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Skyline of Downtown Providence RI from the Providence river with blue sky and clouds

16 Things to Know About Living in Providence

Moving to Providence? The capital of Rhode Island might seem like a little city in the smallest U.S. state, but it has big offerings! With interesting local history, a growing job market, affordable housing, and tons of fun things to do, you’ll love living in Providence. Check out these 16 things to know before moving!

An Affordable Place to Live on the East Coast

Providence RI from a drone skyline with Providence River in view photo by Instagram user @hankvzn

Photo via @hankvzn

The Renaissance City is one of the best places to live on the East Coast, partly due to the city’s affordability—Providence’s cost of living is 8% lower than Rhode Island’s. The capital’s real estate prices come in at 27% lower than the state average, as well, and a further 6% lower than the national average. With a similar vibe but much more affordable living in comparison to Boston and Worcester—two other large New England cities—it’s easy to see why Providence is a great place to settle down. In fact, the average Providence housing prices are nearly $250,000 less than Boston housing prices! Plus, there are plenty of affordable Providence neighborhoods that offer cost-effective living without sacrificing safety.

Find Your Career in Providence

A view of the front of Rhode Island Hospital. Photo by Instagram user @lifespanhealth

Photo via @lifespanhealth

Renaissance City is a great place to live in Rhode Island thanks to its expanding job opportunities. Healthcare workers can find great positions at Roger Williams Medical Center, The Miriam Hospital, and Rhode Island Hospital. Providence is also home to one of the four worldwide Infosys Digital Studios, where young professionals can explore jobs in design and technology. Those interested in finance will have opportunities at companies like Citizens Financial Group and Providence Equity Partners, which both have their business headquarters in Providence. Additional Fortune 500 companies in Providence include multi-billion dollar-aircraft company Textron and Whole Foods’ main supplier, United Natural Foods (UNFI).

Higher Education at Its Best

Brown University campus in the fall at sunset with leaves changed colors photo by Instagram user @brownu

Photo via @brownu

For students seeking higher education options, there are several fantastic universities and colleges in Providence! Brown University, one of the eight Ivy League schools, is a leading research institution and has more than 80 undergraduate degrees, including computer science and econometrics. Johnson & Wales University has everything from culinary arts and sports management, to psychology and teacher education available as fields of study. Recognized as the top northern regional school, Catholic university Providence College is known for their undergraduate teaching program, and also offers degrees in business, marketing, and management. Making it a go-to for students seeking education in nursing, social work, and psychology, Rhode Island College offers plenty of health-related degree programs. To complete an undergraduate degree in secondary education, health and physical education, or early childhood education, head to the Feinstein Providence campus of the University of Rhode Island. And, of course, there’s Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)—a favorite among students who plan to study apparel design, graphic design, photography, and other creative fields.

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Support Providence’s Sustainability Efforts

Riders getting ready for a ride with the PVD Bike Collective in a park. Photo by Instagram user @echasc

Photo via @echasc

While the State of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management works on land conservation, environmental protection, and climate change initiatives to keep the state beautiful for future generations, the city itself is committed to eco-friendliness. In fact, the Providence Department of Sustainability has made several goals to be a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly city by 2050. One of the best ways to contribute to these environmentalism efforts is get involved in Providence’s bike scene! Not only does the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition educate the Rhode Island bike community in Providence—but they work with local governments to prioritize safe and active transportation with bills, volunteer a Bike Valet at local events, and more. As part of the Providence Great Streets Plan, streets are being made safer and more bike-friendly. In addition to trails, there are great bike-related events in Providence like PVD Bike Jam, and accessible places to get a bike—like non-profit bike shop Recycle-A-Bike! If you want to do even more for your community through local biking programs, check out PVD Bike Collective, a group dedicated to educating cyclists about bike repair and social injustices—or take a cycling trip with Bike & Build to raise awareness for affordable housing.

Utilize Local Public Transportation Options

While driving your own vehicle is an option for getting around the city, there are plenty of affordable public transit options in the Providence metro! Travel throughout the area with Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA)‘s bus service. Fly nonstop to more than two dozen destinations from the Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport in South Providence. Make your way back and forth between Downtown Providence and the airport—or even travel to Boston—on the Providence/Stoughton Line with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)‘s daily rail service! Need to go farther? The Providence Amtrak station is available for those needing to travel into New York City, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC!

Enjoy New England Seasons

colors on the trees changing colors in the fall to red photo by Instagram user @redbarberry

Photo via @redbarberry

With an average summer high peaking around 83 and average winter temps dipping to 21 degrees in January, residents of Renaissance City can take advantage of mild East Coast seasons with an array of outdoor recreation opportunities. Hike and bike the trails, hang out on freshwater beaches, or play tennis at local Providence parks like Governor Notte Park and India Point Park—or be sure to stop in to admire New England’s largest glasshouse display garden in the Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park. Enjoy fun water recreation with kayaks rented through Providence Kayak. Admire the beautiful colors of New England’s fall foliage in October. When winter does roll around in New England, you’ll get your fair share of snow—but that doesn’t mean you have to be locked away all winter! Just 35 minutes from Downtown Providence, spend the day skiing, snow tubing, or taking lessons at Yawgoo Valley—the only ski area in Rhode Island.

