It’s impossible to visit Providence, Rhode Island and not fall in love. It combines the accessibility and warmth of a small town with the culture and sophistication of a big city and there’s no shortage of things to do in Providence with kids. Read on for my favorites…
1. You say you want a kid-friendly restaurant your whole family will love? Look no further than Caserta Pizzeria. Let’s call it dinner, deconstructed. Caserta’s has been a Rhode Island tradition since 1953, whose comfy plastic chairs that can be arranged in any configuration necessary, no worries whatsoever with paper plates and disposable dinnerware, and the sheer comfort of delicious, traditional pizza whose recipe has never changed. If you’re looking for an extensive menu and cloth napkins this is not the place for you. If you are, however, looking for a family- and budget-friendly experience that will wow your taste buds, give it a try.
2. The Looff Carousel, located in East Providence, is a fantastic outing for the entire family. Built in 1895, the carousel boasts 65 meticulously hand-carved figures, and is one of the few carousels left where you can grab rings during your ride. There are plenty of stationary horses and four chariots, if you have that, ahem, child, who’s not so fond of the galloping horses. Not only is it beautiful and a ride you must experience at least once in your life, it’s also extremely affordable. I’m talking as low as $.50 a ride, and children under 2 ride free. Fun and history; can’t beat that.
3. The Roger Williams Park Zoo is a must-see destination in Rhode Island, a park where one could easily spend an entire day roaming acres of animal exhibits. The newest addition, Hasbro’s “Our Big Backyard” and the CVS Caremark “All Kids Can Treehouse” offers an extensive area for the littles including catching wooden ‘fish’ in a pond, water play, hula hooping, creating chalkboard art, and exploring colors and textures. So much fun, I literally had to drag my three toddlers away.
4. I admit, I’ve veered slightly away from Providence to present Wright’s Dairy Farm & Bakery, located in North Smithfield, but, for a glimpse into a real, working dairy farm, I was willing to go the distance. Wright’s Dairy has been serving customers since 1900. That’s a long time. And if you kids ever wondered what Old MacDonald’s Farm might look like, this is a fantastic example. Upon reaching the parking lot during my last visit, a flock of chickens literally crossed the road in front of us. My son and I were also able to cautiously approach and examine a row of lounging cows. You can get that close. Milkings take place from 3pm-5pm daily and are open to the public. And if you’ve worked up an appetite at the farm, you can head into the bakery, choose from a variety of homemade pastries, and then wash it all down with some fresh milk.
5. Waterfire Providence is beautiful experience for child and adult alike, the significance of which changes in relationship to one’s age. Nestled in the heart of Providence, Waterfire is a non-profit experience (manned entirely by volunteers) created in 1997, that incorporates fire, hauntingly beautiful music, artistic lighting, and continuous gondola rides with singing gondoliers. There’s no way not to be moved by the Waterfire experience. Waterfire generally runs from around May (Memorial Day) until October (around Columbus Day). And best of all? Completely free of charge. My only tips: Arrive early and bring a sweater. Sometimes is chillier on the water than you’d think!
6. Another jewel nestled snugly in the heart of Providence is the Bank of America Skating Center. Open from November to March, the Skating Center offers continuous skating (10am – 10pm during the week and 10am-11pm on the weekends), lockers, music, and a snack bar. The rink is 14,000 square feet, so there’s plenty of room for you and your fellow skaters. No skates? No problem! Skates are available for rental as well for just five bucks. And the admission? Just $7 for adults and $4 for children. Another fun and affordable choice for your family.
7. If you’re hankering for a family-friendly breakfast experience, T’s Restaurant in Cranston is the perfect choice. Featuring fresh breakfast combinations and seasonal flavored coffees (try the pumpkin!), T’s combines the best of both worlds for yourself and your children. T’s serves everything from pastry to omelets to egg sandwiches, and has recently added gluten-free selections. The staff is extremely friendly as well. Every time I bring my children, servers from all over the restaurant come by to check in and say hello. And the best part? They don’t mind if your child eventually ends up surrounded by a halo of pancake chunks. A few more words of wisdom? T’s tends to get busy. Quite busy. You may encounter a wait. I would suggest bringing some fruit or crackers for your kids to take the edge off in such a circumstance. Don’t let that deter you, however. T’s is so worth the wait.
8. I spent many, many days of my youth, and, well, let’s face it, adolescence, at Providence Bruins games. The Providence Bruins, farm team for the Boston Bruins, 2011 Stanley Cup winners, provide action-packed afternoons and evenings out for your family. The season runs from October to April, with games in the early (and late) afternoon and in the evening. Regular price adult tickets start at $16, and many promotions are available, such as Family Nights, which include a ticket, hot dog, and a drink for just $18 per person. Many games include giveaways of Providence Bruins gear (see schedule for promotions). If you’re lucky, you may even spot Samboni, the Providence Bruins mascot, or a real, live Boston Bruins player!
9. The Providence Children’s Museum is chock full of learning and fun for your children. From Water Ways, the water room (where they’re kind enough to fit your children for waterproof aprons on the way in), is a place that, if my children are any indication, your kids will never want to leave. Activities and exhibits target children ranging from infant to school-age, highlighting history, science, geography, and nature. Admission is $9 and free for children up to 12 months. During the summer, some Fridays and evenings are completely free.
10. Even though it’s located in Harrisville, I had to include Wright’s Farm, because it is simply the ultimate family-friendly dining experience in Rhode Island. Just a short skip up RI Rt. 146, and you’re there. Wright’s Farm has you covered from the paper tablecloths to the ability to accommodate very large parties to the family-style service. Like T’s, Wright’s Farm does tend to get very busy. The upside, however, is mere moments after you order, your food arrives, family-style, at the table. The menu is simple: rolls and butter, salad with homemade Italian dressing, pasta shells and tomato sauce, french fries, and baked chicken. Find a child who can’t dig that menu. The restaurant features several rooms that accommodate tables of two to very large parties. Let’s just say it’s bustling. Kids who don’t use their inside voices? No problem! Kids who send their food flying? No problem! We took our three toddlers there (with extra adults for reinforcement) and we fared just fine, flourished even. Long wait? Stroll around the gift shop for homemade confections, Yankee Candles, gifts, toys, and holiday decor or take the edge off with some “Mommy Juice” from the full bar. Can’t beat it.
Got your own tips on things to do in Providence with kids? Leave them in the comments!