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Ask the Locals / Northeast / USA

Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Providence, Rhode Island

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Rhode Island State Capitol, ProvidencePeter’s radio show is broadcasting live from the Renaissance Providence Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island.

Want to know where the locals like to go in this New England city?

So did we! Read on for great ideas about where to go when you’re visiting Rhode Island’s capital city…

Ann Woolsey, Director, Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design

Cafe Choklad, on the corner of Thomas and North Main streets, is a friendly place to have a cup of coffee or lunch, and, of course, sample their delicious chocolates.

Cable Car Cinema & CafeCable Car Cinema & Cafe is a tiny little theater that shows independent and art films not usually carried by the bigger theatres, and as an added bonus, has couches instead of uncomfortable seats.

If you’re inspired by works at the Museum of Art, you should also check out rsid/works which is a combination art gallery and shop with quirky gifts, all done by graduates Rhode Island School of Design.

A great outdoor city experience is Waterfire, a sculpture by Barnaby Evans comprised of braiziers of wood burning in the middle of the river, along with music, performances and street vendors.

Providence canal Also for the warmer months, a gondola ride on the river with a singing gondolier is the ultimate Providence experience (after visiting the Museum of course!)

The John Brown House is a historic museum run by Rhode Island Historical Society. The mansion has been standing since 1788 at 52 Powers Street, home to the infamous slave trader who was later the first man prosecuted under the federal slave importation laws. He and his family were integral in shaping American history, which is chronicled in the museum’s educational programming.

Visitors often overlook the Trinity Repertory Company, a Tony Award-winning company that has been a cultural mainstay in Providence since 1963. One fun tip is that after each performance, there is a 20-minute talkback session with the performers.

Looking for a great restaurant in town? Don’t miss Rhode Island Renaissance: The Restaurants of Providence

Farid Azfar, PhD, Brown University

Coffee Exchange, Providence, Rhode IslandEveryone from Brown professors to bohemians flocks to Coffee Exchange for its coffee and scones. It’s not just any coffee, as this shop has its own small-batch roaster and only purchases Fair Trade, sustainable beans.

Pastiche Fine Desserts & Café lives up to its name with fine desserts—everything from decadent tartlets and cakes to an assortment of brownies, elegant teacakes, and cookies.

Although it’s one of the most famous restaurants in Providence, a meal at Al Forno is a must—especially for its grilled pizzas. Open since 1980, this Italian restaurant is credited with inspiring the city’s food renaissance and continues to live up to its reputation.

Chef Cindy Salvato, Owner/Guide, Savoring Rhode Island

Our Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill, is loaded with great retailers, bakeries and wine shops. For the best Italian pastries I recommend Scialo Brothers Bakery, in addition to great Italian desserts, they have a deadly walnut streusel pound cake.

While on “the hill” I recommend stopping into Venda Ravioli for a fabulous lunch prepared by Chef Salvatore. While you’re there, bring home a dozen lobster ravioli for dinner. Stop into Tony’s Colonial for the leanest prosciutto and the most fabulous olives. Wash down your new finds with a bottle of wine from Gasbarro’s Wines.

Bristol, Rhode Island is another gem. I recommend a stop at Coggeshall Farm, a 17th century working farm. Stop in for DeWolfe Tavern for lunch, where Chef Sai Visvanath is a James Beard Award nominee and mixes Indian flavors with modern dishes. OystersAfter lunch take in a tour of the famous Linden Place historic house and museum.

If you are heading to the beach for the day, I love Matunuck Oyster Bar. We run a tour at the oyster farm associated with the restaurant, we put everyone in a pair of waders and we go out the the oyster bed with the farmer and when we return to the restaurant we give everyone an oyster-shucking lesson.

By Sarika Chawla for

Looking for somewhere to eat? Don’t miss David Latt’s culinary Rhode Island series: