Archive of older cons
Near the Hotel
Roger Williams National Memorial282 North Main Street, Providence, 401-521-7266 http://www.nps.gov/rowi/ A small park a couple of blocks from the Marriott, with a visitors' center showing the early history of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. This is the only unit of the National Parks system in Rhode Island, and a good place to start to learn about our city-state.
Providence Place MallOne Providence Place, Providence, 401-270-1000 http://www.providenceplace.com/ Providence Place is an upscale mall in the heart of the city, just across the street from Providence Station and about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Anchored by Nordstrom and Macy's, Providence Place has a wide variety of restaurants and a large food court. Just above the food court is a multiplex cinema and an IMAX theater.
Riverwalk and Waterplace ParkBelow Providence Station and opposite the mall is the venue for WaterFire. We'll be missing WaterFire on Con weekend, but the recently developed waterfront is worth a stroll. The park, inspired by San Antonio's Riverwalk, was created in 1994 when the Crawford St Bridge, formerly the "world's widest bridge", was demolished and the Providence River and its tributaries, the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket, were opened up as public space.
College Hill and Fox Point
Benefit St and Fox Point historic housesAbout 50 years ago the Providence Preservation Society began its efforts to save the many old houses dating from the early 19th and even 18th century from "urban renewal". The result is Benefit Street, lined with former rooming houses, most of which have been restored to their original condition. This is one of the largest concentrations of historic houses in the country. Most of the houses are identified with plaques showing the original owner and year built. You can walk through the neighborhood on your own, or with the help of a booklet sold by the Providence Preservation Society http://www.ppsri.org/, or you can go on a tour sponsored by the Rhode Island Historical Society http://www.rihs.org/events_walking_tours.html, Tuesday through Saturday mornings at 11.
Providence Athenaeum251 Benefit St, Providence, 401-421-6970 http://www.providenceathenaeum.org/ While you're on Benefit St, don't miss the Providence Athenaeum, the fourth-oldest library in the US, which has occupied its current quarters since 1838. Edgar Allan Poe spent a month here in 1848, pursuing Sarah Helen Whitman, whom he nearly married. While here, he lived in a boarding house at 39 Planet St, on the corner of Benefit Street (the one with the curved balconies).
Rhode Island School of Design Museum224 Benefit St, Providence, 401-454-6500 http://www.risdmuseum.org/ The RISD Museum is a small but well-curated art museum, with collections representing a wide range of eras and areas of the world. The current special exhibit, "Cocktail Culture", shows artifacts of the cocktail era of the 1920s-'70s. Enter the Museum on the 1st floor from South Main St or on the 4th floor from Benefit St. Bring a copy of Geneal's walkaround puzzle! The Museum is offering NPL members a small discount on the admission price. Wear your nom tag, and bring a pencil.
Brown Universityhttp://www.brown.edu/ Located above RISD, on top of College Hill, Brown is the seventh-oldest college in the US, and will celebrate its 250th anniversary in a few years. Bring a copy of Spelvin's Brown runaround puzzle for a walking tour of the Brown campus. There are lots of good, reasonably-priced restaurants on Thayer St, the commercial hub of College Hill, and Spelvin's runaround will introduce you to most of them
Also in Providence and nearby
Roger Williams Park Zoo1000 Elmwood Ave, Providence, 401-785-3510 http://www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/ Probably the best zoo in New England and the third-oldest in the US, the Roger Williams Park Zoo includes recently renovated indoor exhibits including a rainforest environment, as well as outdoor habitats.
Slater Mill67 Roosevelt Ave, Pawtucket, 401-725-8638 http://www.slatermill.org/ On the Blackstone River in the heart of Pawtucket is the birthplace of American manufacturing. In 1789, Samuel Slater, who was well-trained as an apprentice at one of the most up-to-date cotton mills in England, learned of the interest in modern manufacturing methods in the United States. It was illegal to export textile technology, but Slater memorized the plans for his mill, took passage to America, and built his own mill on the Blackstone. At Slater Mill you can see the original buildings and some of the original machinery and replicas, and learn about the early years of American manufacturing.
Newport is less than an hour from Providence by car and about an hour by RIPTA bus, which operates once or twice an hour from Kennedy Plaza to the center of Newport. The fare, like all RIPTA fares, is just $2.00, one of the great bargains. Recommended attractions in Newport:
Newport Mansionshttp://www.newportmansions.org/ Newport was the summer destination of choice for the wealthy families of the Gilded Age, and many of the opulent mansions from that era have been restored to their original splendor and are maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County.
Cliff Walkhttp://www.cliffwalk.com/ Cliff Walk extends 3.5 miles along the top of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The northern portion of the walk is in good condition; the southern portion is more rugged and treacherous. Beware the slippery sand and the poison ivy, but with care, the views are unbeatable.
Touro Synagogue85 Touro St, Newport http://www.tourosynagogue.org/ The Jewish community of Newport began in 1658 with a group of families from the Dutch West Indies. A century later, the current synagogue building was built. The community dwindled in the early 19th century and the congregation became dormant, but the building was preserved through bequests of Touro family members. Later in the century the congregation was revived and remains active today. The Touro Synagogue is the oldest Jewish congregation in what is now the United States, and is open for tours.
There are too many attractions in Boston to name, of course, but an outing to Boston is a good way to spend a free day at Con. Follow the directions in the Travel to Convidence document in reverse to get to Boston by train, bus, or car; the entrance to I-95 northbound is opposite the hotel.
If there is one attraction in Boston not to miss, it's the Chihuly installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, 617-267-9300 http://www.mfa.org/. The MFA is walkable from Back Bay Station, or it's a short ride on the E branch of the Green Line.
Dale Chihuly, who is arguably the greatest living glass artist, spent many years in Providence, at RISD (where you can see one of his "chandeliers" in a stairwell in the RISD Museum), and now maintains his studio on the shores of Lake Union in Seattle, so he provides a neat link between ConPac and Convidence. The typical response on seeing Chihuly's work is, "You can't do that with glass!" At the MFA you can see room after room of spectacular, impressive, but most of all beautiful creations in multicolored glass. Chihuly installations on this scale only happen every few years, so this is a great opportunity.
Higgins Armory Museum100 Barber Ave, Worcester MA, 508-853-6015 http://www.higgins.org/ A display of armor from ancient Greece through the Renaissance, from Europe and Asia. The current special exhibit, Castle Quest, depicts life in a medieval castle.