a day in providence

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    Despite a modest 20-square-mile area, the city of Providence is so packed with destinations worth exploring, 24 hours does not come close to lending a sufficient amount of time to do, see, and taste it all.  It does, however, provide just enough time to be charmed beyond recovery.  Full disclosure: You may fall in love with this little city.  Consider yourself warned.

I also find it necessary to alert you to the fact that, Providence being the foodie mecca it is, you will be consuming an absurd amount of food during your (hypothetical) 24 hours here.  In fact, your visit to Providence will revolve mostly around incredibly delicious, alternatively prepared, farm fresh and locally-sourced food, in an extremely abundant supply.  So loosen your belt buckle a notch or two, and let’s dig in.

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    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and quite a big deal in this small state.  It’s no surprise, then, that Rhode Island’s capital offers a selection of drool-worthy breakfast bites so extensive, even locals often find it hard to decide just where to break their bread.  Fortunately, four years of PVD living has gifted me with a foolproof breakfast selection technique, which depends wholly on an adjustable timing variable.  I like to let my body’s natural sleep rhythm dictate the destination. Allow me to demonstrate…

Early Bird?  Lucky you!  Head to Kitchen before the crowds for a completely unique dining experience.  Snag a seat at one of five antique wooden booths in Kitchen’s home-style restaurant, and order a toasted blueberry muffin while the chef/owner cooks up your bacon within an arm’s reach (sold by the slice, each meaty strip is about 2 inches thick and enticing enough to warrant a review all its own, but I’ll save that for another day).

Slept in?  Check out White Electric on the West Side and soak in the hip atmosphere, complete with folksy bouquets in old RI Yacht Club soda bottles and a pinball machine in the back.w:e2IMG_3084w:e

Grab a cup of coffee and a donut to go (or stay for the toasted wheat bagel with cream cheese, sprouts, and tomato), but don’t forget to check out the often 3-deminsional hanging art, featuring rotating displays by local artists gracing the textured white walls, on your way out.  Caffeinate yourself as you move over a block or two to Nick’s On Broadway for your real sit-down breakfast.  Expect a bit of a wait, but be assured the seasonal, local and carefully-selected food will be well worth it.

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    With a full belly, head across the highway to the downtown portion of Westminster Street for some eclectic shopping.  Be sure to hit Craftland, the real-life-etsy shop fully stocked with ceramics, jewelry, art, and other baubles, all Rhode Island-made.  Pop into Queen of Hearts and their sister store Modern Love for an original take on trendy fashion and The Vault for a large selection of vintage clothing vendors displayed in well-curated vignettes that feel like peeks into the closets of your coolest acquaintance.  Stroll through the newly renovated Arcade, a historic landmark containing the nation’s first indoor mall.  The lower level now boasts a collection of freshly designed shops and cafés, while the second and third floors have been refurbished to house micro lofts, inhabited by some of PVD’s luckiest residents!

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    Look up, down, in and all around at the gorgeous old architecture that Providence is known for.  Make a note of Grant’s Block, the open square in the middle of Westminster, which proudly displays a weekly projection of film’s on its facade for PVD’s summer series, Movies On The Block.  Check out all the wall-climbing murals, larger than life portraits, and massive art installations tucked around each corner.

Pop Quiz: While you walk, can you spot a piece by RISD grad and Obey Clothing founder Shepard Fairey himself?downtown4

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    All that shopping surely worked up your appetite, so why not mosey halfway up College Hill for a lunch break at the delightful DENDEN?  Sit under modern lighting, surrounded by RISD students and trendy exposed brick to taste DENDEN’S beautifully plated, creative approach on authentic Korean and Japanese cuisine served up in sleek cookware at this design-focused café.  Count the Pinterest buzz words in the previous sentence to get a better gage on just how aesthetically pleasing it really is.  It’s one of those places that cross-hypnotizes the senses, enchanting sight, smell and taste…
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   After noshing (I recommend the bibimbap, the signature “monkey balls”, and anything udon), grab a green tea latte to go and take a slow stroll down historic Benefit Street.  Linger as you let your eyes feast upon the gorgeous colonial homes and churches lining this quaint strip.  The cobblestone sidewalks and elegant street lamps of Benefit are spellbinding, and it seems as if the whole neighborhood has been paused in a simpler, much more beautiful time.
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Now it’s time to explore some of the Creative Capital’s namesakes.  If you’ve got tired feet and a heart for independent films and cozy seating, stop in for a Sundance showing at the Cable Car Cinema just up South Main Street.  Equal parts café and movie theater, this quirky establishment begs you to nestle into the cushioned embrace of an old train car with a tea (or a beer- no judgement), enjoy limitless popcorn refills from an old-fashioned popper, and let the likes of Wes Anderson and Miyazaki whisk you into their whimsical worlds.

