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Summer in the City

Outdoor concerts, movies and festivals – here are 20 ways to crush summertime in Providence

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Providence may lack the sandy destinations of South County, but that’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy the best that the season has to offer without any of those no-good walls and ceilings getting in the way. Chase down a food truck, post up for an outdoor concert and get summering.

Get on the Water

The Providence River Boat Company has been offering unique views of the city for 26 years. Take a sunset cruise, get up close to WaterFire (but not too close) or watch the Fourth of July fireworks without having to muscle through a sweaty crowd. The best part? All boats leave from the Hot Club deck, so grab a drink before or after, and take one aboard too.

If you prefer to be more hands-on with your high-seas adventures, the Community Boating Center might be more up your alley.* Their fleet of kayaks, dinghies and catamarans offer all kinds of options for leaving the life of a landlubber behind (for a while anyway). *We don’t know what the water version of an alley is. Let’s just call it a walley.

If you want to impress that new special someone in your life or surprise your partner with something nice (or win your way out of the doghouse), spring for a wicked romantic trip on the Providence River courtesy of La Gondola. Each of the 36-foot Venetian gondolas is piloted by a gondolier, complete with striped shirt and legit gondolier hat. An accordion player is optional, but how awesome is the fact that it’s an actual option?

Catch an Outdoor Movie
Downtown’s Movies on the Block is back at Grant’s Block, and this season they’re definitely making a statement about our political climate, showing Dr. Strangelove (June 29), All the President’s Men (July 6) and Do the Right Thing (August 17). Hell, the first line in The Godfather (July 27) is “I believe in America” and is spoken by an immigrant. Dumb and Dumber (August 10) is fairly apolitical, but we’ll go ahead and interpret the choice as commentary based on the title alone.

For an old-school movie experience, the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In on 146 might be one of the coolest ways to see a movie during the summer months. Admission is a flat, per-car fee and gets you two first run flicks, so cram in as many friends and snacks as you can and see a couple of the latest blockbusters for peanuts. The best part is, if the movie totally sucks, you’re not bothering anyone by riffing on it in your car.

Movies in the Park offers a more kid-friendly alternative every other Friday in Roger Williams Park, beginning July 14 with the animated animals-doing-karaoke movie Sing, followed by The Secret Life of Pets, A League of Their Own and our favorite punch in the feels, E.T. No public screening of E.T. is complete unless some little kid asks, “Mommy, why is that man crying?”

Festival Your Heart Out
PVDFest is bringing world-renowned artists and performers back to Providence from June 1-4, and mixing them up with our own impressive roster of homegrown talent. Example: Providence poet and storyteller Christopher Johnson will be working with Bandaloop, a troupe of aerial dancers, to combine music and poetry with high-flying feats. If last year was any indication, expect plenty of great music, art and food as the fest takes over the city.

Normally a long line of vehicles in the summer would be cause for concern, but when the vehicles are food trucks and they’re lined up along India Point Park, everybody wins. The Third Annual Providence Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival is putting it in park on August 3 and will have over 20 local food trucks lined up bumper to bumper. This is the kind of midday gridlock we can get behind.

The Fourth Annual Thayer Street Art Festival is setting up tents up and down the street on June 11 with more than 100 artisans, live entertainment and a rock climbing wall. College kids, we love you, but it’s nice having Thayer to ourselves for a little while.

Foo Fest just gets bigger and weirder each year. For their signature summer block party on August 12, AS220 spills out of its gallery, overrunning Empire Street with some of the most exciting art and music being made in our city.

Get to East Providence’s Crescent Park for the Looff Festival on August 12. Live music and local art vendors are the name of the game, plus there’s a beautiful historic carousel to take selfies on. Big Nazo and an Elvis impersonator have appeared at previous Looff Festivals. We assume they carpooled in the same flying saucer.

Spend a Day at the Park
Now that it looks like Pawtucket is getting that new stadium after all, let’s just play it safe and get to McCoy Stadium while we can. Theme nights abound all summer long (Star Wars! The Beatles! Superheroes!) complete with fireworks. Plus, you know, there’s that whole baseball thing that the PawSox do there.

Sunday mornings are for sleeping in late, recalibrating your brain with morning-appropriate cocktails and digging for cool stuff at the Providence Flea. Beautiful handcrafted jewelry and drinking glasses made from old Rolling Rock bottles? Check. Records and vintage t-shirts? Yes please. Add food trucks and sweet goose watching along the river and you’ve pretty much got a perfect Sunday.

When you’ve finished gliding over the water in a swan boat – the most graceful AF of all boats – explore the other aspects of Roger Williams Park through guided tours on Thursdays throughout June, like the Architectural Elements in Roger Williams Park tour (June 1) and the Notable Art and Sculptures tour (June 29). They’re also teaming up with Trinity Rep for Shakespeare in the Park at the Temple to Music on July 20.

The East Bay Bike Path is the only way to guarantee that you’re going to enjoy yourself while getting some exercise. Can you get a Del’s or an order of clam cakes or ride a carousel while getting swole at the gym? Can you, bro?!? A day on the bike path is like going to the gym while also allowing for plenty of opportunities to indulge in all the reasons you think you should be going to the gym.

Rock Out at Outdoor Concerts
The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Concert Under the Elms brings an eclectic lineup of performers to the John Brown House lawn on the East Side, starting with the symphonic concert band The American Band on June 29. Expect the genres to shift gears week to week, with Steve Smith and the Nakeds bringing rhythm and blues on July 6, the Becky Chace Band rocking out on July 20, and the Cajun Hobos, who, we assume, will be cooking crawfish in an abandoned railcar on July 27.

The best kind of gardening is beer gardening, and it’s even better when there’s live music. The Burnside Music Series brings both to Burnside Park every Thursday starting July 13. The fun starts at 4:30, so if you’re looking for an excuse to cut out of the office a little early we don’t know what you’re talking about *wink wink.*

The WBRU Summer Concert Series returns to Waterplace Park for free weekly shows starting on July 21 with Unlikely Candidates. Dreamers, Marian Hill and SWMRS headline the following weeks and will be joined by local openers. If those names don’t ring a bell, surprise! You’re old now.

East Providence is getting into the concert game this summer. Waterfront Events is packing up and bringing their concert series to Bold Point Park. The Beach Boys (yes, the honest-to-goodness “Sloop John B” Beach Boys) will be kicking things off on August 9, followed by the Reggae Festival (August 12) and the Blues and BBQ Festival (August 26).