Road Trip Guide - Page 42 - On the road in Rhode Island

Road Trip Guide
- Page 42
On the road in Rhode Island
History, charm and fresh seafood galore

By Patti Nickell
Lexington Herald-Leader

Providence, R.I. — I had been looking forward to this for a long time — a road trip in Rhode Island with two friends to see New England fall foliage at its best. The only problem was that while my friends and I were there, the foliage was a no-show.

October is generally peak time to catch fall’s annual display of botanical pyrotechnics, but last year, due to the region’s unusually long, hot summer, trees were still emerald green, with not even so much as a wayward gold or orange leaf peeping through. So much for witnessing the blazing tapestry of colors.

I was disappointed, but couldn’t remain so for long with a city as vibrant as Providence to explore and with good friends to explore it with. The first thing that became immediately obvious was that this was a city known for its architecturally intriguing neighborhoods and its devotion to donuts.

Let’s start with the donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts may have been founded across the state line in Massachusetts, but Rhode Islanders are obsessively devoted to them, with a Dunkin’ on seemingly every other corner, and long lines to make sure they stay there. The corporate crullers may be uber popular, but there are just as many artisanal and mom-and-pop donut shops (and bakeries in general) scattered throughout the city’s eclectic neighborhoods, also not lacking for business.

And that brings me to the neighborhoods themselves. Some 15 of them — each with its distinctive personality and history — have helped make Providence what Travel + Leisure has called “America’s Favorite City,” and GQ has labeled its “coolest city.”

Starting in the compact downtown, a walking tour will showcase classic Art Deco architecture, most notably the state’s tallest building known as the Superman Building. You’ll see why immediately.

Another building of note is the Greek Revival Arcade, the oldest indoor mall in America (1828), and now a mix of apartments and select retail (check out the bookstore dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft, a Providence native who gained fame posthumously for his works of horror fiction).

A short walk from the Arcade is the Rhode Island School of Design, consistently ranked among the world’s best. RISD, as it is known locally, is not just a school but a museum open to the public, housing a col