Fun in the City

Places to go and things to see in the urban playground


When you’re small, Providence is big. Huge, really, with its tall(ish) buildings, cool skywalks, open spaces and even a glass elevator you can sneak on for free. While the Creative Capital gets major props for its culinary and arts scenes, we want to go on record saying it’s also one of the funnest cities for families.

Does watching your daughter flail on ice skates remind you of your less-than-balanced college Friday nights from years past? Maybe she needs an ice skating lesson. (And maybe you should just forgot those years all together.) Kennedy Plaza Skating Rink is one of New England’s most popular winter destinations, offering a fun family activity (and lessons) at an affordable price. And, we even have the famed Rockefeller Plaza’s ice rink in New York City trumped in that our 14,000-square-foot skating rink is twice the size. That’s enough room for plenty of flailing.

Kids like to put their hands on things. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Like when they feel up the elderly lady at Target because she’s wearing “a fuzzy shirt.” But, if you take them to Providence Children’s Museum, you won’t have to worry about anything they touch. In fact, they’re encouraged to put their hands all over things there. A spot we both loved as kids, the Children’s Museum has play-filled exhibits that explore arts, culture, history and science. From the Water Ways room to the Discovery Studio to an endless calendar of daily hands-on events and exhibits, and even Museum Adventure Classes and other community programs, Providence Children’s Museum is a major must-do. Bonus: a four-person Family Membership pays for itself in fewer than four fun-filled museum visits.

If you’re strolling around historic Wayland Square with your kids, be sure to pop into longtime independent bookstore Books on the Square. A treasure for your children. Books on the Square Storytime for Kids offers separate storytimes for babies and children up to age 6 each week. Not only will you be getting your children interested in the magic of reading and local community support, but Alex and Ani is waiting around the corner to reward yourself for being such a good mom after you’re done.

It’s a summer night and you can’t possibly do another ice cream trip with the kids. (Well, maybe some of you can. We understand.) Switch it up and bring them to WaterFire. Aside from the fact that 80 sparkling bonfires are dancing the night away, your kids may bump into anyone from Elmo to the mystical creatures of Big Nazo while walking around town. Or maybe they’ll join in on the capoeira demonstrations and show off their own ninja dancing skills.

Listen, just because you can no longer jump on a trampoline without cursing your decision to birth human beings, it doesn’t mean your kids shouldn’t. Sky Zone Providence is the awesomeness that just recently opened and is a must-go-to place for your hyper active kids. Sky Zone offers 15,000 square feet of wall-to-wall trampoline courts, a massive Main Court, a three-lane Foam Pit, two 3D Dodgeball Courts, two SkySlam Courts and a Toddler Court. For just about any age, shape or size (well, except for you and your broken parts), Sky Zone Providence is the ultimate 3D play experience.

If you want an event where every kid is a winner (and, by association, every parent earns a gold star for coming up with such a fantastic idea) CVS Caremark Downtown Races for Kids at the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K is the place to be. All seven of our kids participate every September. While the Youth Races offer trophies to the top three in each age category, every single child gets a medal when crossing the finish line. (And if you bring grandparents, they have Oreos waiting as well.) The races are open to children from ages one through middle school aged students and consists of varying distances. It’s a super feel-good event right in downtown during a gorgeous time of year.

Are you envisioning warm breezes, chirping birds and picnics in the park? Us, too. Even if means the kids are not in school and permanently attached to your hip. Kidoinfo Providence Storytime + Art in the Park in Greater Kennedy Plaza brings storytime to Burnside Park in the summer. Families are invited to bring a blanket and enjoy performances by storytellers, performers, authors and illustrators, followed by fun activities for the kids. Last summer, Play in the Park series was debuted as well, so be sure to follow Kidoinfo’s website for this summer’s schedule for these highly acclaimed family activities.

It’s never too early to get your kids fully engulfed in a baseball team rivalry. We must prime them from the start, if they want to survive as New Englanders. Pawsox games at McCoy Stadium, a huge Rhode Island family tradition, are the perfect opportunity to embed the words “Red Sox” in their heads for life. From group outings to parties to the endless activities kids can partake in as part of their “Kids Corner” (Club Friday Events, Run the Bases, Clinics, Little League program and more), this minor league club is a gem that’s located right outside the city. Consider it an initiation to the rest of your kid’s social life.

You may often refer to your house as a zoo, but it doesn’t compare to one where it’s ok to jump and shout, and animal droppings are fully embraced. Roger Williams Park Zoo is a staple for Rhode Island families. One of the oldest zoos in the country, Roger Williams is open year-round and hosts family-friendly events like Zoobilee, Nature Swaps, Frogwatch and zoo overnights. It’s also home to conservation programs and interactive displays like Hasbro’s Big Backyard. Your kids can’t help but to express their energy every time they walk through the front gates. Bonus: Purchase a membership for your family and, it pays for itself after two visits.

If your child’s idea of fun is seeking out larger-than-life mutant puppet creatures and masked musicians who invade streets and stages around the world, then they should really see the Big Nazo Lab. Big Nazo is an internationally touring group that performs and visits a plethora of local events and happenings, and they have a Lab right downtown, which serves as exhibition space, creature-building workshop and community interface. Visitors of all shapes and sizes are welcome.

We have fond memories of belonging to the Boys and Girls club as kids. Of course, those memories mostly revolve around the Tuesday candy shop and the endless consumption of Now and Laters, but the memories are cheerful, nonetheless. The Boys and Girls Club Providence may not sell Now and Laters, but there’s plenty of other pleasantries to make up for it. A great resource for children, they offer theater, swimming, digital arts, homework assistance, athletics and more. The Fox Point clubhouse has long been a hub for not only basketball teams and after-school sports, but for swimming. Training in their olympic sized pool, the Fox Point Clubhouse Swim Team participates in meets with other local clubs.

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