Go See the Brown Bears Play Soccer. Yep, that's me in my younger more hair on the head days :-) During my high school days I played in developmental teams for the youth national team and had a call up before the team disbanded and was reconstituted. My senior year in high school, I was recruited by the national champions and lots of contenders for the title. I chose Brown U who had a decent, but more modest team. Why? Because I loved the school. I don't regret that decision one bit and would do it again.
Brown University and RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) are both highly regarded universities. If you travel to Providence, it is well worth visiting both campuses. They are beautiful. Brown dates from the 1760's and is quite nice. At both places you can see great performances, music shows, art shows, films, sports events etc. The student life is pretty good if you're around that age.
I, am no longer that age, ha ha.
Although this physical site is not connected to Roger Williams, this small office has displays about Williams, the founder of RI and his life. Williams came here as a religious dissenter to establish a colony for like minded believers.
Early each December, the Classics Faculty and various Brown University luminaries convene at the First Baptist Church (the oldest Baptist church in the United States, founded by Roger Williams) for a service of lessons and carols -- all in Latin or, very rarely, in Greek. This is an exceptionally popular event so early arrival is necessary. Hot cider and cookies await the audience after the service. Definitely not to be missed at least once in a lifetime.
In 2012, the Latin Carol Service will take place at 8:00 PM on Monday, December 3.
A little history from the Brown University Classics Department website:
The first Carol Service (Dec. 14, 1948, in Alumnae Hall on the Pembroke campus), set the tone for all succeeding celebrations. Music was provided by organist John Rowe Workman of the Classics Department and a chorus, directed by William Dinneen of the Department of Music. Herbert Newell Couch, chair of the Classics Department, was master of ceremonies, a term changed the next year to Magister Equitum. There were four readings that continue to this day: Isaiah 40:1-5; 9:6-7; Vergil (fourth Eclogue); Luke 2:1-14; and John 1:1-14. Attendance in Alumnae Hall was always good, rising from an initial 300 to 400 to a reported 1,000 in 1967. In 1997, for its fiftieth anniversary, the Celebration moved to the First Baptist Church of America. In addition to Brown students and faculty, the event now attracts a large number of secondary school students.
There are numerous fine churches in the Providence area, but since I am an Episcopalian and have an affiliation with the Cathedral of St. John (which happens to be ideally situated close to the train station, the Roger Williams National Monument, and parking!) of course I am going to encourage you to come and worship with the Cathedral family.
A Rite One service of Holy Eucharist is held at 8:30 AM, and the Rite Two service (with music) is at 10:30. There is coffee "and" following each of these services in the Synod Hall, located at the ground level -- the Cathedral itself is on the second floor, so please be aware that you will need to climb some steps to get to the worship space. Take a little tour afterwards with the Dean, who will point out the Waterford chandelier, the Tiffany and LaFarge windows, and the fabulous silver crucifix and candealbra on the high altar. There is even a communion set from Bishop Samuel Seabury, dating to 1791.
The historic cemetary includes the grave of a famous British spy. See if you can find it!
Update in June 2012: the Cathedral suspended services on April 22. We are hoping that, with the arrival of new Bishop W. Nicholas Kniseley in November, it will reopen but the telephone is disconnected and there is no clergy presence.
Federal Hill, located due west of downtown Providence, is a historic and cultural center of the city. The heart of the neighborhood is on Atwells Avenue, but other areas of Federal Hill are relatively lively, including Broadway Avenue. Broadway is more famous for its huge Victorian mansions dating back to the late 1800s.
In the early 1800s, Federal Hill became home of the city's working class. The area soon began to attract Immigrants, including the Irish in the early to mid-1800s and the Italians in the early 1900s. The area eventually became one of the largest Italian populations in America.
During a recent visit, we explored a bit of Broadway and had breakfast a Julian's a local hipster joint.
Are you interested in music? Then don't miss the Providence Sound Session, which takes place in 2011 on the weekend of July 8-9. There is usually a top-quality line-up of musicians in a variety of styles. Some events are by ticket only; others are free. The full schedule is available on the website below. I highly recommend the Block Parties which take place on Westminster Street on the final night. They remind me a little of the French Quarter in NOLA.
Later note: due to financing difficulties, the 2010 Sound Session -- at least in its full weekly incarnation -- may have been the last of the Mohicans. I'll keep this tip up for another year or two just in case the festival arises like a phoenix from the ashes.
If your idea of theater is Broadway, big splashy musicals, and touring shows like Riverdance, then you'll want to visit the Providence Performing Arts Center (which we locals call Pea-Pack). They have a subscription series, but you can buy tickets for individual shows like "The Lion King", "South Pacific", "Spamalot", "Legally Blonde" and, starting in 2010, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.
PPAC began its life in 1928 as the Loew's State Theatre Movie Palace. It featured a Wurlitzer on which the organist used to accompany early films and play during the intermissions of the films shown. But the hurricanes in 1938 and 1954 did major damage, and apparently the building was nearly demolished in the 1970s.
Renovation and restoration efforts, as well as the addition of a new backstage area which for the first time permitted PPAC to bring in national touring companies of large shows like "Phantom of the Opera", have paid off handsomely -- and the efforts are really impressive. The seats are the most comfortable and spacious of any performance venue in the city. All that marble, gold leaf plasterwork, and grand proscenium are on display, and a few years ago, the massive sign was installed like a beacon drawing folks down Weybosset Street.
Ticket prices depend on the show, but they tend to be higher than those for other local theaters. Some discounts are available for seniors and students.
There is plenty of parking in the vicinity.
