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Rhode Island’s Attractions Punch Above Their Weight

Rhode Island’s sandy beaches, historic villages, and dynamic cities offer attractions diverse enough to satisfy hard-charging adventurers, families on the lookout for fun, and history buffs tracing the origins of the nation.

The state has more than 400 miles of coastline, and good use is made of this resource. You’ll find lonely stretches of sand around Weekapaug and wild coast backing the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, as well as urban beaches in Narragansett, Newport, and Charlestown.

Rhode Island is not a single island but actually dozens of them, ranging from uninhabited rocky islets to urban islands home to historic cities. In between you’ll find yacht-filled harbors and hard-working rivers. Rent a kayak to tour the backwaters around Newport or sign up for a tall ship sailing of Narragansett Bay. Prefer to stay on land? The state has parks and refuges where you can rest in the shade, picnic under the stars, or spy migrating waterfowl and songbirds. Rhode Island is the nation’s sailing center and is home to the America’s Cup and world-class boat makers. You can charter a yacht, learn to sail, or visit one of the great maritime museums.

Rhode Island traces its history back hundreds of years, and the state was one of the original 13 colonies. Today that history is showcased in parks and monuments. The state has 46 listed national historic landmarks plus national historic sites. Stroll where George Washington marched when you retrace the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route or visit the austere Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House in Newport, which is the oldest home in the city. In new Portsmouth you’ll find the site of the Battle of Rhode Island, where Aquidneck Island was successfully defended by the British in 1778, while Bristol is home to the Joseph Reynolds House, the oldest three-story timber frame house in New England.

Come winter, the slopes of Yawgoo Valley Ski Area fill with skiers and snowboarders, while those who prefer to kick and glide will find established cross-country ski trails at Pulaski State Park, Lincoln Woods State Park, and Colt State Park.

Hikers will be pleased to find trails along the coast and through the forest. Lace up your hiking boots and hit the dirt trails in Wolf Hill Forest, the Arcadia Management Area, Grills Preserve, and Weetamoo Woods. Mountain bikers will find stacked loops and tacky dirt in the Big River Management Area, and one of the state’s longest stretches of singletrack is just west of Charlestown. The skinny tire crowd will be pleased to know there are more than 100 miles of dedicated bike trails in Rhode Island, including the Sakonnet Greenway, the 10-Mile River Greenway, and the Blackstone River Bikeway. The flat William C. O’Neill Bike Path visits farms, woods, and streams as well as the Great Swamp and the historic villages of Wakefield and Peacedale.

Ready for big-time fun? Water Whizz of Westerly offers giant water slides, a speed slide, and shorter rides perfectly suited to little kids. Nearby, Bayview Fun Park has putt-putt golf, bumper boats, batting cages, and go-karts. Sky Zone Trampoline Park encourages freestyle bouncing and Adventureland in Narragansett has big air jumps, go-karts, mini-golf, bumper boats, and a carousel. Atlantic Beach Park in Westerly has a historic carousel, rides, and famous soft-serve ice cream.

Block Island offers enough to keep everyone busy for days. Visit the 1867 Block Island North Light lighthouse or tour the Old Harbor Historic District. Fred Benson Town Beach offers a perfect stretch of sand for plopping down your towel, while Mohegan Bluffs is the best spot on the island for a dramatic photo.

Newport has been a summer home for the rich and famous for ages, and visitors can see some of the city’s most opulent mansions. You can tour The Breakers, the palatial Gilded Age summer home of the Vanderbilts, or Marble House, a Beaux-Arts mansion which the Vanderbilts also called home. Kingscote is a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1839 and Rosecliff was featured in the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

State tourism officials have dedicated 16 heritage trails which crisscross the state – there’s something here for everyone. The Block Island Heritage Trail explores this 10-square-mile collection of rolling green hills, dramatic bluffs, and breathtaking ocean views. The Newport County Gilded Age Trail traipses past some of the state’s most opulent homes. In the capital, the Providence Heritage Trail takes you to the Governor Stephen Hopkins House, the Old State House, the State Capitol, and striking Providence City Hall. The Coastal Natural Trail hits up wetlands, ponds, beaches, sandy spits, and Settler’s Rock, where Europeans landed in 1661.

One of the state’s greatest attractions is its bounty of seafood, farm-fresh ingredients, and inventive restaurants. You’ll find sophisticated restaurants spilling on to the sidewalks of Newport and culinary destinations in Providence, while the state’s diverse cultures means you can also sample food from around the world – feast on Cambodian delicacies, Andean specialties, and Middle Eastern treats.

Rhode Island was seemingly made for families, and everywhere you go you’ll find kid-centric parks, petting zoos, children’s museums, and even historic carousels. Older kids will dig attractions like Woonsocket’s Museum of Work and Culture and the 4.5-acre Roger Williams National Memorial, which marks the original settlement of Providence and has expansive grass for running and great trees for climbing.