Things to Do in Providence for Families

Learn to sail, fix a bike, see stars, go fish, experience art, and so much more all within city limits

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Sunny days and comfortable temps make spring the perfect season for all ages to go out and explore. Warmer than winter, cooler than summer, it’s an easy breezy time to discover things to do all over Providence. And while we can rattle off a list of deserved greatest hits of places, there are so many activities right under your nose you may not have realized even existed. Provided is a list sure to view the Creative Capital’s offerings with a new set of eyes. Grab a jacket and enjoy!

Please note that some locations may require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test result and mask-wearing unless actively eating or drinking. 

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BOATING

Raise your hand if you’ve been sailing in Providence. ​​The Community Boating Center (CBC) at India Point Park opened in June 1994 with a small fleet of boats, a few docks, and a boat storage shed built largely with donated materials and volunteer labor. Today there is a new boathouse with a fleet of more than 60 boats. The non-profit offers a variety of opportunities to experience the thrill of sailing and paddling in upper Narragansett Bay. Find after-school programs for kids, private lessons for adults, even a regatta planned for this summer. CommunityBoating.com

STARGAZING

You don’t need to visit Boston to experience a planetarium show. Located in Roger Williams Park, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium features a dome theater with a Zeiss projector that casts images of stars, planets, and constellations to simulate the night sky. There are five different planetarium shows including Sky Views of the night sky, and eight full-dome shows. Planetarium shows are Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and tickets must be purchased online. ProvidenceRI.gov

Brown University’s Ladd Observatory on the East Side is open to the public, weather permitting, on Tuesday evenings. Free tickets are made available seven days before each scheduled event. Masks are required on university property regardless of vaccination status. Ladd.Eventbrite.com

TENNIS

For over a dozen years, Providence Tennis Academy has been training players starting at age four to nationally ranked juniors with their Spartan System. Outdoor courts include the Providence Tennis Center at Roger Williams Park through October, and Wheeler School Farm in nearby Seekonk through August. ProvidenceTennis.com

RIVERBOAT TOURS

Hey kids, ever seen a ship graveyard? Green Jacket Shoal is a 33-acre submerged ridge in the Providence River with the debris of wrecked ships, destroyed docks, and more stuff that’s been piling up for over a century. Providence River Boat owner Captain Tom McGinn and guest guide David Robinson, director of the MA Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, will take you out on the water for a 75-minute exploration. ProvidenceRiverBoat.com

FISHING

South Providence Library (ProvComLib.org) has six freshwater and six saltwater fishing rods that you can borrow, just like a library book, for three weeks. You supply  hooks, bait, and a fishing license, which can be purchased on a smartphone. For where to go fishin’ and even how to get a children’s First Fish Certificate Award, visit DEM.RI.gov

HANDS-ON

Providence Children’s Museum has long been a go-to for families with young children, and for good reason. Currently open Wednesday through Sunday, making a reservation is recommended as there are limits on walk-ups and many other COVID-related safety measures. Look for Collette Children’s Theater weekends, a fun way to introduce little visitors to live theater, plus regular programs like Maker Studio activities. ProvidenceChildrensMuseum.org

From exploring animation to Zoetropes, cool activities abound at the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA). Across from Classical High School, this 4,500-square-foot space hosts rotating exhibits, all designed to engage traits shared by both artists and scientists. All ages are welcome, but RIMOSA is geared for kids eight and up; children under age five must remain within arm’s reach of their accompanying adult. RIMOSA.org

FREE STUFF

Providence is full of fascinating and beautiful murals. Learn their backstories by visiting The Avenue Concept online to download a map with QR codes of plaques and locations, and embark on a self-guided Public Art Wayfinding tour throughout the city. TheAvenueConcept.org/programs/wayfinding

Community Libraries of Providence (Rochambeau Library, Mt. Pleasant Library, Knight Memorial Library, Fox Point, Smith Hill, Washington Park, South Providence, Olneyville, and Wanskuck) have a roster of exciting programming lined up. Many events make use of each library’s outdoor spaces. Look for Readers Theater, Chess Club, Community Gardening, and a concert series, among others. Borrow a Take, Explore, and Discover! (TED!) Kit, which encourages experimentation and creativity, including ideas that draw families outside to explore the city. CommunityLibrariesPVD.org

Eat, Play, Learn relaunches with a full-scale offering for youth this summer after two years of scaled-back programming  due to COVID. The City will offer free meals, summer learning opportunities, and camps this summer for Providence youth. Check for updates at EatPlayLearnPVD.com

The Providence Public Library offers The Identities, a series of exhibitions and programs offering new ways of exploring who we want to be and who we are. Try something unexpected, learn a new skill, and meet people like yourself, all at the library. Check out Tomboy, PPL’s spring exhibition, which takes a look at the many meanings of the term throughout history. ProvLib.org