Want to keep moving?  Get your culture fix perusing one of the country’s most covetable collections at the RISD Art Museum.  With over 100,000 objects of art and design, you’re sure to find something engaging- or at least something worth hanging in the powder room, right?  Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.29.19 AM

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    With creativity coursing through, make your way to the South end of Benefit and take a left down Wickenden.  You have just arrived in Fox Point!  Spend 3 hours combing take a quick look around NAVA and pick up a knick knack or ten.  Undoubtedly one of my favorite shops in Providence, NAVA offers an expertly selected collection of vintage and new apparel (their handkerchief selection is on point) as well as a generous supply of locally crafted gifts and jewelry, artisan greeting cards and a desert’s worth of spiky little air plants.  Last time I was there, the manager let me partake in her afternoon snack.  Pretty gifts and free chocolate chip cookies?  I love Providence.  nava2

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    Since your arms are full of shopping bags and you’re essentially doing weight training here, plus the cardio of PVD’s many hills, you should probably treat yourself to a cupcake at Wickenden’s *premiere* snuggery, The Duck & Bunny.  Likely the most charming little colonial home ever converted into a tea house, Duck & Bunny boasts an eclectic assortment of cupcake flavors, including clever nods to their tea and booze menus with favorites like Pumpkin Mascarpone, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Honey Lavender and Blue Moon.  Don’t forget to check out their (slightly edited) homages to famous artwork (re: Duck With A Pearl Earring, gets me every time).

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 11.43.06 PMduckandbunny5    If you’re not so keen on the bunny scene (hehe), take a short walk to the other end of Wickenden and check out The Shop. Actually, even if you’ve just stopped at Duck & Bunny, go check out The Shop.  EVERYONE GO CHECK OUT THE SHOP because it’s one of the most wonderful places I have ever visited.  The interior decor of this intimate space is just perfect- I’ve actually referred to it as “Providence’s Most Photogenic Coffee Shop” several times before.  Yes, it’s that good.  Plus, the drinks are inventive (try the nitro cold brew per my special manfriend’s suggestion), the treats are so tasty (I’m looking at you, apple cheddar corn muffin), and the staff is the friendliest around.  I spent a borderline creepy slightly embarrassing (and possibly inappropriate?) amount of time loitering doing schoolwork at The Shop this summer, and was never once disappointed in the experience.  But when you’re sipping iced tea (I like to order the lavender mint with a splash of their homemade lemonade) listening to the Grey Album in this gem of a coffee shop, it’s hard to complain.  Can’t wait to cozy up at the communal table with some of their banana hot chocolate come winter…theshopScreen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.33.02 AMshopinteriorScreen Shot 2015-09-30 at 1.16.45 AMshop2345

     Okay, so you got a bit distracted photographing walls and tables at The Shop, and the sun is starting to set.  Quick!  Hoof it back over toward College Hill and make your next stop at Prospect Park Terrace.  Set high on the hill, looking out over Roger Williams’ shoulder toward downtown, this inviting little park attracts Providence residents of all ages to enjoy some fresh air and one of the state’s most beautiful backdrops.  With an elevated view of the State House, the iconic “Superman” building, and more of PVD’s historic homes, there’s no better seat in the city for the sky’s daily goodnight dance.  You may even spot a random ballerina balancing along the wrought iron fence (PVD is a weird place).Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.27.42 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-30 at 5.16.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.45.17 PM

    It’s past 5 o’clock at this point, and you’re happy hour drink is well overdue.  So let’s plan a few.  Tie up those shoe laces (or maybe put on some hipster-approved oxfords?), we’re going back downtown!  Check in at to The Red Fez for inventive snacks (get the house pickles) and an artsy vibe, The Eddy to mingle with young Providence (get the signature walrus & carpenter oysters and trust the bartender’s choice for your cocktail here), and The Dorrance to experience extravagance in another time, preserved in the ornate architecture and sweeping high ceilings at this old bank building (don’t forget to take a sit in the open vault-turned-lounge).  If it’s warm, hit the rooftop at GPub for a Moscow mule and the best city views, if not, my all-time favorite place for drinks and tapas is The Grange, back on the West Side…IMG_9718eddydorranceimg_2182grange2    You didn’t think I forgot about dinner, did you?  Already on the West Side?  Move down Broadway a few doors to Julian’s.  This grungy hipster haven offers a seasonal menu, complete with house-smoked meats and plenty of vegan options (equally delicious at brunch time, if you were wondering).  In the mood for Italian?  Providence’s historic Federal Hill (a very “Little Italy”) has got you covered.  I especially like The Old Canteen, where the walls (and chairs and curtains and tablecloths) are pink and the staff treats you like family.  Got a shmancy date?  Gracie’s is the ultimate romantic fine dining experience.  Feeling adventurous?  Check out the unconventional offerings at North (hint: grab a drink at The Avery across the street while you wait for a table).  For late night drinks, dancing, and snacks (because you must be famished by now), hit up Ogie’s (vintage trailer park decor, grilled cheeses with poached apples, fancy tater tots, grilled pb&js, and old school cocktails), The Salon (bust a move or play some ping pong- your choice), or Ivy Tavern (the East Side apres-show hang out for the dancers of Festival Ballet- order the Salmon Sensato sandwich and sweet potato fries- you’re welcome).

