It has been a looong spring. A couple of times recently I described the past few months as “imagine planning your wedding while holding down four jobs, solo parenting and managing a house.” Yeah, like that. Glenn’s job has been keeping him on the road and I’ve been juggling trip planning, blogging, podcasting, and consulting — all while planning Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah. There were a few near meltdowns, but we survived, the day was amazing, and afterward I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the honeymoon. I mean, if you plan a wedding, you get a honeymoon after, right? So where’s my mitzvah-moon? Luckily I didn’t have to wait long because the Hilton Garden Inn offered me just what I needed — a girls weekend getaway to Providence, Rhode Island.
It may not have been far, or involve any swaying palm trees like I had dreamed about, but it offered a chance to get together with a good friend and really talk. I get so burnt out on social media and I just yearn to have live conversations and know what is really going on in someone’s life and not just the happy bits. That never seems to happen with those quick bits of conversation that you fit in while dropping off, picking up, or waving hello in passing. I was in need of some QUALITY girl time, and luckily my friend Michelle felt the same.
We may have been fine sitting at a bar for hours (oh wait, we did that too); but we are also both explorers, readers, and doers. Our girlfriend getaway called for a little more than slowly sipping adult beverages; we were after a little culture and activity too. Luckily, Providence has plenty to offer.
Often overlooked when traveling between New York and Boston, Providence has recently been coming into its own as a great destination for a weekend getaway. We’ve got great food from all those Johnson and Wales grads, the academic community from Brown, and the creative flair from Rhode Island School of Design. Plus history, bike paths, food trucks, river sports, shopping and more. What more can you want for a girls weekend destination?
Let’s Start with Culture: A Girls Weekend Getaway in PVD
We had to start with culture before cocktails or we may not have made it much further. Since there was a new Impressionist exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, that is where we headed first. But not before walking through a fun block party with live music and rolled out sod turf because I guess that’s how they party in the Ivy Leagues (sure didn’t where I went to college.) But that is Providence, as soon as it warms up, something fun is always going on. From Waterfire to PVDFest to the Providence Honk Festival and goings on at the Steelyard, the city is hopping.
Even though the RISD Museum is small, they have an impressive and diverse collection. From furniture to fashion, Impressionists to Chiluly, the range of arts is fully represented. It can be a fun afternoon losing yourself within its walls of interconnected buildings and corridors. My favorite spot is still in the room with the large Buddha.
After a brisk walk through town back to our lodging at the Hilton Garden Inn on the riverside, we were ready to move on to the cocktail portion of the trip.
A Warm Welcome at the Hilton Garden Inn Providence
Through my travels I’ve gotten used to walking into a Hilton Garden Inn and knowing exactly what it would look like. The Providence Hilton Garden Inn was a surprise. They still had some of the comforts that I love — fruit-infused water, coffee and tea in the lobby and a hearty breakfast buffet (who can resist those make-your-own waffles.) But instead of the standard fireplace on the left and restaurant on the right, this was set up to take advantage of the views of the river, where you can watch the crew teams practice rowing in the mornings.
To start, the bar area is large and airy and much more appealing than the pre-functionary bar for the business traveler. The food was pretty good too (try the potstickers!) While the location may not be in the very heart of the city, it also isn’t in the suburban sprawl where you might find the standard HGI. The setting on the river is actually a perfect way to get the city access with a view. Right across the street you can find India Point Park, running trails, and even jump on the bike path, which continues along the water for another 12-15 miles. In summer, you can even catch the ferry nearby and head down to Newport without dealing with beach or bridge traffic. If you don’t want to walk, there is also a free shuttle in the evenings to drop you off and pick you up.
Moving on to Cocktails
If you are in Providence when it is warm, you head up to the Rooftop at Providence G. If you don’t like too much of a party/club scene, you go early when you can enjoy the skyline view, sip a cocktail in the sun, and enjoy the sunset. This is a great place to share some small plates like a oysters, truffle popcorn, and maybe some calamari (a Rhode Island specialty.) Later on, the music gets louder and the bouncers outnumber the servers, so if that is your scene, go for it, but for me it is time to move on to somewhere a bit more chill.
Some of my favorite spots for a drink in downtown Providence include the Eddy, Malt & Barley, or the Magdalenae Room at the Dean Hotel. Those looked crowded, so we headed over to a quiet table at the cool but unassuming Rosendale to finish our night.
Time to Hit the Water
As many times as I’ve walked along the river front in Providence, the only time I’ve actually been on the river was during a gondola ride during Waterfire. It actually never dawned on me that you might take a boat tour at any time except Waterfire, so I was surprised to learn that those sailings are actually just a small portion of Providence Riverboat Company’s business.
But now that I’ve taken one of their tours, I would encourage everyone to give it a try. First of all, I’m always happy when I’m out on the water. But more than that, the Captain gives such a great overview of Providence’s history and the history of the rivers, that it really should be a must do for visitors and residents alike.
Soon there will be even more ways to get out on the water as the people behind Providence Riverboat Company and La Gondola have teamed up to offer kayaking tours and rentals starting this summer.
Fueling up one more time
Since the Providence Riverboat Company tours leave from the docks right next to the Hot Club, Sunday afternoon is the perfect time for a tour because when you come back, you’ll be in the midst of Food Truck Sunday Funday. This may be just a small sampling of the many delicious food trucks that roam the streets of Providence, but there is plenty to enjoy. And when the weather is fine, you can enjoy the live music and the outdoor patio at the Hot Club.
But all good things come to and end, even this giant container of fries. But once again, Providence showed me her better side and I fell in love with this city’s spunk one more time. I was able to leave recharged, reconnected, and ready to tackle the next couple of months before the lazy days of summer really kick in.
- Check rates and reviews at the Providence Hilton Garden Inn
- Get other ideas on what to do in Providence
- Be sure to try these must-try Rhode Island foods
- Find out my favorite Rhode Island restaurants