The downtown Providence, RI Omni Hotel will be our base camp for the next couple of days. The upscale hotel offered a great central location with all the amenities needed. I would highly recommend the Omni when visiting the area.
We spent our first day getting familiar with the area. We then enjoyed a nice evening out while planning the next few day’s events.
My tour of downtown started in a square that sits across the street from Providence City Hall (pictured below). The statue that stood tall in the park’s center read, “In memory of the men who died to keep this country free”.
Providence, Rhode Island was established in 1636 and is one of the oldest cities in America. It was also one of the original thirteen colonies. Considering its smaller landmass, Providence is the third most populated city in the New England region with an estimated population hovering right at 180,000.
Citizens of Providence were one of the first to sacrifice lives that eventually led to the American Revolution. Its history is long and deep with its colonial tradition and motif. Rhode Island was actually the last colony to ratify the United States Constitution making sure the Bill of Rights became part of our country’s founding documents.
I made a 180 degree turnabout and headed north up Washington Street towards Burnside Park. General Ambrose Burnside lead Union troops during the Civil War. There is a bronze statue of the General and his horse positioned proudly on top of a cement pedestal.
The green belt was originally name ‘City Hall Park’, but rededicated and landscaped in 1892. It host many larger trees, smaller memorials, and pathways lined with plenty of park benches that offer lots of shade during the warmer months.
The park was quite busy with people enjoying a brisk Fall day. The trees were displaying their rugged bark and leafless branches. The thermometer read 42 degrees and the skies had scattered clouds that looked as if they could threaten rain. The sun intermittently peaked its rays between the passing clouds just enough to keep me warm as I kept to my tour going.
My next stop was at the intersection of Washington & Exchange Streets. Here is were Providence’s United States Federal Building and Courthouse is located.
The building was erected in 1908 of limestone and steel. Its architecture is grand compared to the federal buildings being erected today. The solid structure has a courtyard in the center for its employees to enjoy on their breaks and lunch hour.
I proceeded west on Exchange Street and then south on Exchange Terrace to the Alex & Ani City Center, where the outdoor ice skating rink sits. The pure white slab of frozen water was filled with all ages having fun gliding along its hard surface without a care in the world. What a beautiful site. Leaning up against a wall I took some time to enjoy the moment. It really seems that Rhode Island has it all together.
From where I am positioned, all I have to do is turn around and have a perfect view of the Rhode Island Foundation building. The yellow bricked building from 1898 to 1986 was Providence’s Union Station. The railway connected people from the outer areas to the inner city. After the terminal was shutdown, the Rhode Island Foundation which supports nonprofit organizations, renovated the historical structure and moved in.
I walked up Exchange Terrace Street and came upon one of Providence’s most popular landmarks. The pedestrian friendly Riverwalk that follows the Woonasquantucket River that wines in and around the city and is a major attraction. This channeled waterway is an exciting feature that brings in lots of visitors and tourist annually to the inner city.
During the warmer months there are various events that happen all along the aqueduct’s thoroughfare.
Just on the other side of the Riverwalk lies the inner city’s urban areas. Here is where I found more of Providence’s historical and traditional past. The First Baptist Church with its gleaming white steeple caught my attention right off the bat. The original structure was built somewhere around 1774. Its renovation in the 19th century brought many of the current features its possess today.
The streets that run along many of the older buildings in the area are of postcard quality. As I slowly strolled up the paver laid streets, I felt the past casually nudging along side of me whispering in my ear.
So many places in this city give me shivering thoughts on how life was as an original colonist many centuries ago. Just for a few seconds I found myself lost in the moment.
I was now heading west down Steeple Street – changes to Exchange Terrace after the bridge, to the next intersection. This is where Memorial Blvd. follows along the Riverwalk. I make a gradual right turn and head towards the State House.
I was a little cautious with getting to close because of all the protesting and rioting going on regarding the current political climate. But I did admire its statuesque presence from across the street. The capital’s marble peak is reportedly the 4th largest self-supporting dome in the world. Sitting atop Smith Hill, the prestigious structure can be spotted from blocks away.
The neoclassical structure was built in 1895 and was renovated in the 1990’s. The State House provides a residency for all the major governmental departments. The capital has served as a backdrop for Stephen Spielberg’s Amistad, and Disney’s family comedy Underdog. Can very many State Buildings say they have been in a Disney movie?
From here I headed east onto Francis Street back towards my hotel. Along the way I scoped out many of the eateries, bar & grills and shops. There are lots of well-known brand names such as Panera Bread, Cheesecake Factory, and PF Chang’s. Dignitaries need places to eat and entertain other political aficionados when in town.
What would a major downtown community be without a Macy’s or Nordstrom Department stores? After I crossed the Woonasquantucket River Bridge, one of the city’s most epic indoor shopping centers was to my right. The Omni Hotel has a skywalk that crosses over Memorial Blvd. and leads to the Providence Place Mall. The mega indoor market offers hundreds of retail outlets, a state-of-the art movie theater, and a variety of restaurants.
The people who live in and around downtown Providence are blessed with so much to do. Just the sheer beauty, the city’s ambience and historical value brings so much excitement. I have to say that Providence, Rhode Island rates right behind Colorado’s Mile High City as being one of my favorite metropolis destinations.
YMATD would like to give a big thank you to my beautiful daughter for getting us set up in such a great location & hotel.