In the spring of 2011, a new attraction will be "opening" -- although it has existed for many years, dating back to the mid-1700s in some cases. A three-mile walk through the historic East Side of Providence features ninety "stops" including seventy-five historic sites tied to the history of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, its founding by Roger Williams as "a lively experiment" more than 300 years ago, the role it played in the slave and rum trades, the growth of the industrial revolution, and much more. A large green stripe painted on the streets and sidewalks guides the walker from point to point, and brochures explain exactly why each venue is of interest. Might I suggest that you start at the Roger Williams National Monument at the corner of Smith Street and North Main Street? While you're there, stop in at King's Chapel, founded 1722 -- now the Cathedral of St. John -- and see if you can find the grave of its founder, Gabriel Bernon.
The sloop "Providence" played a role in the Revolutionary War. In 1976, to celebrate the Bicentennial, a 110' replica was built. When it isn't standing in for the Disney productions of "Pirates of the Caribbean" it is docked at India Point Park and is available for cruising in Narragansett Bay.
Update April 2011: After nearly three years' refurbishment, the "Providence" is back, but may be in Newport or elsewhere during the Tall Ships season.
On a sultry summer day, there is nothing quite like the ride on the Looff Carousel at Crescent Park, East Providence. First of all, it is FAST -- you are going at such a clip that, even when you're leaning off your plunging horse, it isn't always easy to grasp the brass rings and pitch them into the gaping mouth of a painted clown who is the recipient of everything but the cherished golds (they merit a free ride). It has that marvelous calliope music (theoretically played on the extravagant organ situated on the side of the central mechanism), and with sixty-two horses and four chariots, there is almost never a long wait to ride. The gentlemen who operate the carousel always use their bell to kind of play along with the calliope, as well as alerting you to the impending end of the ride. But let me tell you, after a couple of dizzy trips, you'll be cooler and happier and much more childlike than you were only moments before. For seventy-five cents, I can't think of a better deal!
In the summer of 2009, Blount (a famous seafood purveyor and boat-maker) opened a new version of the Clam Shack right next to the Carousel. This is definitely worth a visit. I had to gulp at paying $20 for a lobster roll but trust me, it was LOADED with lobster meat and absolutely delicious.
This is a favorite family spot. When my boys were young, we "adopted" the eagle on top of the carousel -- meaning that we paid for the restoration, but the boys always thought it meant it was OURS and every visit required us to crane our necks to see the proud bird presiding over all the fun.
At the other end of the seniority spectrum is Providence's Black Repertory Company, which is only about a decade old. The theatrical space is interesting, with several restaurant-style booths behind a small seating area. The front of the house contains a bar and tables which abut the big plate-glass windows looking onto Westminster Street, which is becoming quite an evening mecca with interesting shops, a great restaurant (L'Epicurio, just across Freeman Park from BlackRep), Tazza for live music, etc. Most of the shows staged are by African-American authors, or feature actors of color. Some of the best shows include exceptional music -- "Lady Day" was one of my favorites. Like many other local companies, BlackRep runs from roughly October to May.
Updated December 2010: Black Rep has gone into receivership. The assets are being purchased by another arts organization, so something great will be opening at this site -- stay tuned.
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the Bay is via kayak. In the upper Bay, there aren't generally large waves, so paddling around to explore the Hurricane Barrier, the rivers where WaterFire takes place, and the little marinas around the Hot Club are all easily accomplished even by novice kayakers. Unfortunately, unless you happen to bring your own kayak along, you'll be denied the pleasure; virtually all the kayak rental firms are further south and getting back to the capitol city would be quite a lengthy paddle. I'm providing a link to the Rhode Island Tourism site which lists numerous rental agencies. See you on the water!
Every December, the City of Providence brings out Tony Lepore, its most famous police officer (now retired for almost three decades) to direct traffic at the intersection of Westminster Street and Dorrance Street, just a block or so from City Hall. Using his whistle and a lot of body English, he manages to snarl things up for blocks -- but it is the festive season, and most people are smiling and laughing at the antics. Don't miss him!
In 2010, from December 10 through December 24, Tony will be directing traffic at various Providence intersections between noon and 1:30 PM: Weybosset & Dorrance (12/10, 12/13, 12/24), Broad & Sackett (12/14, 12/15), Smith & Academy (12/16, 12/17), Thayer & Angell (12/20, 12/21), DePasquale & Atwells (12/22, 12/23). It is DEFINITELY worth a trip to see the Dancing Cop in action.
RISD has an international reputation for turning out top notch design students in architecture, textiles, silversmiths, industrial design, and much more. Only the very talented student enters programs at this school. Because of their creativity at college age..we often see outrageously dressed students with bazaar hair styles and wild jewelry wandering the streets of the east side of the city. They have their fun while at school, but they turn into top notch professionals by the time they are finished.
The RISD museum stores a collection of some of the finest furniture produced by the old artists....Goddard and such... but there are also examples of wild modern pieces which are beautifully executed by more recent students.
There are paintings by the masters, but there are displays of contemporary artists as well.
I visited the new addition to the museum with my son (from California) recently. We wanted to experience the modern architecture as it melds into the older structures which step up along college hill to end on Benefit Street where the main original entrance to the museum remains.
You can also visit the shop on the lower level entering from South Main Street near the courts building. Here you would find a selection of products made by RISD alumnai which you might recognize as items you have seen or bought in the past.
One of the hallways has an example of Dale Chihuly's spectacular blown glass chandelier which is pictured in on of my photos. His work has become immensely popular and very, very pricey. He was a student of RISD as well. See more about Chihuly at www.chihuly.com. A few of his installations are included here.