Autumn in New England.
That has always been on the bucket list for me. I almost made it happen a few years ago after my first full year of being separated from my [now ex] husband. This is when I realized that at some point I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and start to do the things that made me happy again. Like traveling. Albeit traveling this time was going to be a little bit different than I originally envisioned it as I was now a single mother to a two-year-old.
Unfortunately, as I went to finish the reservation for the week long holiday of sailing along the coast of Rhode Island, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston and whale watching in Maine, I struggled to push the “confirm” button. And not for a lack of trying either! It became even more apparent that this dream vacation was not going to be happening when the customer service rep I was speaking to informed me that it would not let me confirm due to the age of the child I wanted to bring. Apparently, I was 12 years too early.
So I did what any sane person would do: I booked a trip to Scotland.
Fast forward three years and I’ve finally made it to New England, specifically Rhode Island, in the autumn!
The first stop on our Rhode Island tour: Providence.
One of the oldest cities in New England and the state capital, I find that this city is mostly overlooked by neighboring cities like Newport and Boston, but this little gem was definitely on my list. Especially when it came to the food. I mean, it should come as no surprise that the “Ocean State” is filled with an abundance of seafood, but that’s not all you’ll find there.
You’ll find donuts: PVDonuts is a local donut shop that offers brioche style donuts, cake donuts, and crullers amongst many other items, and they are all made in house – by hand – daily. So, stop by and grab their famous seasonal friendsgiving donut along with some of their other delicious creations and head over to Indian Point Park, sit overlooking the water, and enjoy! Trust me, you will not regret it.
You’ll find hot dogs: Or better yet, what the Rhode Islanders like to call hot wieners. Technically, there is a difference. Wieners have a natural casing, so they are more like a sausage than what we refer to as hot dogs, but I digress. The next stop on your mini-food tour needs to be the Olneyville New York System restaurant. When you get there, place an order for a hot wiener “all the way” for a pork, beef and veal dog sandwiched between a steamed bun and smothered with a meat sauce, mustard, onions, and a sprinkle of celery salt. Even Alton Brown says he’d prefer to eat one of these than to dine at some fine dining establishment.
You’ll find coffee milk: At nearly 100 years old, coffee milk officially became the state drink in 1993. What is coffee milk, you ask? It’s a sweet coffee syrup that is then blended with ice cold milk to create something I can only describe as liquid toffee. You can find this beloved beverage at coffee shops all around Rhode Island – like Dave’s Coffee, where the CEO roasts and cold-brews Brazilian beans before simmering the result with pure cane sugar for a supremely addictive treat.
You’ll find stuffies: These giant quahog clams are stuffed to the brim with a blend of their sweet meat, bread, spices, and sometimes chorizo for one of my favorite seafood dishes I’ve ever had. Luckily, you can find them at many seafood shacks and restaurants around the state – unfortunately, they haven’t made their way further south so I can eat them on the regular.
Providence doesn’t just have an incredible food scene, but since we really only spent a little over 24 hours there, eating made up a good portion of our time. The rest of that time was spent wandering around Roger Williams Park. Honestly, we probably could have spent an entire weekend there but if you’re short on time, I recommend heading straight over to the zoo. This 40-acre zoo homes more than 150 animals, is the oldest zoo in the nation, and became the first zoo in New England to earn an accreditation. So, grab your walking shoes and set aside a few hours to walk around this lovely attraction.
If you find yourself with a bit more time and would like to explore the park a bit more, you can stop by the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, hop on the carousel at the Carousel Village, stop by one of the many gardens: the rose garden, the Japanese garden, and the botanical gardens, or hop on a swan boat and paddle your way around Willow Lake. Whatever way you decide to spend your time, there’s an activity for everyone.
After Providence, we made our way over to Newport.
I should probably preface this by saying that we went to Rhode Island last year, but I am only now getting around to writing this. However, the reason I’m telling you this is because while we were in the city – they were filming Hocus Pocus 2 (which has now been released on Disney+)! We stood around the city center watching the stage crew test weighted bags flying above a festival. I’m assuming now, after having seen the movies, those weighted bags represented the witches. We didn’t actually see any of the actors or actresses, but it was still incredibly interesting to see the set, taking place in Salem, but being filmed in Newport Rhode Island.
Since movies aren’t filmed on the regular in Newport, one activity that’s always available to do while visiting the city is the Cliff Walk. This incredibly scenic walk takes you along 3.5 miles of Rhode Island’s gorgeous coastline that starts on the North End of Easten’s Beach and ends on the South End of Bailey’s Beach. Aside from the beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll be able to walk past dozens of luxurious, historical mansions dating back to the Guilded Age in the 1800s, like The Breakers, Rosecliff, and more. The path varies from easy, paved paths to a rockier terrain – but we were able to manage both with my [at the time] 5-year-old and 10-year-old shih poo. It takes about 2.5 hours to walk the Cliff Walk one way, but there are numerous points of access along the walk with street access so you can enter or exit as you please.
*If you’d prefer to see the mansions from your car and not on foot, drive the famous Ocean Drive, a National Historic Landmark.
If you have small children, Easten Beach is also a great little area to search for seashells! I’m pretty sure we drove home with a plethora of clam shells still intact.
After spending an afternoon of walking and hunting for seashells, make your way over to Thames Street to grab something to eat. Stop by the popular restaurant Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant and grab more of those famous stuffies and the lobster Reuben before venturing out and peeking into one of the many shops on this popular street.
While this was the end of our trip, there is still plenty more you can do: tour the Newport Mansions, take a trolley tour, tour one of the many museums the city has to offer, or head to a winery.
Given that Rhode Island is the smallest state at only a little over 1,200 square miles, there is so much to do here! I’m already looking forward to visiting again.