Rhode Island

Best of Rhode Island | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards

Looking for dining, lodging, and top-notch attractions in Ocean State? Here are nearly 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Rhode Island.

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 10 2017


Lincoln Woods State Park | Best of Rhode Island

Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons

Need a reason to travel this summer? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are nearly 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Rhode Island.

Lincoln Woods State Park | Best of Rhode Island
Lincoln Woods State Park | Best of Rhode Island
Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons


ART MUSEUM: National Museum of American Illustration

As architecturally splendid as its Newport neighbors, Vernon Court isn’t a frozen-in-time mansion attraction. It’s a living, evolving estate that reflects the passions of owners Laurence and Judy Goffman Cutler. Chief among those passions is exhibiting their collection—the largest of its kind in the world—of masterpieces by beloved American illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish. Here, these remarkably relatable commercial images get their due as both art and a chronicle of American culture. The museum has also received accolades, though, for showcasing the creative works of Mother Nature: namely, the champion trees within its Frederick Law Olmsted Park and Arboretum. 492 Bellevue Ave., Newport. 401-851-8949; americanillustration.org

BIKE PATH: William C. O’Neill Bike Path

Commonly called the South County Bike Path, this paved cycling lane follows the mostly woodsy former route of the Narragansett Pier Railroad. Park free at Kingston Station, and pedal a 7.8-mile course through the wild and serene Great Swamp and historic mill villages of Peace Dale and Wakefield. In less than an hour’s leisurely ride (if you can resist breakfast at Phil’s in Wakefield), your toes can be in the surf. Until a planned extension is completed, follow local roads the final mile to Narragansett Town Beach. West Kingston to Narragansett. 401-789-9301; southcountybikepath.org


Keep an eagle eye out for a small white sign that points toward the Narragansett Fishermen’s Memorial as you follow Ocean Road toward Point Judith. What isn’t advertised is this little-known state-owned beach and fishing area, which is also a strategically situated summer-into-fall birding spot. Low-growing marshland makes spying coastal species and winged migrants easy. Free parking and panoramic lighthouse and sunset views make alighting here worthwhile, birds or no birds. 1399 Ocean Road, Narragansett. 401-222-6800

BOOKSTORE: Savoy Bookshop & Café

A landmark brick building, a bookstore owner, a billionaire: They’re the pivotal characters in the 2016 origin story of this Westerly haven for bibliophiles. After the Royce Family Foundation funded an exquisite renovation of the decades-closed Savoy Hotel, Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, brought this literary hub to life. The only way to coax children out of their own über-adorable reading cabin downstairs is to send them searching for fairy worlds hidden behind teeny doors upstairs. Settle into a leather armchair with a hot drink and baked treat, and your inner child may beg you to stay, too. 10 Canal St., Westerly. 401-213-3901; savoybookshopcafe.com

CITY TOUR: Providence River Boat Company

It’s a swampland-to-shining-city story, and for more than 25 years captain Tom McGinn and his crew have told Providence’s tale on pontoon boat tours. A relaxing, affordable, and efficient way to experience the city, these 45-minute daytime and sunset excursions offer plentiful photo ops as you glide up and down the Providence River and even underneath the engineering wonder that is the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier. “There’s no one alive who’s ever seen the river cleaner than it is now,” says McGinn, who’ll explain how the river’s aquatic life has rebounded. Book a month in advance for WaterFire nights, when these open-air boats are the best seats in the house. 575 S. Water St., Providence. 401-580-2628; providenceriverboat.com

FARMERS’ MARKET: Aquidneck Growers’ Market

Beneath cheery tents that pop up on Saturdays alongside Newport Vineyards’ thriving rows of vines, you’ll find much more than a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Cold-pressed juices and jewelry, oysters and wild-gathered mushrooms, locally roasted coffee, and gourmet ice cream sandwiches are among the surprises. Live music, wine tastings, and farm-to-table fare in the Vineyard Café are reasons to linger. Come November, vendors move inside by the fermentation tanks, and this popular market brightens spirits all winter. 909 E. Main Road, Middletown.

