20 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Providence

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the country, but ask anyone who lives there and they’ll tell you the tiny state is full of charm, history, and beautiful scenery. All that is especially true of Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, which many consider to be an under-appreciated destination for food, art, and entertainment.

If you’re thinking of moving to Providence, Rhode Island, here are 20 things you need to know before you pack your bags and head to the Ocean State.

1. Bring your car.

Unlike bigger cities such as Boston or New York, Providence is incredibly car-friendly. Most apartments and homes have driveways or parking lots, and there’s ample street parking and garages around the city.

2. The food scene is unbeatable.

You could live in Providence for years and still not experience all the amazing food it has to offer. From luxurious fine-dining establishments like birch and Capriccio to more exotic restaurants like Los Andes, there’s a never-ending list of great restaurants to try.

3. You’re 30 minutes from everything.

Providence is centrally located in Rhode Island, and because the state is so small, it’s quick and easy to get almost anywhere you need to go. If you have a car, you can make it to South County or the northern part of the state in around 30 minutes.

4. There’s lots of history.

Rhode Island was founded in 1790, so there are several centuries of history to be found in its capital. History buffs will love exploring sites like Slater Mill, which was the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in North America, or the Arcade Providence, the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall.

5. Don’t miss out on food trucks and pop-ups.

Some of Providence’s best culinary treats can’t be found in storefronts. There are several highly-rated companies, like Hometown Poké and Burgundian Waffles, that operate solely out of food trucks or simply host pop-ups around the city.

6. Beware Waterfire crowds.

Waterfire is a quintessential Providence event during the summer, but any time it’s going on, the downtown area gets extremely congested. If you’re not planning to attend Waterfire yourself, it’s best to avoid the area on those nights.

7. You can’t avoid the college kids.

For such a small city, Providence is home to a large number of colleges. There’s Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island College, Providence College, Johnson & Wales, and University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Campus. Bottom line? College kids are everywhere!

8. It’s affordable—if you know where to live.

As in any other city, rent in Providence can get expensive, especially if you’re looking at the posh apartments in the downtown area. However, outlying neighborhoods such as the East Side or Federal Hill have many affordable living spaces that are just as nice.

9. The beaches are close.

Rhode Island is home to dozens of beautiful beaches that cater to just about every demographic. Whether you’re looking for a quiet, family-friendly beach or a lively area for a younger crowd, you can find the perfect summer spot within driving distance of Providence. Be warned, though: summer traffic in South County is no joke.

10. You can’t miss the Big Blue Bug.

One of Providence’s weirder attractions is the Big Blue Bug, which you can see as you drive along Route 95. Fun fact: his name is actually Nibbles Woodaway.

11. There are museums galore.

Art enthusiasts will love Providence, as there are plenty of museums to explore on rainy days. Some of the most popular ones include the RISD Museum of Art, the Providence Children’s Museum, the Culinary Arts Museum, and the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium.

12. Outdoorsy folks will thrive.

City living seems to be inherently at odds with an outdoorsy lifestyle, but in Providence, you can have the best of both worlds. There are plenty of spacious green spaces, such as Blackstone Boulevard or the East Bay Bike Path, where you can get sunshine and fresh air without ever leaving the city.

13. You have to visit the zoo.

Roger Williams Park Zoo is a must-see attraction for adults and kids alike. With more than 150 types of animals and a beautiful carousel park, you’ll find yourself frequenting the zoo year after year. Plus, you don’t want to miss their annual Halloween display, which features thousands of stunning jack-o-lanterns.

14. Watch out for potholes.

Rhode Island is notorious for its potholes, which get especially hazardous during the winter.

15. The art scene is booming.

Providence is often considered an unsung mecca for artists. In addition to being home to the prominent Rhode Island School of Design, Providence draws all types of creators with the promise of gallery nights, affordable live/work studios (like those as AS220), and numerous art, music, and theater venues.

16. Prepare for New England weather.

If you’re moving to Providence from another part of the country, be sure to mentally (and physically) prepare for the fluctuating weather. In the winter, there are frequent storms that leave behind several feet of snow, but in the summer, you’ll be treated to beautiful 80- and 90-degree days.

17. Bikers will love it.

Not only is Providence extremely biker-friendly with many bike lanes throughout the city, but it also boasts a beautifully scenic 14-mile bike path.

18. Landlords can’t ask for first, last, AND a deposit.

In other parts of the country, landlords frequently require tenants to pay the first and last month’s rent, as well as a security deposit, upon signing a lease. However, this practice is illegal in Rhode Island. Landlords can only ask for first month’s rent and a deposit, which will save you money up front.

19. Nightlife is diverse.

Whether you’re in the mood to hit up a fancy rooftop bar or secret underground dance club, Providence has everything you could want in terms of nightlife.

20. It’s a great starter city.

If you want to try out city living in a more manageable area than Boston or New York, Providence is the perfect “starter city.” There are fewer people, less congestion, and a much more affordable cost of living.

Camryn Rabideau