Within a relatively short time period – as compared to, say, Brown University, founded in 1764 – the art installation created by Barnaby Evans setting braziers of wood ablaze in the tidal basin surrounding Waterplace Park has become a symbol of the city and put it squarely on the map as a tourist destination. WaterFire Providence began as a spark in 1994, and has engulfed the Creative Capital in the best possible way ever since, now boasting more than 80 bonfires, a full-time year-round staff of 21 people, and hundreds of volunteers, luring countless visitors from across the globe to its flames. Whether this will be your first WaterFire experience or your hundredth, this handy guide filled with tips from staff will help you navigate the waters.
Lightings take place approximately 15 minutes after sunset. The earlier you arrive, the better for parking; the later you stay, the better for crowds (which tend to loosen after 10pm).
• At the north side of Waterplace Basin (below Capital Grille), there is a small lawn with some seating, offering fewer crowds versus near the stage.
• At the small section of the river
between Steeple and Washington streets, you’re close to everything – food, restrooms, shopping, performers – and there are four braziers.
• Memorial Boulevard (above Waterplace Basin) is a great place to watch the lighting ceremony; it’s also easiest to move up and down the river along the boulevard versus the riverwalk.
• Memorial Park has fewer people than Waterplace Park. Go hang out in the Starry, Starry Night installation, an underrated part of the WaterFire experience.
• Early option: Come to Providence in the afternoon for a day of shopping and exploring the city. For summer lightings that begin later, plan ahead and make a reservation to dine before wandering over to WaterFire.
• Late option: Go directly to dinner and enjoy WaterFire after 9pm when the crowds thin out. This option is perfect for fall when the fires are lit earlier.
• Providence Place garage is inexpensive and close to the action, or if you can swing it, park and pay at the first lot you can find, or in another area of the city and use a ride-share.
• No car? No problem. Take advantage of the RIPTA bus system, as all bus routes start/end at Kennedy Plaza downtown. If you live in Providence, walk, ride, or take a ride-share to and from the event.
• WaterFire is presented for free but donations are welcome to help it continue.
• Fire marshal regulations do not permit folding chairs to be set up on any of the river walks to assure safe passage for all visitors.
• There is a reserved section of the riverwalk, on the Memorial Boulevard side of the river, for visitors with mobility difficulties or other disabilities. The ADA-friendly viewing area is located on Memorial Boulevard near the intersection with Crawford Street.
• WaterFire by foot means traversing some uneven walkways and crowds so wear/bring supportive shoes.
• Rivers are closed to public boat traffic during lightings.
Can’t-miss places to enjoy a meal in the city with travel times by car, bus, foot, and bike to Waterplace Park Basin. Let us know your top picks at Marketing@ProvidenceOnline.com
Make it a full night of sensory experiences by dining inside this luminous eatery lushly festooned with vines, trees, and foliage. Menu items celebrate New England flavors alongside cocktails, wine, and beer selections. Did we mention the raw bar? 225 Dyer Street
Car : 4
Pack your sneakers for after dinner because you’ll want to be fancy for your Fritto Misto (string potatoes). White linen tablecloths and contemporary design add to the upscale atmosphere. 50 Westminster Street
MAKE IT A STAY
with onsite hotel The Beatrice
More than its name reveals, Blu Violet is also a restaurant that boasts an
ever-changing menu, fun cocktails, views of the skyline, and a R&B brunch with live DJ every Sunday from 11am to 5pm. 191 Dorrance Street
MAKE IT A STAY
with onsite hotel Aloft Providence
Steaks dry aged for 18-24 days, fresh seafood, and a world-class selection of wines presented in a handsome interior of chandeliers and paneling combine to make the CG the OG of PVD. Dress up and pack sneakers for later. 10 Memorial Boulevard
This fine dining restaurant serving Pan Asian cuisine puts you directly at WaterFire. A mainstay at Waterplace Park since 2011, the name Jacky’s has meant delicious Asian food in Rhode Island since 1996. 200 Exchange Street
Ready to eat, drink, and dance before or after WaterFire? Then mosey over to this lively new spot serving up some of the best Southern classics this side of Nashville. Dress code and 21+ after 9pm daily. 52 Pine Street
If you’re a devotee of artisanal farm-to-table cooking (The Lost Kitchen, anyone?), this is the spot for you. Menu items like bone marrow served with grilled garlic toast, roasted native fluke, and house-churned dark chocolate sorbet are sure to delight. 7 Steeple Street
