Things I Love About Providence, Rhode Island


This Black Friday day trip from our Thanksgiving festivities in Portsmouth, RI, began because I have been wanting to eat at Al Forno in Providence for at least ten years.  Al Forno put Rhode Island on the foodie map over 30 years ago and is credited with creating the grilled pizza. 

That's reason enough.  But Providence is also one of the coolest city gems of New England with quaint sense-of-place architecture, great pubs and walks.  Much of it feel like a mini Boston without the traffic.  On one side of the river is Brown University and College Hill. I've now visited all the Ivy Leagues and Brown has the best small-town campus feel with red brick buildings and small tree-lined quads.  On the other side of the river is downtown Providence, with a revitalized waterfront, Providence Place Mall, the commanding marble State House, the convention center, and Providence College.

You should either walk the mile length of Benefit Street near Brown yourself, or take a guided walk. It has one of America's highest concentrations of colonial architecture, with gorgeous 18th & 19th-century homes.

Historic Homes Line Benefit Street

Providence was only 30 minutes from my aunt and uncle's house in Portsmouth, so it was a really easy day trip. We absolutely loved Al Forno and I bought the owners' first cookbook, Cucina Simpatica, one of Ina Garten's favorites (Yes I love the Barefoot Contessa. Love.).  

Al Forno Tip: We arrived at 5:30 p.m. and was told there was going to be a 2-hour wait.  Felt like we were back in New York! We ended up eating at the downstairs bar but you can also call ahead to get an idea of the wait time, they will put your name on the list, and you can arrive closer to that time.  Reservations are only for 6 people or more. 

Al Forno in ProvidenceGrilled pizza & brussels sprouts at Al Forno

1. & 2. Thayer Street is the main shopping & eating street next to Brown's campus.  Definitely worth a stroll if you're near campus, and you can pop into the Brown bookstore.  

3. Near Brown, Providence has a ton of these gorgeous older New England homes. This white beauty was my favorite. 

4. Looking across the river at College Hill from the State House. 

The Rhode Island State HouseOld churches dot the streets of ProvidenceOn Brown University's campus

Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island

Until I was 11 and we moved to the faraway land of Arizona, I lived in a little town called Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 20 minutes from the very famous Newport, home to the Gilded Age mansions.  There wasn't a lot to do in Portsmouth.  The big excitement on a long summer day was walking to Ferreira's corner store, buying candy cigarettes and walking back. 

When I went back for a wedding this summer, I took Andy to see the house I grew up in.  Have you ever done that? It just so happened that the house is being completely gutted and we were able to sneak in! I got to show him my old room.  Everything felt so small and it's incredible how many memories come flooding back.  It was the first time I had actually been in the house in almost 20 years. 

Here's the view from the house.

And here's the actual house being renovated-this little hill definitely felt more like a mountain when I was 5.

The wedding was at a gorgeous Newport grande dame, Castle Hill, which I mentioned here.  I realized I never shared my photos as I was prepping for going back to Rhode Island today for Thanksgiving.  It was everything I remembered. I loved the white adirondack chairs on the lawn, the best view of the Newport Bridge with water that looks like this only in New England, a common area that is a total throwback to the early 1900s without feeling musty, and classic rooms. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Off to Newport for a Wedding

little annie and lisa.jpg

I spent the first 11 years of my life in Portsmouth, a little town on Aquidneck Island 20 minutes from Newport, famous for its Gilded Age Mansions, sailing, historic cottages and that New England sea air.  This weekend, I'm headed back to Newport for the wedding of my oldest friend, Lisa.  Lisa's marrying a great guy, Rob, and we fortunately had the chance to reconnect in New York before they moved to San Francisco.  Lisa's family lived directly behind our house and I practically lived with her growing up.  Her mom would always have art projects, snacks, activities and movies ready for us.

Lisa & Rob are getting married at Castle Hill, one of Newport's most beautiful luxury inns, a Relais and Chateaux property.  Castle Hill is perched over the bright, blue water of Newport (compared to the gray, crashing waters of winter) and really takes you back to a 19th-century Victorian mansion, but modernized and with WiFi, keeping the panoramic vistas.  I can't wait to go back this weekend.