Waterfire

Providence, RI is a small but very charming New England city with a lot to offer, including culture, great restaurants, lots of outdoor activities, and a riverfront modeled after Venice, Italy!  After living here for some years now, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten date “itineraries” in Providence.  For each one, I’ve tried to provide a variety of activities so that you’re not stuck wondering, “what should we do next?” after dinner.  Some of these ideas are rather expensive, while others are completely free.

I hope you use this list and go on an amazing date with someone special!

1. Enjoy World-Class Cuisine in Downtown Providence

Downtown Providence has some of the best restaurants in New England. One of my personal favorites is Local 121. It’s rather pricey but features locally-grown ingredients and excellent service.

Another restaurant I love is CAV, which is an acronym for “Cocktails/Antiques/Victuals”.  It’s on the outskirts of downtown in a bit seedy area, but it was nevertheless named one of the top five attractions in Providence by about.com.  It is a combination antique store and restaurant with strings of lights and nick-knacks hanging from the ceiling.  The ambiance is amazing.

CAV Providence
CAV Providence

The Dorrance also has excellent ambiance but in a different way.  It features palace-like high ceilings and  windows surrounding a grand dining room.  The Dorrance is especially known for its cocktails, but their food is great too.

A good friend of mine recommended Gracies, and the menu and ambiance there look awesome!

2. See a Band, Show, or Outdoor Movie

After dinner you can catch a show at the Providence Performing Arts Center or the Trinity Repertory Company, or perhaps a live band at Lupo’s.

Downtown Providence
Providence Performing Arts Center in Downtown Providence

Two other venues that feature local bands are Fete Music Hall and Firehouse 13, just a short drive from downtown. Note, these are in not-so-good areas of town, just so you know.

During the summer, you can catch a free outdoor movie downtown on Thursday nights at Movies on the Block. Check their site for schedule.

3. Grab a Drink or Sing Karaoke

If you’d like to grab a drink and listen to some cutting-edge DJ’s, check out the Salon, Local 121, or other clubs and bars in the area.

For an outdoor dining (or drinking) experience, check out the Rooftop at Providence G. One warning, however, you pay for the view because the drinks are expensive. What you can do is get drinks downstairs at the G Pub before going up.

If you’re into karaoke, check out Providence’s only downtown Karaoke joint, The Boombox, near the Dean hotel. It features private rooms if you don’t want to sing in front of strangers, or just want a little privacy.

4. Go Ice Skating

In the winter, there is ice skating at the (newly renamed) Alex and Ani City Center.  They have convenient skate rental, so just show up! This is one of my favorite downtown Providence activities in the winter!

Ice Skating at Kennedy Plaza

5. Dine and Stroll at Waterplace Park

Waterplace ParkWaterplace Park is a really lovely and romantic area for a date.  There are charming walkways and bridges along the river and some really excellent restaurants nearby.  One of my favorites is New Rivers, which features fine cuisine in an intimate, charming home-style environment.

New Rivers Restaurant

Other restaurants in the area that I’d recommend include XO Café, Mills Tavern for steak, Hemenways for seafood, and the Lounge at the Renaissance Hotel.  Note these are all pretty expensive joints.

XO Cafe Providence

After dinner, take a stroll along the river pathways.  It’s a great place for quiet conversation (unless Waterfire is going on, which I’ll get to in the next section).

If you want to catch a movie, you could go to the Providence Place Mall, but if you’re into foreign and more artsy films, go to the Cable Car Cinema and Café instead. You’ll watch the movie while sitting on leather couches, not chairs, and there’s unlimited popcorn refills!

If you’d rather explore the area, go one street up the hill to Benefit Street to see some of the oldest homes in Providence, and the oldest Baptist church in America.  There is a highly-rated Providence Ghost Tour if you’re into that kind of thing.

If you’re into hookah, check out Olives Hookah Lounge on Main Street, just across from XO Cafe and Mill’s Tavern.