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.35.49 AMogiesimg_2177salon    When the night draws to its inevitable close, lay your head at The Dean Hotel.  (Hashtag) Exploring with The Dean has become a bit of a phenomenon in the social (network) community here in PVD, and with good reason.  The elegant 52-room hotel makes its home in a beautiful old building in the heart of downtown Providence, and boy, does it deliver some world class amenities.  With sleek minimalist styling, subtle masculine/collegiate decor, and an attention to detail, The Dean fuses culture with contemporary design and includes careful nods to its downcity neighbors.  Don’t miss their in house coffee shop (Bolt), the traditional German Hofbrahaus pub (Faust), or your 15 minutes of fame in Providence’s first and only karaoke lounge (The Boombox).
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    Head on a crisp white duvet and the rusty brick brocade of downtown filling your window, the sun is rising and your 24 hours are, sadly, drawing to a close.  Let’s finish our tour on the charming suburban East Side in my favorite little pocket of PVD, the vibrant Hope Village.  Also known as the Summit, Hope Village is home to many-a-gem, including my wonderful apartment, my home-away-from-home at the Festival Ballet Providence studios, and most notably, the incomparable Seven Stars Bakery.  Tucked into a cozy little renovated gas station on Hope Street, Seven Stars is famous for its strong coffee and fresh artisan breads, but each and every item on the menu is truly exceptional.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all.  In the cooler months, I like to treat myself to a vanilla almond milk chai latte and an oatmeal raisin cookie.  Other year-round favorites include the decadent chocolate almond croissant, crumbly ginger biscuit, focaccia topped with grapes and rosemary, m-o-i-s-t lemon cake, and sweet raspberry bar.  October offers a few special surprises, though, like the baked soft pretzels (swoon) and corn/golden raisin biscotti.  While you’re on Hope Street, take a tour of the Festival Ballet Providence studios (directly across from Seven Stars) to get a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a professional ballet company (hint: it involves tutus and sweat).

PS- Don’t skip a stop in at Frog & Toad, a petite shop on the corner of Hope and Lauriston where you’ll find PVD’s widest array of quirky gifts, apparel, and more.  Put any other “vacation souvenir” tee and mug combo to shame with, frankly, any one of these or these. Sidenote: They churn out beautiful (and funny) greeting cards designed by a local at their own press workshop, and they will gift wrap everything and anything on the spot, so don’t forget to take something home to your honey!  Sidenote to the sidenote:  I turn to F&T for gift shopping so often, I’m starting to worry my friends and family expect that signature thick paper and rustic ribbon wrapping.  It’s just so good.

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    Thank you so much for spending the (long, food-filled) day in Providence with me!  If it hasn’t been made apparent enough already through my endless ranting colorful verbiage, this little city certainly brims with the pride of its inhabitants, a tangible excitement that will stay with you as you hop your train, plane, or car out of the Creative Capital.  We {hope} you’ll carry this feeling with you wherever your final destination may be, and know that you’ll you’ve always got a home in Little Rhody.  

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photo by Mark Weinberg


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Special thanks to the ever patient Mr. Michael Collins for making this post possible, as well as the people of Providence and their instagram photography contributions: @noreenwasti, @michaelmikemikey, @paulineperalta_, @indowncitypvd, @queenofheartsandmodernlove, @cholpak, @noa.moniz, @roccothekillercat, @sharonchengg, @rylopes, @kylesilvia_, @mjtraynor, @risdmuseum, @shopnava, @lorenhope, @kmac789, @junotao, @j4_s0n, @andrewmook, @theshop.foxpoint, @valentinatessoni, @lkobrin, @jennradlinski, @csanyi, @jamesscarpenter, @ericleva, @kat_odell, @ogiestrailerpark, @atrecida, @irishbarl, @thefunklives, @thedeanhotel, @rvolynsky, @dish906, @josh_littlefield and @markweinbergnyc.

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7 thoughts on “a day in providence

  1. Well…where to begin? Your unbelievably fun / colorful / descriptive writing style that belongs in RI Monthly magazine doing critics for…what? Food, entertainment, PVD sites….any and all of it? The colorful photography that suits each paragraph? Your infectious love of one of the most beautiful cities in the world (yup, I went there) ? It’s good, er..better than that. I need to do many of these things, although one of my favorites it sitting across from the best little ballet company sipping bottomless teas with my favorite ballerina. xoxo

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