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Rhode Island welcomed a record 27.7 million tourists from around the country and the world in 2022. Visitors flock to the Plantation State for many reasons. Some come to learn its rich history, while others want to take in its vibrant cultural scenes and savor its delightful cuisine. 

Little Rhody, as it is also known, is a state in New England. So as with other New England states, fall is a big draw for many tourists with its bright and vibrant warm hues. So are those centuries-old mansions where rich people of the Gilded Age resided. These old structures provide architectural delight to those who view them either from the water or from the land. 

As you might have already guessed, there are plenty of activities you can do in Rhode Island. Here are just some of the most popular ones. 

Visit Historic Mansions and Museums

Rhode Island is a treasure trove of historic mansions and museums that provide a fascinating glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles of the Gilded Age. 

Perhaps one of the most famous is The Breakers. It was completed in 1895 for the Vanderbilt family and now stands as the crown jewel of Newport’s mansions. It is an absolute must-see when visiting Newport City. 

Another majestic Gilded Age mansion, The Elms, was built in 1901. It boasts breathtaking landscapes, gardens and an extensive art collection. 

Another magnificent Newport Mansion, the Marble House, was completed in 1892. This opulent gift from William Vanderbilt to his wife exemplified the true elegance of the time and cost around $11 million. 

Rhode Island is also home to other spectacular mansions, such as Rough Point, Ochre Court, Rosecliff, the John Brown Museum, and the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum. 

Additionally, some more of the state’s best historic landmarks and museums you can visit include the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, the Providence Children’s Museum, Fort Adams State Park, Casey Farm and the Living Sharks Museum, all of which are well worth a visit.

Explore the State’s Stunning Sceneries

Discover the captivating natural beauty and historical charm of Rhode Island with these must-visit destinations. 

The 3.5-mile Cliff Walk in Newport offers a unique experience, showcasing splendid ocean views and stunning Gilded Age mansions. Designated as a National Recreation Trail, it is an overall easy trail with amenities, such as benches, restrooms and water stations. 

For those looking to soak up the sun and surf, Narragansett Town Beach is a classic New England beach with pristine conditions, great facilities and excellent surfing spots. Meanwhile, the timeless maritime history and vibrant atmosphere at Bowen’s Wharf make it a beloved destination for visitors and locals alike. 

Explore even more of Rhode Island’s breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife at these remarkable destinations: the Green Animals Topiary Garden, the Blackstone River Bikeway, Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Beavertail State Park, Watch Hill Beach, Roger Williams Park Zoo and the Biomes Marine Biology Center. Rhode Island’s natural and man-made attractions offer endless possibilities for an unforgettable experience.

Watch Movies and Plays

Discover the vibrant, artistic landscape of Rhode Island where theater and cinema converge to offer captivating experiences for all. 

Trinity Repertory Company is a pillar of American regional theater. Since 1963, it has been mesmerizing more than 145,000 patrons annually with its diverse collection of world premieres, contemporary pieces and timeless classics. 

Complemented by its esteemed MFA program in partnership with Brown University, Trinity Rep nurtures new talent while captivating audiences with its local acting company and state-of-the-art facilities. 

Amid this vibrant theater scene, the Tri-View Drive-In Theater is a beloved destination in Rhode Island, providing a charming and nostalgic movie-going experience under the open sky. Meanwhile, the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) presents a dazzling array of Broadway shows, concerts, and special events, enriching the community with top-tier performances and educational initiatives. In addition, it is a historic landmark renowned for its architectural grandeur.

Rhode Island’s cultural offerings showcase the state’s deep-rooted appreciation for the arts. 

Fawn Over Fall’s Fantastic Foliage

Rhode Island trees start changing their leafy garb at slightly different times every year. However, if you visit in October, you’re sure to catch some of the most colorful displays of the season. 

Visit the Providence area in early October and the Newport area from mid- to late October. You can enjoy the views from the water with riverboat cruises, such as those offered by the Blackstone Valley Explorer. Or, you can hop on your car and drive around the state.

You can start with the local favorite, the Gloucester Loop. This drive will take you along Route 44 through Clayville up to North Scituate. This is perfect for those who want to enjoy the colorful leaves in quiet roads. Another option is Route 3. It will take you through West-Central Rhode Island, where you’ll also see many small towns. 

Another quiet route – Route 138 – takes you to the rural farmlands of Hope Valley and North Kingstown. You’ll pass the historic University of Rhode island along this route too.

For a dash of history during the drive, take the Blackstone Valley route. From I-295, take Route 14 West and Route 12. The views from the Hope Dam are one of the most amazing and something you shouldn’t miss. The route will also take you to portions of the Scituate Reservoir, which is a major water source for the state.

Alternatively, you could head to the Ocean Drive Historic District. It’s a 10-mile winding drive that offers views of the Atlantic, the Newport Mansions and the Cliff Walk.

If you’re keen on savoring the sea breeze while watching fall foliage, head to the Farm Coast Foliage Drive. This will take you through most of Rhode Island’s coastal villages like Tiverton Four Corners and Little Compton. 

For a different experience, try driving around Conanicut Island. The island town has it all: It offers views of the waters of Narragansett Bay, historic homes, the village center of Jamestown and rolling fields.

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