They say that the biggest things come in the small packages. That may very well be the case when it comes to Rhode Island as the smallest state in the U.S. certainly packs a ton of amazing travel finds and memorable experiences that you should take part in at least once in your life. Also known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island is a state in the New England region of the U.S. By landmass, it is the smallest in the U.S. Don’t let its size fool you though as Rhode Island’s nickname is a reference to the large bays and inlets that are a part of what makes the state truly worth the visit.

The full name of the state is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The name is derived from the fusion of four Colonial settlements which are Newport, Portsmouth, Aquidneck Islan, and Providence Plantations. The last settlements was adjoined by the settlement of Warwick, hence the plural “plantations.” 

There is no exact funding on how the name Rhode Island came to be but there are two historical events that are said to have attributed to the events. The first could have been when Giovanni da Verrazzano saw an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay in 1524. He likened the island to the islands of Rhodes from Greece.

Another historical event that is said to have been the origin of the name was when Adriaen Block passed by the island during his expeditions in the 1610s. He described the island as having a reddish appearance. Due to his Dutch origins, historians believe that Rhode Island may have been derived from the phrase “een rodlich Eylande.”

Regardless of where the origin of the name came from, the fact remains that Rhode Island was officially applied to the island in 1644 by Roger Williams. Now that we’ve got a brief introduction on its history, let’s now talk about some of the vital things you should know before visiting Rhode Island.

1How to Get To Rhode Island

You have very limited options when traveling to Rhode Island. Luckily, these options are easily accessible. The first is the Theodore Francis Green State Airport which is a public international airport located in Warwick. This serves many major U.S. airlines and can you to Rhode Island from various U.S. cities such as Dallas, New York, Miami, and more. It also serves trips to and from Canada via the Toronto Airport. 

If you are coming from other international destinations, then your best bet to get to Rhode Island is via Boston’s Logan International Airport which is used for international flights. From this airport, you can get to downtown Providence, Rhode Island with a 1 hour and 30-minute drive. There are also buses and taxis available at the airport for your convenience.

Alternatively, you can take Amtrak to get to Rhode Island. There are three train stations in Rhode Island and they are in Providence, Kingston, and Westerley. If you are hoping to get to the main city and attractions in Rhode Island, then be sure to book a train that gets you to the Providence station.

Getting Around Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island is very small so if you want to visit the state through and through, we recommend renting a car is your best option. There are numerous car rental companies such as Avis Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, and many more. Most of the car rental services are available in Downcity in Providence and at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. Rhode Island is less than 80 km in length and width so getting around is easy. 

Ride-sharing services are also available but they are limited to Warwick and Providence only. If you are going to focus your trip on these major cities, then your best option might be to take these instead. Alternatively, there are cabs readily available in the cities in Rhode Island and they are fast and convenient ways to get around as well.

You can also opt to walk around the cities as well. Rhode Island’s streets are civilian and biker friendly so a brisk walk around the state’s top cities will be a breeze as well.

As for public transportation, the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority offers quality bus rides in Providence at the Kennedy Plaza. This operator runs public transit 7 days a week and they provide 27 sites for Park n’ Ride service as well. On average, it will only take you $2 to get from one end of the state to the other. If you are going for a transfer, there’s a fee of $0.50.

Best Time to Visit Rhode Island

We’re breaking down this best time to visit guide into Providence and Warwick, the two biggest cities in Rhode Island. In Providence, the best time to visit is during summer, most particularly, from June to August. During this month, the event calendar of Providence is filled with key events such as WaterFire, Rhode Island PrideFest and Parade, Federal Hill Stroll, Festival of Historic Houses, Eat Drink RI, Providence Restaurant Week, AS220 Foo Fest, and Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival.

However, keep in mind that this is peak tourism season for Rhode Island as well. Expect room rates as high as $150 per night. Of course, the streets will be more congested. On the bright side, there’s also the amazing weather to take in aside from the events and festivities in the city. This is a great time to bond with your family as well.

The best time to visit Newport, on the other hand, is during autumn or from September to November. The fall foliage is very picturesque during this time. However, this is peak season in Newport so expect higher room rates and congested streets as well. If you want to avoid cheaper rooms at the very least, visit during September as tourists are yet to fully arrive at this time.

Rhode Island Activities

Rhode Island may be known as the smallest state in size in the US but it still sure is worth visiting. While it is small in size, you will still be able to enjoy countless activities. No matter what your age is and kind of travel experience you’re looking for, Rhode Island has everything. There is also no shortage of weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. In fact, you might not be able to try or see them all in one day. But in case you want to try some of them, here’s a rundown of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island that we highly recommend.

