“Little Rhody” The smallest state
Nickname: Ocean State
State bird: Rhode Island Red
State flower: Violet
Time: Eastern (GMT – 5)
Although it takes just 45 minutes to drive from one end of Rhode Island to the other, the smallest State offers more than 640 km (400 miles) of coastline, broad sandy beaches, parks, cities and a wealth of historic attractions. It was also the first State to declare independence from Great Britain on 4 May 1776 and the first that passed laws against slavery in 1774.
Providence underwent a major facelift in the 1990s that has resulted in the renaissance of Rhode Island’s capital city. The revitalisation project included the rerouting of two rivers and the building of beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkways and Venetian-style footbridges. At the hub of the project is Waterplace Park, a 1.6-hectare (four acres) urban park that surrounds a tidal basin.
The East Side is filled with many fine restored homes, and Brown University includes several 18th-century buildings. Other highlights include the RISD Museum, an art museum which houses 80,000 works of art and boasts an interesting Japanese collection; while in the adjacent city of Pawtucket, the Slater Mill Historic Site, the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, is also open for tours.
Newport, a top sailing spot, is an all-seasons resort offering a beautiful harbour that is rich in colonial history, as well as white beaches and some splendid scenery. Newport was the setting for the marriage of John F Kennedy to Jacqueline Bouvier and hosted the Americas Cup race for 53 years. Many of its magnificent mansions (including those built by the Vanderbilts and the Astors) are open to the public. Other sights include the Touro Synagogue, which has been restored to its former glory, and the White Horse Tavern, built in 1673 by a pirate.
A summer season of jazz and folk festivals is a major part of its appeal: classical music takes centre stage in July during the Newport Music Festival, while the following month sees the arrival of the Apple & Eve Newport Folk Festival. Also in August, the JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, one of the oldest and best-known in the country, draws music-lovers to Fort Adams State Park.
A popular excursion is the one-hour ferry trip from Point Judith to Block Island to see the National Wildlife Refuge and the magnificent 60m-high (200ft) Mohegan Bluffs. The State’s scenic centrepiece, Narragansett Bay, is home to yachting regattas as well as a thriving fishing industry.