GENERAL STORE: Hack and Livery General Store

Don’t let the horse silhouette emblazoned on the white clapboard barn fool you. Yes, this Hope Valley landmark was a livery stable from 1888 until 1912, but for the past 40 years its floorboards have been trod by savvy shoppers. The sheer variety of colorful wares impresses: Gifts for all ages and interests cram every nook and even dangle from the ceiling, so don’t forget to glance up—that is, if you can pry your eyes away from the rows of glass jars filled with more than 100 kinds of old-school candies. 1006 Main St., Hope Valley. 401-539-7033; hackandliverygeneralstore.com

HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE: Hearthside House Museum and Hannaway Blacksmith Shop

The past is kept playfully, passionately alive in Lincoln at “the house that love built,” a stately fieldstone mansion where volunteers don period garb for themed events and tours. Down the street, observe artisans at work inside the restored blacksmith shop on weekends, or even preregister for a two-hour class. You’ll forge a hook to start, but by the time you begin a second project of your choice, you may find you’re hooked on this traditional art. 677 Great Road, Lincoln. 401-726-0597; hearthsidehouse.org


This 190-acre Nature Conservancy preserve at the northeast tip of Block Island feels like the end of the world, with landscapes as wildly majestic as any you’ll find on the New England coast. Hike along the near-deserted beach or atop soaring clay bluffs, then wander the serpentine network of inland-reaching spur trails known as the Maze. Come autumn, the dense, undisturbed vegetation provides respite for migrating songbirds. Corn Neck Road, Block Island. 401-331-7110; nature.org

PADDLING OUTFITTER: The Kayak Centre of Rhode Island

Tentative first-timer? Pro paddler? The enthusiastic team at this harborside outfitter—open year-round in the heart of timeless Wickford Village—wants everyone to explore the one third of Rhode Island that is liquid regardless of where they fall on the water sports spectrum. In addition to sales and rentals, there’s private or group kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding instruction for all levels, plus expert-led tours as adventurous as navigating coastal waters or as serene as casting gentle ripples on a pond. 9 Phillips St., Wickford. 401-295-4400; kayakcentre.com

SPECIALTY TOUR: Newport Film Tour

Sit back in comfort inside a Mercedes van, crunch popcorn, and watch more than 90 film clips as you pull up alongside Newport shooting locations that have graced the silver screen. Filmmakers “view the town as one big set,” says Tammy Fasano, who debuted this superbly researched tour in 2016. A must for movie buffs and anyone who’s been there, done that in Newport, the tour helps you appreciate classics like High Society, True Lies, and Amistad anew; see where celebs like Robert Redford stay; hear how a movie stunt sullied a couple’s wedding; and learn what happens when you don’t cooperate with Steven Spielberg. Departs from 23 America’s Cup Ave., Newport. 401-592-8687; newportfilmandcelebritytour.com

STATE PARK: Lincoln Woods State Park

Lake swimming, fishing, hiking, paddling—more than a century after Rhode Island’s oldest state park was created, visitors still enjoy nostalgic outdoor activities here. The fastest ticket back to 1909 is a horseback trail ride along the park’s half-dozen miles of bridle paths. Sunset Stables offers hourlong outings daily June through September and on weekends year-round. As unlikely as it sounds, the park’s biggest attraction was deposited by glaciers, as giant erratics with names like Heart of Glass and the Wave make this one of New England’s hottest spots for bouldering. 2 Manchester Print Works Road, Lincoln. 401-723-7892; riparks.com

VINEYARD: Nickle Creek Vineyard

By day, he works in R&D at Pfizer. But by morning, night, and weekend, Steve O’Connor tends vines and crafts traditional and experimental grape and fruit wines that are so in demand, some are instant sellouts. From an unlikely start—his parents gave him a wine kit “as a joke” when he turned 21—he’s transformed passion into a family enterprise. It was sons Nicholas and Kyle, for whom this Foster-based winery was named in 2012, who first suggested fruit wines like smooth Summer Blueberry, which marries just-harvested Massachusetts blueberries and shiraz. Your first two tastings are complimentary; the winemaker’s favorite, pinot noir with a spicy kick, is a must. 12 King Road, Foster. 401-369-3694; nicklecreekvineyard.com



ADVENTURE LODGING: Maxwell Mays Cottage

“When I am holding a brush, I own the world. Little by little, I find I can invite you in too,” wrote Providence-born painter Maxwell Mays in an artist’s statement. Eight years after his death, you’re invited to leap into Mays’s favorite landscape à la Mary Poppins. Mays gifted his cherished 300-acre Coventry farm to the Rhode Island Audubon Society, which has made the property’s two-bedroom fieldstone guest cottage available to rent. From your base in the midst of what is now the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge, you can bird-watch, hike, paddle Carr’s Pond in provided canoes, sip coffee on the screened porch, and relish the solitude. 2082 Victory Hwy., Coventry. 401-949-5454; asri.org/services

