A visit to a city is a bit like quickly passing a painting. It is easy to notice the surface level beauty and continue on your way. But once a bit of background is learned, the picture now has meaning. In turn, context and history, back stories and anecdotes, can bring a city to life.
Tour guides skillfully frame Providence in a way that is interactive, invigorating, and immensely enjoyable. Here are some of our favorites:
Rhode Island Historical Society’s Walking Tours – The tours by the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) are wonderfully varied in topic, but consistently fascinating. Learn about topics such as Providence’s rich maritime history, including the recent redevelopment of the city’s waterfront, and ending with the living history of WaterFire. The RIHS tours are educational and interesting, answering your tough questions, even the ones you haven’t thought of yet. rihs.org/tours.html; 401-273-7507.
Rhode Island Market Tours – Former Johnson & Wales University educator and certified pastry chef Cindy Salvato commandeers tours through the nooks and crannies of Federal Hill’s best kitchens, shops, and stores. The tour originated as a way to get college students into class and the result is an ensalada of history, cuisine, family values, and culture. rimarkettours.com; 401-934-2149
Independence Trail – Dedicated and passionate Providence restaurateur Bob Burke convincingly stakes claim that Providence is the birthplace of the American Revolution in this educational and often entertaining tour throughout Providence. Burke, who owns and operates French eatery Pot Au Feu (p. 14), has cooked up a treat for the history-hungry visitor. 401-273-8953
Providence Trolley Tours – A fantastic way to see the city, this narrated tour is presented in a historic replica trolley. Tours are an hour long and available at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. in June, Wednesday through Monday. providencetrolleytours.com; most up-to-date schedule at 401-421-3825.
Providence Ghost Tour – Starting in September, the Providence Ghost Tour scares up excitement along Providence’s storied East Side. Walk the streets where spooky scribes Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft penned chilling tales. Well researched and delivered with just enough of a wry smile to not scare you – too much. providenceghosttour.com
These unique tours do share some characteristics: all are educational, entertaining, and enlightening – not to mention great ways to see the city.
So, put the map down and let others be your guide – it’s a great way to give meaning to your visit.
Do It Yourself
There are a number of self-guided tours in the city. From the gorgeous State House to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the options for the do-it-yourself types are abundant. For an audio tour of the city that can be downloaded on to your MP3 player, visit GoProvidence.com. For more information, contact the Visitor Information Center at 800-233-1636.