WaterFire lights up the summer night in Providence.
Photo Credit : WaterFire Providence
EDITORS’ NOTE: The nation is still dealing with COVID-19 at the time of this post, meaning it’s not known whether the 2020 dates for these events are confirmed. We’re hoping for the best, but please check with organizers before making your summer travel plans!
From a world-class regatta to a feast of Greek home cooking, our list of the top 10 Rhode Island summer events has something for everyone. Read on to see our picks, then tell us about your own favorite Rhode Island summer events in the comments!
On select dates during the warmer months, as many as 80 small bonfires are set ablaze along Providence’s three rivers, creating a free, one-of-a-kind light show that lasts from just after sunset until about 12:30 a.m. The lightings are often accompanied by outdoor concerts, street dancing, and other entertainment. WaterFire, which has been called “a Rhode Island treasure,” is said to lure some 1 million visitors to downtown every year, making it one of the most popular Rhode Island summer events.
SEE MORE: What to Do in Providence, RI | Best Attractions, Restaurants & Hotels
One of Newport’s most spectacular Gilded Age mansions, Rosecliff, plays host to this annual celebration of all things horticultural, including garden displays designed around a changing theme. Enjoy demonstrations, a marketplace, a champagne-and-jazz brunch, and more. SEE MORE:Exploring the Newport Mansions
Foodies can look forward to two weeks of special deals at some of the city’s hottest eateries as well as many longtime favorites during Providence Restaurant Week. Nearly 100 restaurants are expected to take part, offering three-course lunches for about $17 and three-course dinners for about $30 to $35, as well as two-for-one specials.
Bristol might just hold the record for having both the longest-running and the longest Fourth of July celebration: The first was held back in 1785, and it has evolved through the years to become a two-week patriotic marathon. While there’s lots of fun to be had in the days leading up the Fourth (a concert series, a beauty pageant, a carnival), things really heat up on July 3–4, with a parade, a drum and bugle corps competition, and — of course — fireworks.
This classic New England event actually combines a number of attractions. On Friday is a 10-mile road race that winds its way through scenic Narragansett before ending up at the Towers, next to Veterans Memorial Park — which happens to be the venue for a major three-day seafood festival that includes live music and fun kids’ activities. On Saturday, a colorful parade of watercraft large and small gathers in the Port of Galilee to be blessed by local clergy and vie for prizes.
SEE MORE:Narragansett, Rhode Island | Could You Live Here?
Tickets for this landmark music festival sell out fast (it’s worth checking out the official fan ticket exchange to see if you can nab a spot if so). Look for big names like Randy Newman and Drive-By Truckers to take the stage at one of the biggest Rhode Island summer events. Expect performances on four stages, plus food and craft vendors and beer and wine gardens.
This popular film festival regularly showcases more than 250 films — many of which are world or North American premieres — at various venues around the state. Highlights in recent years have included a film scavenger hunt, dinner-and-a-movie screenings, outdoor screenings, the Rhode Island Film Forum, workshops, and a celebration of kids’ films.
Offering a mix of music, rides, and agricultural displays, the largest fair in Rhode Island returns to delight all ages. Look for big-name music headliners plus New England’s largest traveling roller coaster to anchor the giant midway. Factor in animal shows, grange and 4H exhibits, crafts, children’s games, and tractor and horse pulls, and you’ve got a celebration well worth the drive.
More than 90 years strong, this cultural celebration at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church features Greek pastries and cuisine (think: 900 pounds of lamb and 4,000 stuffed grape leaves), as well as dancers performing traditional and modern Greek dances, an indoor-outdoor marketplace, a café, and activities for children. This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.