Family See & Sketch is a RISD Museum free offering that encourages families to explore art using close examination, discussion, and hands-on making. It's currently held virtually on Saturday mornings and recommended for ages six and up with a grown up. RISDMuseum.org

DINING

Food Truck Friday returned in April to Carousel Village at Roger Williams Park with its convoy of vendors sure to satisfy even picky eaters. Make an evening out of it with a ride on the carousel and carousel train (weather permitting). Food trucks accept cash, credit, and debit. RWPZoo.org

Two words: parking and pickles. Located on North Main Street, Gregg’s Restaurants & Taverns is ideal for dining with all ages. Friendly servers, comfy seating, plenty of napkins, a kids’ menu, and don’t forget about those famous desserts, all add up to a low-stress time. GreggsUSA.com

For pinball machines with a slice of ‘roni, Pizza J on the West End is a must-try for the whole family. If brunch is more your pace, try sister restaurant Julian’s around the corner on Broadway, where you’ll find plenty of sweet stacks or eggs all the ways. A trip to the bathroom is a must to marvel at toy displays and a TV playing old cartoons and shows. JuliansProvidence.com

If you want to hit the ground running or need to assemble a picnic on the fly, Seven Stars has you covered. With Providence locations on Hope Street, Broadway, and Point Street, their fridges are stocked with sammies ready to go, along with cookies and drinks like seasonal lemonades. SevenStarsBakery.com

Let’s Ride

The past few years have seen an increase in adult bike riding. First during quarantine when fitness enthusiasts needed a gym alternative, and now as a lower cost form of transportation. Factor in solitude paired with fresh air and exercise, and cycling has many adults returning to this  mode of transportation and riding alongside younger counterparts. Providence has everything you need, from bike shops to repair services, plus resources for learning how to pedal if you missed that milestone.

BIKE PATHS

Over the past 30 years, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has built an expansive network of bike paths. The East Bay Bike Path is the first multi-town bike path built in the state. From India Point Park, you can ride 14.5 miles to Independence Park in Bristol. Through a series of on-road routes and off-road paths, the Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway links Providence and Johnston; start at Lyman Avenue in Johnston to ride five miles to the Providence Riverwalk at Providence Place Mall. Blackstone River Bikeway is 18.2 miles of bikeway, which includes 11.6 miles of path between Cumberland and Woonsocket and segments of on- and off-road bikeway heading south to India Point Park and north to the Massachusetts border. For complete details on bike paths, maps, and parking, visit DOT.RI.GOV/Travel/BikeRI

BIKE SHOPS 

Dash Bicycle Shop: This full-service community-forward biz conveniently shares a space with The Nitro Bar and offers tune-ups along with bikes and accessories, with pickup and delivery service available. 228 Broadway, DashBicycle.com 

Friendly Bicycle: “Vintage bikes from an amiable dude” could not be any more accurate to describe this wonderful bike shop. Offering a selection of bikes ranging from Italian to Japanese in origin of all makes and models, they are the perfect shop for any enthusiast or collector! 83 Ives Street, FriendlyBicycle.com

Legend Bicycle: Whether you’re a transportation cyclist or urban explorer, this one-stop bike and repair shop will set you up with the proper fit to be on your way. 181 Brook St, LegendBicycle.com

Mission Electric Bikes: E-bikes are a clean, sustainable, alternate form of transportation perfect for any outing. With many different makes and models, the staff will help you find the perfect ride. 198 Ives Street, MissionElectricBike.com

Providence Bicycle: Since 1992, this shop prides itself on delivering high-quality service. With an inventory for all kinds of cyclists, friendly staff, and even free online pickup, you are sure to have a great experience. 725 Branch Avenue, ProvidenceBicycle.com 

Pratt Frameworks: Founded on bike racing, Pratt has built a solid rep on customizability for their customers. Each frame they create goes through prototyping and testing to make sure it’s perfect for each cyclist. 409 Wickenden Street, PrattFrameWorks.com

Recycle-a-Bike: Community is key at Recycle-A-Bike, where Providence residents can drop in to learn how to build and repair bikes, use the shop’s tools in exchange for a small donation, and shop for used bikes and parts. Wrenching Wednesdays are set aside for learning bike mechanics. Volunteers are welcome. 1911 Westminster Street, RecycleABike.org

Trek Bicycle: Run by true bicycle enthusiasts, Trek has everything you need to get riding around, including know-how and enthusiasm. We adore that they celebrate #NewBikeDay for customers on their IG, and promise to finish any repairs in just 24 hours. 729 Hope Street, TrekBikes.com

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