Budget B&B: The Henry Collins Inn

In a Play-Doh-blue 19th-century Italianate building that was once a print shop, you’ll find five spacious rooms that are remarkably wallet-friendly by Newport standards. Sure, the frilly pillows, busy wallpaper, and tiny TVs scream “Grandma’s house.” But when guests pause to tap out their thoughts on the antique Olivetti typewriter in the lobby, they rave about home-baked breakfast pies and this pet-friendly inn’s out-of-the-way yet convenient location. 12 Collins St., Newport. 401-848-0708; henrycollinsinn.com

CITY B&B: Christopher Dodge House

Built in 1858, this Providence mansion strikes the right balance for guests who appreciate the individuality of a bed-and-breakfast yet crave privacy. Its elegant architectural details are complemented by handcrafted reproduction furnishings; its sun-splashed dining room is an inviting place to linger over locally roasted Borealis coffee and cooked-to-order selections such as waffles topped with fresh fruit. Upgrade to a “prime” room for more space, a gas fireplace, and midnight-snacking convenience: These bedchambers share a floor with the common room, which is stocked round the clock with home-baked pastries. 11 W. Park St., Providence. 401-351-6111; providence-hotel.com

CITY HOTEL: Hotel Dolce Villa

This 24-room hotel on Providence’s historic Federal Hill has been smartly refurbished in a way that’s equal parts South Beach and quaint old Italian neighborhood. Bursts of citrus color accent the clean, bright rooms, which include popular balconied suites overlooking DePasquale Square’s lively cafés and glittering fountain. That’s Sophia Loren in pop art portraits behind the check-in desk and on stairway walls (Miami artist Ariel Cruz, who studied at RISD, was enlisted to paint the legendary actress). The best perk? The 20 percent you’ll save at sister restaurants Biergarten, Blend, and Caffé Dolce Vita. 63 DePasquale Ave., Providence. 401-383-7031; dolcevillari.com

FAMILY LODGING: Newport Beach Hotel & Suites

When you’re bringing a posse of little ones to the beach, you want a spacious room that’s steps from the sand … and an indoor pool as your rainy-day backup plan. This clean, comfy hotel across the street from Newport’s largest public beach delivers. Choose a one- or two-bedroom suite and you’ll have a full kitchen (so you can save on dining out) plus a whirlpool tub to soothe you after a day of wrangling munchkins. 1 Wave Ave., Middletown. 401-846-0310; newportbeachhotelandsuites.com

HISTORIC INN: The Old Court Bed & Breakfast

If you want to wake up in the middle of Providence’s “mile of history,” you have essentially two options: shell out more than $1 million to buy your very own antique home on cobblestoned Benefit Street, or reserve one of the 10 rooms at this back-in-time bed-and-breakfast. Built in 1863 as a rectory, the Old Court features high ceilings and bold wall­papers, Victorian-era furnishings, and marble mantelpieces, all evoking the grace of an era when no one wondered whether an inn had wireless Internet (this one does). Expect indulgent breakfast offerings like Portuguese sweet bread French toast, and snag some warm-from-the-oven cookies as you head out the door to explore. 144 Benefit St., Providence. 401-751-2002; oldcourt.com


From the team that made Crazy Burger a sensation, this Narragansett inn’s dual identity satisfies travelers who want to dine and rest within a stone’s throw of the beach. Reserve one of six comfy, coastal-themed rooms via phone or Airbnb, and you’ll have a front door key to come and go as you please. You won’t have far to venture for the dinner of your dreams: Thoughtfully composed with options for all diets, from paleo to vegan, the bistro’s menu showcases just-caught and just-picked ingredients in dishes such as gluten-free calamari and fried Baffoni’s chicken atop locally foraged wild mushroom ragout. 83 Narragansett Ave., Narragansett. 401-284-3535; thebedandbistro.com