2See a river light up with fire

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An aerial view of the WaterFire event (Source)

You don’t get to see a river being lit up with fire normally but in Rhode Island, you can and seeing it is one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island). Apparently, it’s an annual festival called WaterFire wherein Waterplace Park’s river is transformed by 86 anchored burning braziers that float on the surface with an accompaniment of new-age music that will further leave you in awe. If you want to see it, plot your visit during May and October. However, expect a huge crowd during this event as it is one of the state’s well-known events that t draws flocks of visitors from around the world. In fact, National Geographic Magazine billed it as one of the top 20 events in North America. You won’t get to see such an event anywhere else in the world so don’t miss a chance to be a part of it in case you’re traveling to Rhode Island.

3Explore a 19th-century library

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A peek inside the Providence Athenaeum (Source)

Exploring a centuries-old library, called the Providence Athenaeum (named after the Greek goddess Athena), is also one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. But this isn’t your ordinary library. Aside from the fact that it is a centuries-old library, it is also worth visiting because it is where you can find gems or rare books including the 1855 edition of Leaves of grass that even contains notes in Walt Whitman’s own handwriting, a 1830s astronomy book, and a Regency-era book of boys’ entertainment, to name a few. On top of that, the library also holds musical events, parties, speaking events, and old-fashioned salons. So whether you are a bookworm or a party animal, we’re sure you’ll love this place so don’t miss it.

4Spot unicorns

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Some of the green animals inside the topiary garden (Source)

Yes, you can get to see unicorns and other green animals and it’s one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. A unicorn and green animals, you say? Well, sort of. Apparently, the state has Green Animals Topiary Garden that’s filled with shrubs and trees shaped like animals and other fantastic imaginary figures like unicorns. In addition to that, the place also has nice flowers and ponds that will surely fill your eyes with good views of nature. On top of that, the place has a tranquil atmosphere that is perfect for when you just want to relax you after a long day of exploring the attractions that the state has to offer. And of course, the place is Instagram worthy too so don’t forget to snap photos as much as you want for that perfect post.

5Look for the mysterious museum

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Inside Musee Patamecanique (Source)

Another one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island is to look for a museum. It might be a bit confusing but this museum called Musee Patamecanique is actually hidden that its exact coordinates remain a mystery to this day. Now, how will you get there? To tour this museum, you will have to get to the arranged location at a certain set time in town. But this could be anywhere from one of Bristol’s numerous pars to a restaurant, coffee shop, it always changes. From there, a guide will meet you and equip you with a set of wireless headphones and a map. Then, he’ll press the play button on a wireless transmitter worn by one of you. The exciting and weird part is that he will then depart and leave you. But don’t worry, the audio will guide you to the “secret” location of the museum. It’s a unique tour experience that not every museum offers so don’t miss out on this too. If you do want to try it, check more details here and see how you can sign up for the tour and what other things you need to do first.

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6Visit the final resting place of New England’s last vampire

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Mercy Brown’s grave (Source)

There are a lot of tales about vampires in Rhode Island. In fact, this state was once considered as “The Vampire Capital of America.” But one of the notable accused ones is Mercy Brown. She’s well-known that visiting her grave is one of the interesting, weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. But what made people accuse her of being a vampire was that back in 1880 when farmer George Brown’s wife succumbed to a mysterious illness, their daughters also fell ill and died soon after.

In 1892, a group of men entered Exeter’s Chestnut Hill Cemetery and began to exhume the bodies of George’s family because they believed that one of the deceased was leaving the grave at night to suck the life out of its relatives. When they found Mercy’s corpse, that has been buried for nearly three months, they were surprised to see that it seems as if it’s still well preserved. Her hair and nails seem to have grown as well. And when they prodded it, they were also surprised that it was filled with fresh blood. With that, they believe that she was really a vampire. Hence, they removed her heart and burned it on a nearby rock. But some say that what preserved her body was merely the chilly weather and that the reason for George’s family’s death was tuberculosis. Whether or not the rumors are true, there might be a way to find out the facts and that is by visiting her grave.

7Go sightseeing at the Fort Wetherill

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The remains of Battery Varnum at Fort Wetherill (Source)

Rhode Island has good sightseeing spots to offer too. One of which is the Fort Wetherill and visiting it is one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. What makes it a unique experience is that this place, that was once a heavily armed and one of the best lines of defense for the coast of New England, now serves as one of the top places in the state that offers recreational activities, especially during summer. Also, its great walls are now filled with graffiti that also makes a good backdrop for your Instagram photos. However, many areas are fenced off. Still, visiting it will make your Rhode Island visit all the more fun and memorable.