College Hill’s popular tapas restaurant has a menu filled with unexpected offerings like clams with chickpeas, artichoke croquettes, and mushrooms with sherry, among others. Look for the bright blue sign on the corner. 3 Steeple Street
Described by a WaterFire staff member as “hands-down the best venue to be at the fires, plus the food and drinks are great,” this spot has elevated everything, from big ol’ burgers and fries to plated entrees. 200 Exchange Street
Set your map for red tables and chairs beneath a long narrow awning and you’ve arrived. While servers are ready to pour award-winning wines to pair with savory modern Italian classics, don’t miss the cocktails – dreamy mixes in high-, low-, and no-alcohol options. 86 Dorrance Street
This downtown gem is a fabulous place for a group with multiple for-the-table dishes, including two types of decadent mashed potatoes! As its name implies, Ten has all kinds of beef and sushi items at the ready. 55 Pine Street
Providence is dotted with excellent places to extend WaterFire into an overnight or more. Provided is a short list of lodgings to get you started. Find even more at GoProvidence.com/hotels
This boutique hotel has thoughtfully assembled the WateFire & Thrill package with cocktails served in a pair of hand-blown glasses from Providence’s Gather Glass meant to be enjoyed above at their exclusive Bellini Rooftop. Guests also receive two passes to the Brazier Society VIP waterfront reception (see sidebar). See Bellini for distance details. 90 Westminster Street
This hidden gem B&B housed in a historic three-story brick Italianate mansion on a quiet side street offers complimentary hot breakfast and stunning views of the State House. 11 West Park Street
Marquee letters that spell HOTEL signal this place is where it’s at. Discover
design-forward interiors and local partnerships offering everything from coffee in the lobby to complimentary bikes to fresh flowers in rooms. And we haven’t even mentioned the craft cocktail bar or karaoke lounge. 122 Fountain Street
Formerly The Biltmore, the 1922 landmark will make you feel like you’re on a movie set with a check-in desk ready for a Wes Anderson close-up and gilded glass elevator. Steps from Kennedy Plaza, it also boasts the onsite Norwich Spa, a coffee lounge, and bar/game room. 191 Dorrance Street
Nestled in the city’s Art & Theater district, New England residents can enjoy a 20 percent discount off rates with proof of valid ID at check in. Marble bathrooms are part of the sophisticated European-inspired guest rooms and suites. 139 Mathewson Street
Adore a State House view? This former Masonic Temple makes a chic first impression with its sophisticated lobby. Features include onsite eatery Public Kitchen & Bar, fitness center, and hotel valet parking with 24-hour in/out privileges is available for a daily fee. 5 Avenue of the Arts
Experience the magic of the installation head on from the water via La Gondola, offering authentic Venetian gondola rides, or aboard Providence River Boat Company. Last August’s Clear Currents’ Community Paddling Night was a big success so keep posted at WaterFire.org for updates on 2023. The WaterFire Access Boat is available for individuals with accessibility issues by reservation. Volunteers and Brazier Society members have other boat options as well.
There are myriad opportunities to volunteer at WaterFire, including manning guest stations, welcoming visitors, helping build the actual braziers (an 18+ activity), and assisting at the Starry, Starry Night and Luminaria installations. For the more adventurous, volunteers are needed for boat crews that tend the fires, and the strike crew who return all things WaterFire back to their places. Membership in the Brazier Society or becoming a volunteer are exciting ways to experience the flames up close by boat. Learn more at WaterFire.org
Saturday, June 3
Sunset (8:15pm) to Midnight
Start the day on the water to watch or participate in the 4th Annual Dinghy Poker Run. In this fundraiser for Providence Animal Rescue League, participants in small boats up to 13 feet long are dealt sealed cards along the river to be presented at Providence Marina upon their return. Learn more at ProvidenceMarina@gmail.com
Sunday, June 18
Partial Lighting: Waterplace Basin
Sunset (8:23pm) to 10:30pm
Make it a full weekend of downtown magic by arriving Saturday, June 17 for PrideFest and the Illuminated Night Parade. The LGBTQ+ celebration begins at 8pm. PrideRI.org
Saturday, June 24
Sunset (8:24pm) to Midnight
Pregame WaterFire on June 24 by attending the 7pm performance of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Trinity Rep. Info and tickets at TrinityRep.com
Friday, July 14
Partial Lighting: Waterplace Basin
Sunset (8:19pm) to 10:30pm
Saturday, July 22
Sunset (8:13pm) to Midnight
Saturday, August 19
Sunset (7:40pm) to Midnight
Saturday, September 2
Sunset (7:17pm) to 11:00pm
Saturday, September 9
Full Lighting / PVDFest
Sunset (7:05pm) to Midnight
Saturday, September 30
Sunset (6:29pm) to 11:00pm
Saturday, November 4
Sunset (5:36pm) to 10:00pm
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