1. Where to Stay
Most convenient, though expensive, is the Westin Providence (from $304) in the heart of the new downtown, with a walkway to the convention center and the glimmering Providence Place mall.
The Providence Marriott Downtown (from $189) opened on the Providence River in October and is the most appropriate for undiscerning children. They’ll be impressed by the indoor pool and agog at the chocolate fountains that appear in the lobby on Friday nights.
2. Where to Eat
The Federal Hill neighborhood showcases the best of the city’s robust Italian cuisine. Traditional pasta for everyone is at the Blue Grotto, parents dine solo at upscale Camille’s, and the Venda Ravioli market stocks deli grub to eat in or take out.
Bring picky eaters to Fire + Ice, where kids select their own pastas, vegetables, meats, and sauces for grilling.
Pizzeria Regina, also in Providence Place, is an outpost of one of Boston’s most beloved brick-oven joints.
After dinner, join the throngs at Pastiche for a fresh lime tart or one of their many other hearty desserts that appeal to kids.
3. What to DoOn Saturday nights through October, walk to the city’s three rivers to see WaterFire Providence, a Barnaby Evans fire sculpture that has become a community event. Stroll along the brazier-laden waterways accompanied by musicians, artists, and food vendors.In colder weather, set kids up at the outdoor Bank of America Skating Center. It’s affordable compared to the one in Rockefeller Center and three times less crowded. For kids ages 1 to 11, the Providence Children’s Museum hosts bright, informative, and fun exhibits about a range of topics from recycling to teeth.
4. Insider’s TipConsigning is an obsession around here, and in Providence alone, you could furnish a classic seven with a walk on Wickenden Street, near Brown and RISD. Do some real damage at Gallery 500, with 6,000 square feet of furniture circa 1850 to the present. Find stained-glass windows, old rocking horses, bedroom sets, bunk beds, and bookshelves; your kids will occupy themselves with old books and candy from the indulgent owners.
5. An Oddball Day
It sounds mundane, but shopping for your kids in Providence provides a rare opportunity to splurge — there’s no sales tax on clothing. Fashion-focused girls will delight in the denim selection at Jasmine Sola at Providence Place (think Scoop NYC); the quiet and well-stocked kids’ department at Nordstrom is a great place to get the little one his first suit or a new winter coat. While you’re in the mall, Oop Gallery has gorgeous hand-painted bookshelves, desks, and trunks by Sticks Furniture that add clever charm to a nursery or playroom. Let the kids pick out their souvenirs here: The Alex Art on Wheels kit ($53.95) is a rolling suitcase of creative supplies, and the Schylling Toys Pinball Machine of solid wood ($18.95) is a portable, though non-digital, way for Junior to pass the time on the ride back to the city.
The city keeps a detailed calendar of events.
Local alt-weekly the Providence Phoenix features listings and reviews for clubs, restaurants, and museums.
The Rhode Island Web Log has opinions, commentary, and news about the smallest state.
Motif Magazine covers arts and culture across the state.