Experience Renaissance City

One of the most popular nicknames for Providence is The Renaissance City—and the name couldn’t fit the city better. After a mid-1900s population dip, Providence bounced back with a revitalized culture and arts scene. At the center of this rejuvenation is Waterplace Park, created in 1994 around the rerouted Providence River. The park is now most famous for the WaterFire sculpture and festival. Created by Barnaby Evans as an art piece and later established as a non-profit arts organization, WaterFire represents the Providence renaissance and is performed multiple times a year by lighting bonfires into glowing art installations on the river. Because of this, the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism has established Providence as an international cultural destination, and continuously works to grow Renaissance City through other programs and events.

Attend Providence’s Annual Festivals

people outside at PVD Fest in Providence on bright blue sky day with buildings in background photo by Instagram user @matthewtwhuang

Photo via @matthewtwhuang

No matter the season, you can find a variety of annual Providence events and festivals that are fun for everyone! Dress up as your favorite characters and meet some of the biggest names in voice acting, animation, and comic books at Rhode Island Comic Con. Enjoy live music, food trucks, dancing, art, and more at PVD Fest‘s four-day summer festival in June—one of the best things to do in Providence for free! Celebrate the Providence LGBTQ community by attending parades, concerts, and more during Rhode Island Pride. Discover new American craft breweries with over 200 styles of beer to sample at the Rhode Island Brew Fest. Or eat and shop your way through over 85 different plant-based vegan restaurants, retailers, and artists in Renaissance City at the annual RI VegFest.

Sample Top Rhode Island Arts & Entertainment

Patrons touring a gallery owned by the Providence Arts Club. Photo by Instagram user @pvdartclub

Photo via @pvdartclub

With plenty of opportunities to appreciate the arts, as well as tax incentives for resident artists, Providence has earned the “Creative Capital” title. Take advantage of arts organization AS220, which offers gallery space to the public, as well as Live/Work Studios and Youth Programs. Buy tickets to Broadway shows like Annie and Come From Away at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Check out tribute bands, comedy acts, and unique theatre experiences with breakfast or dinner offered at Historic Park Theatre & Events Center in nearby Cranston. Support Trinity Repertory Company by seeing an annual performance like A Christmas Carol or by taking a youth or adult class. Sign up for classes and workshops or tour three different art galleries in Providence organized by the Providence Art Club. Or see the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, a touring comedy act, or fun musical or play at The Vets Memorial Auditorium.

Discover Providence Museums

Benefit Street in Providence historic area old homes photo by Instagram user @akays

Photo via @akays

Established in 1636, Providence is the oldest settlement in Rhode Island, and today offers plenty of opportunities to explore the city’s history and more. Tour the Victorian-style home of textile manufacturer and Governor Henry Lippett—Lippett House. Check out 18th-century furniture, a fully-restored carriage, and hear more about Rhode Island Revolutionary figure John Brown at the John Brown House Museum. Stop by The Stephen Hopkins House, the historic home of a Declaration of Independence signer, on Benefit Street’s Mile of History. Explore Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art or explore the 18th and 19th Century American pieces at the RISD Museum. Check out Brown University’s teaching and research museum that showcases global cultures in rotating exhibits at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Visit exhibits on a wide variety of topics, from the ocean and wildlife to history and space, at the Museum of Natural History & Planetarium in Roger Williams Park. Or stroll through Swan Point Cemetery, a 200-acre garden cemetery established in 1846 that’s now on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Find Family-Friendly Activities in Providence

Renaissance City is full of fun attractions, and there are plenty of family-friendly activities in Providence to enjoy with your kids! Check out more than 100 animal species, including moon bears, Komodo dragons, armadillos, and more at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Find all-ages fun including an indoor carousel, Carousel Express train ride, playground, and weekly Food Truck Fridays just a few minutes away at Carousel Village. Get tickets to see more than 200 films shown at multiple venues, or submit an entry in the Youth Filmmaker Showcase competition at the Providence Children’s Film Festival! Play, create, and explore with daily programs like the Innovation Lab, Maker Studio, Water Ways, and more at the Providence Children’s Museum. Hop into bumper cars, strap on ice skates, or participate in the Roller Disco at The Providence Rink. Or visit National Historic Landmark Crescent Park Looff Carousel in East Providence, which offers carousel rides and hosts fun events like Movies in the Park and Concerts in the Park.

