Rhode Island: 9 Big Things to Do in America's Smallest State

Rhode Island might be the country's smallest state, but that doesn't mean it comes up short on places to go and attractions to see. These nine big things are worthy of a spot on your Rhode Island travel itinerary.

1. The Breakers

The Breakers East facade
Photo: Gavin Ashworth

The rest of us would call it a mansion, but the Vanderbilts called it their summer cottage. The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, is now owned by The Preservation Society of Newport County, and the organization keeps the home open and maintained for public tours. Hey, if you can't live like a Vanderbilt, you can at least imagine it for the duration of the tour.

The Breakers

2. Narragansett Towers

The Towers, John Woodmansee
Photo: John Woodmansee / South County Tourism Council

If you're looking for specific stops in Narragansett Bay, the Narragansett Towers are a grand attraction. The Towers, completed in 1886, were originally part of the Narragansett Pier Casino. They've withstood many disasters, including two fires and several hurricanes, to become an enduring icon. Schedule a tour or participate in any number of public events that are hosted at the Towers.

Narragansett Towers 

3. Nargasett Bay

The geographic center of Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay, affords visitors any number of opportunities: boat cruises to a historic schooner, kayaks, parasailing--and that's only the ways to travel the waters. Stop at historic villages along the bay for shopping and dining. And be sure to put seal and whale watching on your to-do list.

Narragansett Bay

4. Marble House

MH Exterior
Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Another can't-miss stop on the Newport Mansions tour: The Marble House. Like The Breakers, it is a stunning work of Gilded Age grandeur, and a Vanderbilt property. Be sure to stop by the Chinese Tea House, which was built on the seaside cliffs of the home's grounds.

Marble House

And if you can't enough of grand homes, there are seven other mansions in The Preservation Society's lineup. 

5. Beavertail Light

Beavertail Lighthouse
Photo: Julie Grant

Of course, the Ocean State is going to have a lighthouse or two. And the Beavertail Light is a standout. It's the third oldest lighthouse in North America, and the views are one-of-a-kind. If you want to make a day of it, plan a trip to the adjacent Beavertail State Park for saltwater fishing, hiking, and more stunning views. 

Beavertail Light

6. Newport Tower

The origins of this tower remain a big mystery--most believe it to be the remains of a Colonial-era windmill. But it's fun to theorize, right? 

Newport Tower

7. International Tennis Hall of Fame

International Tennis Hall of Fame

Even if you aren't a tennis fan, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport is worth a visit. Originally the Newport Casino, the grand building and grounds were home to a halcyon Newport social scene of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, you can tour the building and the 7-acre grounds and peek into a bygone era.

International Tennis Hall of Fame

8. Crescent Park Carousel

Take a spin on this ornate, 120+-year-old carousel in Riverside. The beautiful details include beveled mirrors, decorative panels, and colored sandwich glass accents. And how's this for charm? The original band organ music still plays during the ride. 

Crescent Park Carousel

9. Waterfire

Water Fire Pano

This experience in Providence is breathtaking. Waterfire is a fire sculpture installation on three rivers that run through Providence. Stroll along the riverbanks or get closer on one of the many boat tours. Performers tend the flames, and the show is set to music.

Waterfire

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