After Boston, if you can choose only one other New England city to visit, make it Providence. This urban enclave has emerged as one of the most dynamic centers of learning, culture, and architecture in the Northeast. Since the early 1980s, Rhode Island's capital has undergone a multimillion-dollar urban-renewal project focused on the city's waterfront, and yet, care has been taken to preserve the historical character of one of the oldest cities in America. Religious leader Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636, and today it is the only major U.S. city that has its entire downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Providence has a youthful exuberance that you'll sense as you meander its streets and the central River Walk. That's because it is home to several major colleges and universities including the Ivy League's Brown University, New England's third-oldest college; Rhode Island School of Design, a forward-thinking college of the arts established in 1877; and Johnson & Wales University, which graduates some of the region's top chefs from its culinary school. Providence is quite compact and easily explored on foot. As you discover the Venice-inspired riverfront walkways and bridges of Water Place Park, the bustling pubs and trendy shops of Thayer Street, and the cultural richness provided by the city's museums and performing arts centers, you'll understand why Providence has been nicknamed the “Renaissance City.”