Cheer on Providence Sports Teams

A hockey player on the Providence Friars hockey team skating during a match. Photo by Instagram user @friarshockey

Photo via @friarshockey

Being so near other large New England cities like Boston and New York City, Providence residents who love sports can find games at all pro levels nearby. But Rhode Island’s capital city has its fair share of great sports teams, too! Become a fan of local university teams—see a range of quality sports games from popular ice hockey and basketball, to soccer, tennis, swimming, and more with the Providence College Friars. Buy tickets to watch the ranked Ivy League basketball team, along with popular field and ice hockey teams from the Brown University Bears. Or check out Providence’s professional teams! Catch a hockey match with the Boston Bruins (NHL) affiliate team, the Providence Bruins (AHL), in the Amica Mutual Pavilion. Cheer on the Pawtucket Red Sox (MiLB) just 15 minutes away in Pawtucket at the McCoy Stadium. Or, for a unique sporting experience, spend a day watching matches at nearby Portsmouth’s Newport International Polo Series.

Get a Taste of Providence

Shrimp bucatini in a white bowl from Waterman Grille in Providence RI photo by Instagram user @watermangrille

Photo via @watermangrille

Providence might be a smaller East Coast city, but its food scene continues to grow! Start your morning off with Hash and Eggs, Two Two Two, or Stuffed French Toast at West Side Diner. Pop in for Middle Eastern dishes like a Falafel Wrap, Spinach and Feta Pie, or Jedra Plate at East Side Pockets on bustling Thayer Street. Make a dinner reservation for Mushroom Risotto, Pan-Seared Salmon, or Grilled Pork Chop at the vibrant Waterman Grille. Pick up sandwiches like the Evan On Earth, Bahia, or The LBG from Hudson Street Deli. Get Pan-Asian dishes that are also vegan and kosher—like Kung Pao Eggplant, General Tso’s Soy Protein, or Malaysian Curry Stew at Veggie Fun. Or sit at a patio table overlooking the Moshassuck River while enjoying a bottle of wine with Stuffed Rigatoni, Lamb Shank, or Chilean Sea Bass at Cafe Nuovo.

Try Some of the Best Donuts in Rhode Island

Donuts topped with fruity pebbles, cream cheese frosting and cherries from PV Donuts photo by Instagram user @pvdonuts

Photo via @pvdonuts

The Northeastern U.S. as a whole is known for loving their donuts, and Rhode Island donut shops are home to some of the best donuts in New England! Providence has even earned the title of most donut shops per capita in the past, and continues to be one of the best cities for donut lovers. Get your fix at PVDonuts, the first speciality donut shop in Rhode Island, where you can expect to find unique takes on brioche or cake donuts, crullers, and more. Order classic donuts like Vanilla Glazed and Cinnamon Roll—or try something a little different, like Chocolate Babka or Brown Butter Pecan at Knead Doughnuts. Dig into a Fruity Pebbles donut, Maple Bacon donut, or a Strawberry Cream Cheese filled donut at Glaze n Daze Donuts. Or swing into a local chain with everything from Apple Cider Donuts, Bavarian Cream Donuts, to the French Cruller at Honey Dew Donuts!

Visit Little Italy—In Providence

Federal Hill in Providence Little Italy with fountain and brightly painted buildings photo by Instagram user @federalhillri

Photo via @federalhillri

Located in the heart of Providence is Federal Hill—also known as Little Italy—which has a rich Italian American culture that started in the early 1900s and continues today. Particularly along Atwells Avenue, you can find bakeries, coffee shops, food markets, boutiques, and some of the best Italian restaurants in Providence! Try the Pepper Pig, Spinach Pie, or the original Wimpy Skippy at Caserta Pizzeria. Dig into hearty dishes like Three Cheese Ravioli, Housemade Cannelloni, or Linguini Massimo at Massimo Ristorante. Indulge in delicious treats like Biscotti, Macaroons, and Cake at Scialo Bros. Bakery. Pick up a bottle of Argiolas Korem, Barone Cornacchia Montepulciano, or Braida Brachetto D Acqui when you visit Gasbarro’s Wines. And don’t forget to toss a coin in the fountain for good luck when you stroll through DePasquale Square!

Have a Night Out on the Town

beer from Trinity Brewhouse in Providence RI photo by Instagram user @pippy_pepin

Photo via @pippy_pepin

Looking to have some fun when the sun goes down? Providence’s nightlife scene offers great spots that are worth checking out! Enjoy a night full of laughter with standup comedy shows at Comedy Connection. Grab a pint of Guinness with Fish & Chips or a sandwich at Murphy’s, the oldest pub in Providence. Play classic arcade games like Donkey Kong and Dragon’s Lair while sipping on local Rhode Island craft beers like the Narragansett Lager, Rise, or East Coast IPA at Free Play Bar. Swing by Trinity Brewhouse for a Kolsch, Tommy’s Red, or an IPA and get a stamp on your Rhode Island Brewery Passport. Go dancing with friends or catch incredible drag shows at LGBTQ hot spot EGO Providence. Or find your way behind the velvet curtain into a local speakeasy with hand-crafted cocktails at Justine’s.

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Pinterest Graphic: Providence, RI: 11 Things to Know

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.