There’s a crisp bite to the air, the kids are back in school and Mother Nature is turning the page from summer to fall. Here in Rhode Island, a place synonymous with sunshine and sand, this time of year is equally as alluring as July and August; the beach crowds dissipate, golden rays poke through leafy umbrellas and some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world return to our shores. Fall is fast approaching, and with it comes the opportunity to experience the beauty of this magnificent state. But where should you go?
As the mercury drops, Rhode Island offers a wide breadth of activities in autumn, whether it’s digging into some rich comfort food, taking in nature’s kaleidoscope of colors or feeding your adventurous side with some exciting outdoor pursuits. Find these and more with our rundown of the best things to do in the area.
A trip to Rhode Island isn't complete until you've made a stop at one of the two Dave's Coffee locations in the state. Headquartered in Charlestown, RI, the family-owned business specializes in roasting their coffee the old-fashioned way - by hand, and visits to the iconic pink coffeehouse has become somewhat of a right of passage for visitors and locals alike. Grab a muffin (they're about the size of your head) or another pastry from their bakery then wash it down with a mug of their craft roasted coffee.
Though it may be small in square-mileage, Rhode Island's environment couldn't be more robust. Brimming with natural beauty, the Ocean State is made up of thousands of acres of public gardens, state forests and pristine coastline, all featuring a diverse population of wildlife. Piping plovers, snowy egrets and yellow-crowned night herons are known to occupy Rhode Island’s skies in early fall, while harbor seals begin to surface mid-to-late season and can often be seen sunning themselves on rocks.
As the days get colder and shorter, the state’s wintertime birds start to fill in. It is great fun to explore the beaches and marshes to try and spot a loon, mergansers and diving ducks. But don’t forget your binoculars!
With so much to see, it’s certainly hard to narrow down which of Rhode Island’s many nature trails to take on. For bird watching, we recommend a trip to the Trustom Pond Wildlife Refuge in South Kingston. Comprised of more than 640 acres of varied wildlife habitat, including fields, woodlands and freshwater ponds, this is an excellent place to spot a few of the 250 bird species that seasonally inhabit the area, as well as snapper turtles, deer and bull frogs.
For breathtaking vistas, Arcadia covers a total land area of 13,817 acres and extends from West Greenwich through Exeter, Hopkinton and Richmond. Though pine forests make up most of the state park, Wood River is known to be one of the finest trout streams in the state for fishing. Hikers might also catch sight of cottontail rabbits, wild turkey, pheasants and snowshoe hare while exploring its extensive network of trails.
Rhode Island 77, Rhode Island
Worlds away from bustling Providence and Newport, Rhode Island’s easternmost corner is often overlooked by visitors seeking out unique New England experiences. Separated from the rest of the state by Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River, the 14-mile drive from Tiverton to Sakonnet Point offers tranquil vistas of farmland, vineyards and the Atlantic Ocean.
As you journey along R.I. 77 from historic Tiverton Four Corners to Sakonnet Point, observe as the landscape transforms from quaint, stone-fenced pastures to vineyards bristling with life. After a taste of Rhode Island Red at Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, stop at a roadside produce cart for some fresh vegetables on your way to Sakonnet Point, then return to Tiverton for a coffee cabinet (Rhode Island’s take on a milkshake) at Gray’s Ice Cream Shop, open year-round.
Imagine inhaling the fragrant scent of wood smoke, firelight flickering on the features of the capital city’s arched bridges, the enchanting sounds of exotic music carried on the autumn breeze. This is Waterfire Providence, an award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans. Installed on the three rivers in the heart of Rhode Island’s capital city, Waterfire has captured the imagination of visitors and locals, alike.
On select evenings (usually between May and October), volunteer “fire tenders” travel on torch-lit boats down the river lighting more than 80 bonfires. Visitors can stroll throughout Waterplace Park and watch the show free of charge.
Dinner and Theatre
Experience the timeless charm of Mary Poppins, Eliza Doolittle, and Danny and Sandy at Theatre by the Sea, an historic theater and playhouse in South Kingstown. Originally operated as a camp for girls, the old shingled barn was eventually turned into a theater during the Great Depression. The owner, Alice Jaynes Tyler, teamed up with actor Leo Bulgakoff, producer Leslie Spiller and famed lighting designer, Abe Feder to open the 300-seat theater in 1933.
Today, the venue features professional, Broadway-style performances, including Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” “The Rat Pack” and “Grease,” as well as an outdoor garden bar area and Bistro by the Sea, which features a casual menu.
Hockey Fans, Rejoice!
Feel more like watching something a little more athletic? Check out a Providence Bruins game! Known as the P-Bruins by the locals, this ice hockey team is the primary development team for the NHL’s Boston Bruins. They play at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and offer some great family deals on tickets.
Providence’s Art Scene
In need of a little cultural stimulation, head on over to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art (it’s free on the last Saturday of the month) or see one of several Broadway shows at the beautifully renovated Providence Performing Arts Center. Go to www.ppacri.org for tickets.
Southern Rhode Island
For a post-performance meal (or satisfying sip), grab a seat at any one of Downtown Westerly’s amazing restaurants. Some of our favorites include Ella’s Fine Food & Drink, featuring a signature combination of Asian-Fusion and French foods; The Brazen Hen, an Irish pub with traditional flare; The Malted Barley, which boasts one of the largest beer selections in the area; and Bridge, perched above the Pawcatuck River.
The Malted Barley: Open 11:00am - 1:00am Monday thru Sunday