If you love books, check out the Providence Athenaem, one of the oldest libraries in the U.S.  It’s open to the public.

To round out the night, drive up to Prospect Park for the best view of downtown Providence:

Prospect Park

6. See Masterpieces at the RISD Museum of Art

If you’d rather indulge in some culture during the day, one of my favorite hangouts is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, which has an amazingly large and respectable collection of art for a city of this size.

Rhode Island School of Design Museum

7. Paint Something at Muse Paint Bar

If you want to actually make art, not just view it, check out the Muse Paint Bar, two doors down from XO Cafe.  This is a cool concept where you and your date sign up for a class and they guide you through creating your own painting, no experience necessary!  They even serve wine and beer.

Muse Paint Bar

A similar concept, but in Pawtucket, is Paint & Vino on Main.

8. Experience Rhode Island’s Sublime Waterfire Festival

Providence RI Waterfire

Okay, I’ve talked about some pretty pricey dates so far.  Here’s one that can be free if you want.

Waterfire is a festival created by artist Barnaby Evans, located in Waterplace Park and the surrounding areas.  It features up to a hundred bonfires in the center of the Providence river, along with food vendors and other entertainment.  It happens about twice a month during the summer.

Walk along the riverside pathways, then stop and gaze at the fires while listening to the haunting background music.  That’s the point of Waterfire.

If you’re really ambitious, you can hire a gondola to take you and your date down the river along the bonfires!

A hidden gem not to be missed is the outdoor swing or salsa dancing at the “TD Bank Ballroom”. Often there is a group lesson beforehand, but the large crowds can make it difficult to see the instructors.  Still, there is nothing like dancing under the stars!  Cross Memorial Blvd. at College Street to reveal a dance floor and live band.

Providence Swings at Waterfire

The key to having a good time at Waterfire is avoiding driving anywhere near the area during the festival.  Either arrive really early, or be prepared to park far away and walk.  Do not try to drive or park nearby during the festival.  The streets are overrun with pedestrians and traffic is jammed – a total date mood killer.

If you want to eat at one of the restaurants I described in the previous section, make reservations FAR in advance.  Another option is to bring your own food and do a picnic.  But, be sure to come early to stake out a prime spot.

Providence Waterfire

I like to get food at the food tents there.  It’s generally good quality – not just hamburgers and hot dogs.  One of my favorites is the Indian food stand.

9. Walk, Jog, or Ride the East Bay Bike Path

RI East Bay Bike Path

If you want to do an outdoorsy date, I can’t think of a better place than the East Bay Bike Path.  It’s not just for biking – many people walk and jog on it.  It’s one of the most beautiful and well-maintained biking/running paths I’ve seen anywhere.  You’ll go alongside old railroad tracks, expanses of water, marshes, and wooded areas.  It’s all beautifully paved – more than I can say for most Rhode Island streets!

About half way down there is a nature walk on a wooden boardwalk.  It’s only a short detour from the main path:

East Bay Bike Path

If you want some refreshment, get a Dell’s frozen lemonade or an ice cream cone at one of the stands along the way.  If you are able to make the full seventeen miles to Bristol, RI, have some seafood at the restaurant at the end of the path.

10. Enjoy the Beauty of the Roger Williams Zoo

For a surprisingly romantic date for adults, check out the Roger Williams Park Zoo.  What it lacks in size it makes up in charm.  Go in the late afternoon so you can see the sun set over the lake – it is really beautiful.

Roger Williams Zoo, Providence, RI

Check for any special events going on.  When I went they had performers in whacky costumes.  Around Halloween, I would especially recommend the Jack ‘O Lantern Spectacular, which features thousands of professionally carved pumpkins.  Go early as the lines get long later in the evening.

Providence Zoo Jack 'o Lantern Spectacular

Afterwards, have dinner at one of the fine restaurants in downtown Providence like CAV. Click the link below to continue.

Continue to Part 2… ->

 

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