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

A day -- and a world -- away

Rhode Island may be a small state, but it doesn’t think small. Big fun is to be had in and around Rhode Island -- both within the state’s borders and just beyond. A hop to Massachusetts, a skip to Connecticut -- even a jump (aboard a ferry) for an offshore day trip make for days filled with fun.

Whaling Museum

New Bedford, Massachusetts

Just 30 minutes from downtown Providence is historic downtown New Bedford, with its rich whaling history and emerging artist community. Check out the New Bedford Whaling Museum to learn about this important early industry, then check out the Ocean Explorium for exhibits where the kids can learn about our oceans now. And when it's time to try something completely different, try indoor rock climbing at Carabiner's. The experienced staff will get the whole family up the wall.

Attractions and information:

New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740
508-997-0046
www.whalingmuseum.org

Carabiners
328 Parker St.
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740
508-984-0808
www.carabiners.com

The Ocean Explorium at New Bedford Seaport
Union Square
174 Union St.
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740
508-994-5400
www.oceanexplorium.org

South Coast Wander

The coastal villages and farmlands between Providence and New Bedford make for a great day of meandering and exploring. Start in Tiverton (just minutes from downtown Providence) and Little Compton, Rhode Island. Then continue into Westport and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Visit beaches, quaint New England Villages, farms and historic sites. Gooseberry Neck off of Westport makes for a great walk, and Padanaram is a lovely place to stop for lunch and watch the drawbridge open. Keep your eyes out for farm stands by the side of the road for the freshest produce around.

Attractions and information:

Discover Farmcoast
www.farmcoast.com

Padanaram Village
www.padanaramvillage.net

Newport, Rhode Island

One visit to Newport and you'll understand why the super-wealthy flocked here in the summer. It's stunning! And the homes they put up? Oh my! Many of these grand, over-the-top residences once belonging to the titans of industry of years past are now open for tours, giving a peek into a life most of us could only imagine. After a tour, do the CliffWalk for the spectactular views, then head downtown for window shopping and a bite to eat. Don't be surprised if you start daydreaming of chandeliers and place settings for hundreds.

Attractions and information:

Newport Mansions
www.newportmansions.org

Cliff Walk
117 Memorial Blvd.
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
www.cliffwalk.com

Block Island, Rhode Island

13 miles south of mainland Rhode Island and 14 miles east of Long Island, New York is Block Island, just under 10 square miles of rugged New England beauty. Get the ferry from Point Judith for a day of exploring, either on foot or by bicycle -- you'll find numerous bicycle rental options once you arrive in the harbor. Or rent a couple mopeds! 40 percent of the land is set aside for conservation, so the island retains a rural feel, even in the height of summer tourist season. The island is only seven miles long, so visiting both Southeast Light and North Light in one day really can happen. Pick up a picnic in town before you head out for the day, and make sure you get that last ferry in the evening -- on-island accommodations are limited!

Attractions and information:

Block Island Information
www.blockislandinfo.com

Block Island Ferry

401-783-4613
www.blockislandferry.com

Mystic, Connecticut

Just over the state line in Connecticut -- 10 minutes from Westerly and an hour from downtown Providence -- is the village of Mystic. Mystic was built on shipbuilding, and that history is on display at Mystic Seaport. Learn how the ocean-going life sustained the region -- and continues to do so in the submarine building in nearby Groton. In fact, checking out the Groton Submarine Museum after a visit is a nice segue from old to new. Before your day is done, go see the belugas at Mystic Aquarium, one of the premier aquariums in the country. And if you still have some time? Check out the Essex Steam Train. Mystic and Groton make for a full, fun day -- close to home.

Attractions and information:

Mystic Aquarium
55 Coogan Blvd.
Stonington, Connecticut 06355
860-572-5955
www.mysticaquarium.org

Submarine Force Library and Museum
1 Crystal Lake Road
Groton, Connecticut 06340
860-448-0893
www.ussnautilus.org

Mystic Seaport
75 Greenmanville Ave.
Stonington, Connecticut 06355
888-973-2767
www.mysticseaport.org

Essex Steam Train
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, Connecticut 06426
860-767-0103
www.essexsteamtrain.com

Bristol, Rhode Island

On the east side of Narragansett Bay, you'll find the quaint town of Bristol, Rhode Island. Bristol is full of lovely wandering and window shopping through downtown, terrific views of the bay, the great maritime museum in the Herreschoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame (including some actual America's Cup boats out front), the stunning Blithewold Gardens and Arboretum and Mount Hope Farm. Visit in early July and you might see the oldest continually-run Fourth of July parade in the country.

Attractions and information:

Herreschoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame
1 Burnside St.
Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
401-253-5000
www.herreshoff.org

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum
101 Ferry Road
Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
401-253-2707
www.blithewold.org

Mount Hope Farm
250 Metacom Ave.
Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
401.254.1745
www.mounthopefarm.org

Bristol Rhode Island's Annual Fourth of July Celebration
www.july4thbristolri.com

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Southwestern Rhode Island is kind of like a well-kept secret. While most visitors flock to vibrant Newport or Providence, those in the know -- and those desiring a quieter Rhode Island experience -- head for Watch Hill. The coastal beauty is almost unparalleled. The beaches? Divine. Find some for sunning and some for surfing. Check out Wilcox Park, a Victorian strolling park -- maybe you'll get lucky and be there during Shakespeare in the Park! The kids will want a ride on the Flying Horse Carousel, so don't miss that either. To spend a day in and around Watch Hill is to feel a world away from reality -- but a quick drive back.

Attractions and information:

Watch Hill Information
www.visitwatchhill.com

Flying Horse Carousel
151 Bay St.
Westerly, Rhode Island
www.watchhillinn.com

Wilcox Park -- Victorian Strolling Park
711/2 High St.
Westerly, Rhode Island

Shakespeare in the Park
www.thecolonialtheater.org

Image courtesy of National Parks Service

More about Rhode Island

Free activities in Rhode Island
Rhode Island parks for the family
Day trips in and around Rhode Island

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