ISLAND INN: Hotel Manisses

When merely escaping to an island isn’t enough, the calming aura and polished service at this Block Island favorite can offer that extra little leap away from reality. An intensive interior makeover completed by new owners in 2016 has given the Victorian landmark’s 17 rooms and restaurant fresh, posh appeal. There’s little that past guests will recognize, as the decor has been entirely redone in soothing shades of ivory, gold, and dove blue. But at least one beloved tradition survives: the bar’s signature flaming coffee. 251 Spring St., Block Island. 401-466-9898; hotelmanisses.com

LUXURY ESCAPE: The Chanler at Cliff Walk

With rooms and villas evocatively furnished to transport guests to distant eras and places, plus exclusive amenities like butler-drawn aromatherapy baths, in-room spa services, and ocean-view fine dining, this Newport mansion turned boutique hotel has always overdelivered. Last year, the Chanler added New England’s only fleet of Tokyobikes to its lineup of enticements. Specifically engineered by a small Japanese startup for leisurely city touring, they’re free for guests who want to pedal to area shops, restaurants, and sights with stylish ease. 117 Memorial Blvd., Newport. 401-847-1300; thechanler.com

Best of Rhode Island
Try the Lobster Chow Mein at Evelyn’s Drive In | Best of Rhode Island
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker


BAKERY: North Bakery

Morning highlights at this Providence hot spot include cinnamon knots and pork belly breakfast sandwiches, along with rich French hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows. At lunch, grab one of the signature hand pies, wrapped in a flaky crust, just $5 a pop. The dinner menu (plus cocktails!) emerges Thursday to Sunday, when hours stretch to 11 p.m. And then there are the cakes, which are works of art done in red velvet, caramel apple, and other flavors. A sure sign of success: The bakery recently opened a satellite location at 2 Kennedy Plaza, open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 70 Battey St., Providence. 401-421-4062; northbakery.com

BREWERY: Foolproof Brewing

These Pawtucket beer geniuses first made a splash with the India pale ale Backyahd. Since then, they’ve collaborated with oyster farmers, a chef, and even a confectioner to create beers brimming with local flavor. Among the pitch-perfect results: Shuckolate, Peanut Butter Raincloud, and Federal Hill Ale. 241 Grotto Ave., Pawtucket. 401-721-5970; foolproofbrewing.com

BRUNCH: Nick’s on Broadway

Chef-owner Derek Wagner grows tomatoes on his roof, makes pesto from local pumpkin seeds, and buys regularly from area farmers and fishermen. It’s a devotion to seasonal, local food that you can taste throughout his brunch menu, where standouts have included a frittata of wilted greens, butternut squash, red onions, and Narragansett Creamery feta, and black beans with eggs, salsa, and avocados served with grilled pesto bread. 500 Broadway, Providence. 401-421-0286; nicksonbroadway.com


There haven’t been that many updates to the decor at this Central Falls hole-in-the-wall, which has been serving up burgers since 1932, but that only adds to the charm. Service is fast and cheery, and the place has a jukebox that plays songs from Darlene Love to disco. The shakes are rich; the fries, never greasy. As for the star attraction, the $1.99 Stanleyburger, it may look like nothing fancy but it tastes like the best burger you remember from childhood. No decadent sauces, fried eggs, or trendy greens—just meat from a grill seasoned over the decades. 535 Dexter St., Central Falls. 401-726-9689; stanleyshamburgers.com

CHOCOLATE: Sweenor’s Chocolates

The rich, sweet aroma hits you as soon as you walk in the door, as intoxicating as the visual smorgasbord of all that chocolate: truffles, turtles, filled chocolates, chocolate sea salt caramels, white bark, dark chocolate–covered cranberries, and more. Once you’ve recovered your equilibrium (and made your own selections), you can do a little gift-shopping among Rhode Island–themed novelties like chocolate lobsters and quahogs, beautifully presented in bags or boxes. All chocolate here is made by hand, with no preservatives. 43 Hillside Road, Cranston, 401-942-2720; 21 Charles St., Wakefield, 401-783-4433; sweenorschocolates.com

CLAM SHACK: Evelyn’s Drive-in

On a summer day, taking a seat by the water for perfectly seasoned and fried clam cakes feels like a little bit of heaven. Nowhere is this truer than at Evelyn’s, a postcard New England clam shack that sits on Nanaquaket Pond in Tiverton. Clam strips and clam cakes are the menu’s A-listers, but don’t overlook the other delicious seafood options (try the lobster chow mein). Classic ice cream shakes round out the experience. 2335 Main Road, Tiverton. 401-624-3100; evelynsdrivein.com


