It’s always good to have a few no-cost activities up your sleeve, whether you’re visiting a state or you call that state home. Rhode Island has some terrific no-cost options for every member of the family. From the city to the shore, enjoy Rhode Island without emptying your wallet.
Newport is known for its mansions and high-life on the bluffs above the water with breathtaking views. Those views aren’t just reserved for the super-rich. You can take a walk on the CliffWalk, more than three miles of paths that border the shoreline, and go through the backyards of some of Newport’s most spectacular mansions. While most of the walk is paved, there are a few unpaved sections that are a little more effort, but totally doable for the whole family. The views are spectacular — you can completely understand why Newport became the summer playground of the haves.
Location: 117 Memorial Blvd., Newport
Okay, it sounds a little odd: cauldrons of fire in the middle of three rivers that meet and merge in downtown Providence — and gondolas. Huh? Put your suspicion aside and make a plan to attend one of the several lightings of WaterFire in Providence, from spring into fall. It’s just… really cool. There’s music, additional arts on display, activities and a sense of community and shared interest that can’t be beat. It’s a terrific reason to get out and about and enjoy the city.
Location: Downtown Providence
The Providence Athenaeum is one of the oldest subscription libraries in the United States. Yes, you have to pay a membership fee to check out materials, but you don’t have to pay a thing to peruse the collections, take advantage of most programs or check out the children’s library and the special kid-focused programs held there. There are movie nights (a small snack fee may apply), opera performances, drop-in story times and more — though some events request an RSVP. It’s more than a library — it’s a cultural center in Providence and a terrific resource for locals and visitors alike.
Location: 251 Benefit St., Providence
Rhode Island School of Design Museum
The Rhode Island School of Design Museum is a delight. Housing a wide range of pieces, from ancient to contemporary art by renown international artists to recent and significant RISD graduates. Free on the third Thursday and last Saturday of the month, the RISD Museum is a destination in and of itself. Kids will like accessible contemporary pieces and student shows. To understand that such amazing work is created by students and recent students, artists not that much older than your kiddos, is a revelation! The RISD Museum can really open your eyes to what art is and can be. Mind? Blown.
Location: 224 Benefit St., Providence
Providence Children’s Museum
If you’re looking for hands-on fun for the whole family, look no farther than the Providence Children’s Museum. To bypass the usual admission fee, go on MetLife Family Friday Free at Five (most Fridays during the summer, once a month the rest of the year). Make an evening out of it: the children’s museum at 5 p.m., then on to a fun family dinner out. The Providence Children’s Museum has terrific exhibits on waterways, power, gardens and more. Kids learn through play — they are sure to learn a lot here.
Location: 100 South St., Providence
Hope Street Farmers Market
When is a farmers market more than a place to buy some food? When it’s a community event like the Hope Street Farmers Market. On Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, come for the farm-fresh produce from Rhode Island’s best producers and stay for the live music, treats (cupcakes!) and sense of community. There’s wood-fired pizza on Wednesday, so bring a picnic blanket and make the most of the feast-worthy food. The whole family will be sated, to say the least.
Location: Lippitt Park, 1059 Hope St., Providence
Rhode Island State House
The Rhode Island State House is a spectacular site. Its white dome, like a beacon, draws people to downtown Providence. It’s the repository of much of Rhode Island’s cultural history as well a truly stunning building, inside and out. Call ahead to the Secretary of State’s office to reserve an educational tour of the grand government center in the nation’s smallest state. There are bells and flags and ornate domes — all with their individual history. There’s something new around every corner.
Location: 82 Smith St., Providence
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
For such a small state, Rhode Island has a terrific collection of parks and preserved open space, much of it highlighting the coastal landscape. In Middletown, you’ll find Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge where you can go for an easy walk along the stunning coast, watch for birds, fish and generally make the most of the great outdoors. Park near the visitor center (not near the crowded second beach) and you’ll be in for a beautiful, kid-friendly outdoor experience.
Location: 769 Sachuest Point Road, Middletown