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8Marvel at a gun totem

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A closer look at the gun totem (Source)

Most totems are often composed of animals and other images of spirit guides. But Rhode Island has a different version of it – a gun totem – and seeing it is one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. Made by artist Boris Bally in 2001, this totem, as its name suggests, has more than 1,000 used guns disabled and fossilized beneath a steel concrete that stands 12 feet high in front of Providence’s Federal Courthouse. It’s a unique structure that you must see so don’t forget to add this to your travel itinerary for Rhode Island as well.

9Investigate the Newport Tower

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The Newport Tower (Source)

Rhode Island also has its mysterious side. One of which is the Newport Tower and visiting it is one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. This is because aside from its structure, that simply appears a stone platform supported on a cylinder of tall arches, the date of its construction as well as who built it remains debated today. Scientific evidence says that it was built sometime in the 1600s. However, some believe that Newport Tower was a relic in the 1800s.

Also, because of the Newport Tower’s design that resembles Scottish buildings from the 1100s, some believe that a Templar crossed the ocean and settled the land. On the other hand, others claim that it was built by Chinese, Norse, and Portuguese explorers and sailors. Even so, nothing has been proven correct. Hence, the precise origin of the Newport Tower remains unknown to this day. If you’re curious about it, don’t miss adding this to your travel itinerary in case you plan to go to Rhode Island too.

10Explore the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health

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Inside the clinic (Source)

You don’t always find a safe place for anything related to sex and sexuality. But, Rhode Island has it and visiting it is one of the weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island that we highly suggest for the curious, for those who want to learn, and even for visitors who want to receive personal consultations and therapies. Here, you can find sex toys and even the largest handmade vulva doorframe in America. But this place isn’t just that as it also has educational materials in its library that will surely fill you with more knowledge and understanding about everything related to sex and sexuality. What’s even better is that you can even stop by if you want to receive personal consultations and therapy. It’s probably not for the whole family, though. But a visit to this place will surely make your travel experience even better.

11See the Point Judith Lighthouse

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The Point Judith Lighthouse looking like it’s straight off a postcard (Source)

The Point Judith Lighthouse is also not to be missed. Known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” this place has witnessed a lot of significant events in the past. This beautiful tall and rugged landmark even witnessed Adolf Hitler’s successor, Admiral Donitz ended World War II. But the stories of the past that it holds aren’t the only things that make Point Judith Lighthouse worth visiting. Rather, its structure is a sight to behold too, as well as the views that it has to offer. While visitors are only allowed to marvel at the lighthouse’s beauty from the outside, you can still enjoy it as aside from the beauty that the lighthouse has, you can also enjoy the views from where it stands. In fact, many visitors say that this place offers a nice backdrop for pictures, especially as the sun sets.

12Become a lighthouse keeper

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The Rose Island Lighthouse at dawn (Source)

Another lighthouse that’s not to be missed is the Rose Island Lighthouse. Unlike the Point Judith Lighthouse, this place welcomes its visitors with open hands more. In fact, you can even book a night (or even a week!) in the Rose Island lighthouse. Here, you can get to see remnants of Revolutionary War bastions up close, as well as the hauntingly mysterious bunkers and the weathered and worn skeleton of a Naval torpedo. On top of that, the views from this place are breathtaking as well. It is also a refuge for many shoreline birds and it offers a great spot to see herons, sandpipers, egrets, seagulls, and Canadian geese. However, also because of this, make sure that you watch where you walk, especially during spring and summer seasons as there’s no shortage of bird poo in this area. Also, if you plan to stay the night here, be sure to plan your stay in advance as this place fills up quickly.

13Visit the library of dead things

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Some of the displays inside RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab (Source)

If you’re really up for the quirkiest activity, don’t miss out adding Rhode Island School of Design’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab to your list of weird and cool things to do in Rhode Island. This is because this is not your ordinary library. Here, you will not just find a vast collection of books displayed on the shelves but you will also get to see dead things – from dried plant specimens from all over the world to vintage taxidermy animals. There are also glass cabinets filled with bones and skulls of different animals such as bears, cats, lions, wolves, and even gigantic whale bones. There are articulated human skeletons on display too. The place also has a collection of live animals like an axolotl, jellyfish, seahorses, Peruvian tegus, and a corn snake, to name a few and all are well cared for by the students and faculty.

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