Situated in New England, the state of Rode Island is best known for its sandy shoreline, achingly pretty colonial towns and the rich sailing history of perhaps its most famous city of Newport. Dubbed the Ocean State, much of the activity here inevitably revolves around the gorgeous 400-mile stretch of coast, with families in particular drawn here by the positively endless ocean-based fun and adventure to be had
There are a huge amount of fantastic things to see and do in Rhode Island for everyone – but especially kids. If you’re planning a trip with little ones and would like to start planning an itinerary that will get you and your family brimming with excitement, we’ve picked out 10 of the best activities and attractions you can enjoy across the state.
Marvel at a kaleidoscope of kites
The colourful Newport Kite Festival has taken place every summer since 1986. Beloved by both locals and tourists, hundreds turn up every year to watch the spectacle. Breezy Brenton Point State Park in Newport is the perfect location; aided by the sea breeze, the kites dance through the air. Most of the kites on show are far from conventional and kids will enjoy spotting the most obscure, from a flying octopus to mermaids to giant teddy bears. Families can buy and fly their own kites too, with several vendors selling kites along the seafront.
LOCATION Brenton Point State Park, Newport DATES July each year
Jump aboard a luxury trolley tour
The hassle-free and engaging Newport Sightseeing Trolley Tour guarantees a fun-filled 1.5 hours for little legs. Guides provide a stream of family-focussed commentary, filled with fun facts and entertaining anecdotes as you explore Newport. The route covers more than 150 attractions along Bellevue Avenue, Cliff Walk and Ocean Drive, including Washington Square and America’s oldest synagogue. Kids will enjoy the novelty of travelling by trolley too.
Attend a fun-packed seafood festival
A mecca for seafood lovers, Rhode Island celebrates its abundance of ocean-based delicacies each year at the Rhode Island Seafood Festival. Held over two action-packed days, the family-friendly event heralds the close of summer with lashings of seafood, plus drinks galore, live stage music and family activities too, all in the heart of picturesque downtown Providence. The event is also an important platform for local business to showcase their wares, with purveyors of seafood including local restaurants joined by wine and spirits makers, crafts, goods and plenty more.
LOCATION India Point Park Playground And Mosaic Mural, Providence DATES Weekend after Labor Day every September
Explore a magical zoo
Roger Williams Park Zoo has charmed children of all ages ever since it was founded in 1872. Over 100 species live here, ranging from alpacas and bison to cheetahs, giraffes and snow leopards. There are plenty of child-friendly experiences too. For little ones, ‘Our Big Backyard’ offers mud pie building, floating boats and treehouses. Older children and young teens will enjoy getting up close and personal with the animals before it opens to the public at ‘Breakfast with the Animals’.
LOCATION 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence HOURS Thurs-Mon 10am-4pm Closed Tues-Weds
Join a mouth-watering culinary adventure
Bring your family and friends on the Taste of Rhode Island tour, one of the most fun lunch experiences you’ve ever had in one of America’s favorite foodie cities! Run by local tour company Experience Rhode Island Tours (www.experienceri.com), you’ll be taken all over the capital city on a culinary adventure as you’re introduced to Rhode Island’s most famous foods on this mouthwatering trip. As a special memento, everyone who completes this delicious experience will receive a certificate proclaiming you a true citizen of the Ocean State.
LOCATION Providence, Rhode Island DATES 1 May – 30 October 2021, 12pm – 2:30pm, Saturdays only PRICE $65/pp (includes all food)
Immerse yourselves in the wonders of the night sky
Every Friday night, the Frosty Drew Observatory opens its doors to the public for a night of planet watching and stargazing. Located on the South Coast of Rhode Island, you’ll need to travel into Ninigret Park to get there, which is a treat in itself. Kids will love hanging out with astronomers, playing with telescopes and spotting dazzling planets, bright stars and sprawling galaxies.
LOCATION Ninigret Park, 62 Park Lane, Charlestown
Experience a quintessential New England Autumn
With its pumpkin-lined fields and streets full of foliage, Rhode Island is at its most scenic in autumn – and this Experience Rhode Island Tour (www.experienceri.com) explores the best of it. The six-hour excursion winds around country roads stopping off at local landmarks along the way, and includes a traditional wagon ride. Highlights include a trip to the oldest country store in the area, a hike up to Jerimoth Hill and photos at the only covered bridge in the region. Homemade cider doughnuts are included too. Tours run on Saturdays from October 2 to October 30 in 2021. Tickets cost $75 for adults and $60 for children over 6.
Let the kids loose at an adventure park
Guaranteeing an adrenaline-filled day for all ages, Adventureland Family Fun Park is one of Rhode Island’s most popular attractions. The wet/dry fun park features a nautical-themed 18-hole mini golf course, a go-karting track and a ‘Bankshot Basketball Court’, best-described as mini golf with a basketball. Kids of all ages will enjoy jumping up to 20ft. on the Extreme Big Air Jumper. Round off the day with a choice of 14 ice cream flavours at the Carousel Pavillion, and a few games of pinball or air hockey.
LOCATION 12 Point Judith Road, Narragansett HOURS Sat-Sun 11am-5pm Closed Mon-Fri
Take your pick of fun-filled activities at a state park
Spread across 627 sprawling acres of woodland fun, Lincoln Woods State Park makes for a great day out with little ones. The park itself is more than a century old. Every year thousands visit for picnicking, boating, baseball, freshwater swimming, horseback riding and hiking. Kids will enjoy trips here in the winter too, when the Olney Pond freezes over and makes way for ice-skating and snowmobiling. ExploreRI has created a variety of high-quality trail maps, ranging from very easy 0.8 mile loops to tougher 6 mile circuits, perfect for active families.
LOCATION 2 Manchester Print Works Road, Lincoln HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-8pm
Check out a historic lighthouse
The lovingly restored Rose Island Lighthouse is part-museum, part-overnight destination. The building has kept watch over Narragansett Bay since 1870 and today it’s one of only a few lighthouses in New England that you can sleep in. Family day-trippers will find plenty to do, with the Fort Hamilton barracks, rich wildlife and pretty beach to explore. For older children, the museum provides a fascinating insight into life in a lighthouse in 1912.
LOCATION Narragansett Bay, Newport HOURS Sat-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Fri
by Paul Joseph