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Providence is a small city, but has many interesting neighborhoods.
Downtown has been rejuvenated in the past decade and is now well worth a visit. The opportunites for shopping downdown have really expanded and there are many interesting restaurants to try out. In summer months, check out Water Fire, a fascinating performance art and musical display that takes place on the city's central canal. There are also outdoor concerts downtown in summertime.
College Hill is home to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as well as Thayer Street , one of the more interesting shopping areas in the city. Brown's campus is well worth exploring, with a great mix of architecture and many interesting events happeing at any given time. Meeting Street boasts an interesting mix of independent retailers, though also includes a growing number of chains like the Gap and Starbucks. Benefit Street is another worthwhile destination on College Hill, boasting numerous meticulously preserved colonial homes.
The East Side hosts lovely older homes. This is the setting of the home for the Characters of the TV show Providence which brought the city fame in the 1990s. Blackstone Boulevard is especially impressive. It sounds a little creepy, but the Swan Point Cemetery is absolutely lovely, and a nice place to take a walk. It si filled with beautiful trees and flowers - more like an arboretum.
Federal Hill is home to a number of fine Italian restaurants. Many a happy night can be spent there.
The East Side is a great place to spend the day exploring all the streets to see the amazing houses built ranging from the 1600's to the 1900's. You can start by walking down South Main street, a nice street with charming 18th and 19th century architecture. It is filled with boutiques, coffee shops and even a wonderful alternative movie house which shows all the latest 'unhollywood' movies. They have a great cafe in their lobby and you watch the latest art house cinema sitting not in theater seats, but couches!! Yes couches! The cinema has couches not conventional theater seats! Has to be seen to be believed!
Continue walking up South Main and take a left on either Power or Williams St. Strolling these streets you will pass the most exquisite 18th and 19th century mansions, all kept up beautifully. Each house has a sign which tells you the name of the person who built the house and what year it was built. Many of the names of early Amercans were biblical, and not used today so the just reading these names is an experience in going back in time! When you come to Benefit Street take a left or right and walk down this street. I'd say this is the most varied and well preserved historical neighborhood in the country. These stately mansions lining this street from colonial to the 19th century represent american residential architecture at it's best. It is like a entering a neighborhood from a history book!! The Rhode Island Historical Society offers walking tours. This is a must do!!