Given the can’t-miss components of intimate, arty space and clever cocktails, it’s no surprise that this Providence watering hole draws an enthusiastic crowd of tipplers. Less expected is what’s going on in the kitchen, which turns out plates that transcend the “bar food” label. Deciding on one of the delicious nibbles—charcuterie, sliders, po’ boys, et. al—is almost as difficult as choosing from the menu of classic cocktails punched up with modern flavors (think: a Negroni with pineapple-infused gin and lime bitters). 95 Eddy St., Providence. 401-831-3339; eddybar.com


A six-time James Beard Award nominee for best chef in the Northeast, Champe Speidel changes his menu based on what’s at the farms. A meal might include New England lamb rillettes, beignets made with local greens, and corn bisque, or a spectacular bowl of homemade pasta with sweet peas and lobster. And the desserts, which have included native strawberries with yogurt and vanilla panna cotta, are not to be missed. 99 Hope St., Providence. 401-432-7422; persimmonri.com


Sure, you’ll be pulling up a seat on a folding chair in a room that was new in the ’70s, but who cares? In its setup at a Cranston VFW post, Ralph’s offers a top-notch Italian menu of nine types of pasta served with a choice of four sauces (marinara, meat, pink vodka, and alfredo). Italian dishes with meat are in abundance too, from veal Marsala and saltimbocca to chicken Capri, plus plates of scallops and scrod. 1418 Plainfield St., Cranston. 401-464-4440; ralphscatering.com/restaurant

ICE CREAM: The Sweet Spot

It’s an unbeatable combination: creamy ice cream with bright flavors and an equally divine view from a patio with picnic tables right on the water. At this Narragansett scoop shop, you can watch the fishing boats and the Block Island ferry cruise by as you dig into any of the tart, fresh berry flavors or perhaps the chocolate fudge brownie, made with generous hunks of the star ingredient. Feeling adventurous? Order the Dirty Grasshopper, made with coffee, mint, and Oreos. As a bonus, this real-deal ice cream parlor is also a breakfast and pastry shop (try the ice cream–filled cannoli). 256 Great Island Road, Narragansett. 401-782-1646

LOBSTER ROLL: Weekapaug Inn

The setting—on a rolling lawn alongside Quonochontaug Pond in Westerly—only enhances what is already a first-class lobster roll–eating experience. As you listen to the sounds of the nearby ocean and watch the purple martins flit in and out of their birdhouse, you dive into lobster salad made with Meyer lemon crème fraîche and served on a toasted roll with butter lettuce. Even better, each comes topped with a heap of onion strings. 25 Spray Rock Road, Westerly. 401-322-0301; weekapauginn.com/dining/lawn

PIZZA: Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza

Everything about Napolitano’s is delightful, from its outgoing owner-chef, Christie Flanagan, a New York sports fan in enemy territory, to its garlic knots, excellent fish and chips, and—most of all—delicious pizza. The thin homemade crust is tender-crispy and cooked to a delectable golden color. The sauce is bright and nonacidic; the mozzarella, flawlessly creamy. The pizza Margherita, topped with sweet tomatoes and julienned basil leaves, never disappoints. 100 East St., Cranston, 401-383-7722; 380 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-273-2400; napolitanosbrooklynpizza.com

ROOFTOP DINING: The Rooftop at the G

City dining and drinking doesn’t get better than this. The Rooftop rocks in the summer with fire pits and music and, thanks to its enclosed glass space, offers views of Providence and a cozy evening beneath the stars year-round. There’s a raw bar, imaginative cocktails (like a spritzer that comes with a frozen sparkling-wine-and-fruit pop), and pizza, including one made with native clams called the Chowdah. 100 Dorrance St., Providence. 401-632-4904; rooftopattheg.com

SAUSAGE: The Wurst Kitchen

Matthew Gennuso introduced his savory homemade sausages via a food truck before opening the Wurst Kitchen in a corner of Chez Pascal, his restaurant on Providence’s East Side. Favorites include knackwurst (smoked pork seasoned with coriander and black pepper), weisswurst (pork mixed with lemon zest and wheat beer), and duck and cognac (duck confit flavored with garlic, onions, and cognac). Just as good are the house-made relishes, like sweet pepper and Peppadew-pineapple. 960 Hope St., Providence. 401-421-4422; chez-pascal.com

Best New England Summer Events in 2017
Best of New England | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards