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The Short Version: Founded in the 1600s, Providence, Rhode Island, is among the oldest cities in the US. The small settlement was established at the head of Narragansett Bay to be a safe haven for anyone seeking freedom and prosperity, and today the friendly community has over 179,000 diverse residents. The city’s thriving arts culture, youthful college atmosphere, and eclectic locally owned bars and restaurants give local couples and tourists plenty of wonderful options when planning a date. We’ve combed through its parks, museums, festivals, and eateries to highlight some of the best places to find romance in Providence, Rhode Island.
In the spring of 1636, Roger Williams set out from Massachusetts in search of a new life in a new home. He and his followers had been expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs, and they sought freedom from persecution.
When they founded their own settlement, Roger Williams named it Providence because he believed a divine hand had guided him and his friends to that particular place. It became their haven, a place where everyone, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds, would be welcome, and that spirit of tolerance and good will holds true to this day.
Providence may be among the oldest cities in the US, but it’s also a thriving, diverse community with over 179,000 residents. Rhode Island’s capital city is home to eight colleges and universities, including Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams Law, and Johnson & Wales University.
Christina Robbio, a spokesperson for the city, said Providence has all the perks of a big city with all the warmth of a small town. “Providence is a city currently on the rise,” she said. “We have new hotel properties in development, new science and tech firms coming in, a pedestrian bridge opening in 2019, and an incredible arts and diverse cultural scene.”
There’s so much for visitors, residents, and students to do around town. From low-key speakeasies to action-packed festivals, Providence has something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re looking to take a date out on the town, we highly recommend the following six date ideas.
Dining out is a dating staple because it’s a great way to savor your time with your sweetheart. Providence offers couples plenty of eclectic food options, so whether you’re craving Italian, Peruvian, or Asian food, you can find something to satisfy your taste buds. “We are a true foodie city with an eclectic and diverse mix of culinary offerings, which keep the dating scene very exciting,” Christina said.
Los Andes is a wonderful place to spice up your date nights with authentic South American cuisine. The menu includes Peruvian and Bolivian fusion dishes that are both visually stunning and delicious.
Less adventurous eaters can always go to Nick’s on Broadway for some classic American fare paired with wine, beer, and spirits. The restaurant and bar focuses on quality over quantity so it won’t take daters to read through the menu and find a tempting meal.
The Dorrance is perfect for anniversaries and special occasions because of its elegant atmosphere and upscale menu. The restaurant is known for its hand-crafted cocktails, fresh seafood, and annual pie challenge (a charity event that includes live performances and pieing people in the face).
Other romantic restaurants in Providence include Oberlin, Ten, Circe, Bacaro, New Rivers, Café Nuovo, Siena, and Chez Pascal. These local favorites provide sweet and savory bites in a welcoming date-friendly atmosphere.
Got a big appetite? Then you might want to consider booking two tickets for the Rhode Island Food Tour, a three-hour walking tour of the best locally owned and operated eateries in Providence. The tour gives daters the opportunity to sample different dishes in the downtown area and maybe discover a new go-to date spot.
“I would recommend this tour to both locals and tourists alike,” said Joseph, who recently moved to town with his wife. “We were a mix of both, and we absolutely loved it!”
Couples in Providence don’t have to go far to find romance — in fact, they can just walk and see what they come up. The city is very walkable, and so daters can be a little spontaneous and discover a historic home, coffee shop, or park on their own. Every neighborhood has a different feel, and Providence offers an online neighborhood guide to help newcomers get their bearings.
You can walk through Federal Hill, which is known as Providence’s Little Italy, to find a place where you can get drinks or enjoy a slice of cheesy pizza. If you find yourself on Westminster Street, you can make a stop to the Westminster Arcade, the oldest indoor mall in the US, and do some window shopping. Providence has many sightseeing opportunities along its quaint cobblestone paths. You can walk hand in hand along Providence River before stopping by a local park for a picnic lunch.
“It is a unique experience,” Christina said, “in the sense we have all the offerings of a bigger city, but the walkability and friendliness of a mid-size city.”
Not sure where to go? Just ask. Providence residents are always willing to help newcomers get their bearings and feel at home here. The city was founded to accept all outcasts
“The people of Providence are extremely friendly and outgoing,” Christina told us. “If a couple was to sit down anywhere there would be a new friend nearby telling them all their favorites in the city.”
Because it’s a college town, Providence has a lot of young people looking for an affordable and fun place to let off some steam in between exams. The median age in Providence is 29 years old, which is significantly lower than the median age for Rhode Island as a whole, which is 40 years old.
“We are a young city, and our nightlife scene is full of cool spots to grab a cocktail,” Christina said. “Our rooptop bar, Rooftop at the G, was just named by US News as one of the top in the world.”
Rooftop at the Providence G provides an upscale and intimate atmosphere for a date. Its signature cocktails may be a bit a pricey, but these original drinks, from the Fig Fusion to Cool Rummings, make great conversation starters. Other hip bars in Providence include The Eddy, Dorrance Troop, Courtland Club, and Venda Bar.
Thayer Street is typically teeming with Brown students and has many coffee shops and bars perfect for a casual first date. The Grad Center Bar (also known as the GCB) is a popular hangout because of its cheap beer and hipster vibes, and Blue State Coffee down the street is known for its high-quality drinks and progressive values. “College kids rule here,” said Karen H. in a review of Thayer Street. “Lots of food, cocktails, coffee, and shopping.”
There’s something for everyone in Providence. If you and your significant other prefer craft beers over signature cocktails, you can always hop on the Rhode Island Brew Bus to take a tour of the best breweries in the state.
It only takes about an hour to travel from one end of Rhode Island to the other, so you can get to a coastal area in no time. The beach is just a bus ride or ferry ride away for Providence residents and visitors. In the warmer months, couples often grab some towels, put on sunscreen, and head to Narragansett Bay or Westerly Beach.
Providence also offers a lot of fun activities on the water. You and your date can go kayaking or paddleboating through the Providence River. Or you can take an authentic Venetian gondola ride (available April through November) if you want to really kick up the romance on the water.
La Gondola has a fleet of beautifully crafted gondolas helmed by knowledgeable gondoliers who can provide information about the city and sing a traditional Italian serenade, upon request. Tours generally last about 40 minutes. To top it off, the company also serves complementary Italian cookies along the ride.
Roger Williams Park, named after the city’s founder, offers leisurely swan boat rides as well as a carousel village, a zoo, botanical gardens, ball fields, a bike park, and a planetarium to keep people engaged throughout the day.
Whether you’re taking a scenic ferry ride to Newport or exploring the river on a paddleboat, you can make a splash on your next daytime date by taking advantage of Providence’s many waterways.
Any conversation about Providence’s local events has to start with WaterFire, an artistic nighttime display of man’s mastery of the elements. Hundreds of braziers are lit up and set afloat to the astonishment and wonder of onlookers. WaterFire is a beloved Rhode Island tradition organized by a local nonprofit on a mission “to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement, and creatively transforming the city.”
Every year, from May to October, Providence lights up a series of bonfires on the three rivers running through the downtown area. The shows take place on Saturdays and draw tens of thousands of people looking for a unique experience in the city. “It’s uber romantic,” Christina told us, “and the event is free.”
India Point Park, located in the Fox Point neighborhood, is known for hosting fun community events throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in cultural fairs or food truck festivals, you always find something to do here. Come watch the fireworks during the Fourth of July, or share a cold one at the Craft Beer Festival.
“The park itself is a great location for community get-togethers,” said Alexandra C. in a Yelp review of India Point Park. “Plenty of green space, a walking path, ocean views.”
The annual tree lighting tradition at Providence City Hall generally attracts a crowd of couples and families on the first weekend in December. The evening event includes live performances by elementary school choirs, ballet dancers, figure skaters, and other talented groups. It’s a perfect time to pack a mug of hot chocolate and welcome the holiday season with that special someone.
The twinkling lights and charming holiday decor can set a romantic mood for couples in Providence during the month of December. Visiting a skating rink or playing ice bumper cars would also make fantastic wintertime date activities.
Nicknamed the Creative Capital, Providence is proud of its vibrant and flourishing arts scene. The Rhode Island School of Design Museum is a particular hot spot for artsy individuals. The museum showcases over 100,000 objects, including ancient artifacts, costumes, textiles, decorative arts, paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and contemporary art. Admission is free on Sundays and on every third Thursday of the month.
Throughout the year, the museum holds special exhibitions that feature the works of unique arts from around the world. These exhibits offers daters a great opportunity to visit the museum and discuss their views about thought-provoking pieces.
“This is such an amazing museum,” raved Christine S. in a Yelp review. “A nice place for a date if you’re into deeper, more intellectual date nights.”
You can also carve out some quiet time with your date by visiting a historic site in Providence. Built in 1865, the Lippitt House Museum is the only Victorian-style mansion in the city. Couples often rent space in the Lippitt House Museum for wedding ceremonies, receptions, and engagement photo sessions. The museum can host up to 125 people standing and 60 people seated for private events.
The John Brown House Museum on College Hill offers hour-long walking tours of the first mansion built in the city. Couples visiting restored rooms often feel like they’re stepping back through time into the 18th century. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free for Rhode Island Historical Society members.
Providence is the largest city in the smallest state in the US. It’s a college town. It’s a tight-knit community. It’s an beehive of industry. And it’s a safe haven for anyone looking for a place to call home.
Since its founded in the early 17th century, Providence has welcomed all people without judgment. In this tolerant city, outcasts, immigrants, travelers, students, and residents of all backgrounds can live in harmony and find belonging. From its world-renowned educational institutions to its beautiful bayside views, the community has a lot to offer singles and couples. Whether you live in the city or are visiting for a weekend, you can use our list of date ideas to create romantic memories in Providence.
“Providence is a great place to plan a romantic getaway,” Christina said. “You don’t need a car, and there are plenty of places to cozy up.”