A Guide to the Real Rhode Island, From A-Z


Originally Appeared in The Phoenix

Did you spend all of Christmas break bitching about how there's never anything to do in Rhode Island? Well, that's probably because your nerdy tour guide during freshman orientation raved about the Athenaeum like it was Club Hell and you spent most of your free time playing video games in your dorm instead of video poker at Twin River. Why don't you do yourself a favor and make a belated New Year's resolution to actually enjoy the quirky city you'll call home for the next four, five, six years? To help, we've put together an A-Z survival guide complete with everything you need to know (and plenty you don't) about Lil Rhody.

Where your parents should take you to dinner when they visit. Be sure to wear a suit, preferably shiny or pinstriped. Sweatsuits are also acceptable, but they must be velour, not the kind you wear to track and field meets. And for God's sake, make sure your cheapass father knows that even though the sign says "Free Valet Parking," he still has to tip.

See also:AS220 | A hipster's wet dream. Leading reason Providence has one of the best art scenes in the country. Also a great place to see guys with bangs play loud music.

AMTRAK | Around junior year, you'll realize Providence is a fantastic place and never want to leave. Until then, you'll probably think your only true friends are stuck at community colleges back home. So here's some advice: When buying train tickets, always say your destination is two stops before your actual destination (i.e., if you're going to New Haven, buy tickets to New London). Then play the stupid college kid act and the conductor will usually let you slide. And you'll have extra beer money.


The happiest students in the world who will protest anything as long as there's a pretty sign and an ounce of pot involved.

See also:BLACKSTONE BOULEVARD | The street is made of marble and the fire hydrants spray champagne. You'll always know when a person lives here because they'll tell you. Twice.

BENEFIT STREET | The most historic mile in history is located on the historic East Side. There's a 76 percent chance you'll throw up here by the time you graduate.

BURNSIDE PARK | Separates Brown and RISD students from the ice skating rink. Even the pigeons shoot heroin here!

Definitely an upgrade over the Ellio's your roommate has in the freezer.


The sole reason the "Freshman 15" becomes the "Freshman 50" in Rhode Island.

See also:DOWNCITY | What locals call downtown Providence. No, those underdressed girls you see probably aren't hookers (we outlawed that shit two years ago). They're probably heading to one of the many clubs in the area to drink, dance, and scream in horror when someone inevitably gets stabbed.

DANCING COP | Cornered the make-an-ass-out-of-yourself-in-public market by arresting all the mimes.

Think Beacon Hill meets Dupont Circle. Living here allows you to tell law and med schools that you know all about the inner city without the hassle of ever actually having to see the inner city.


See "A", "O," and maybe a little bit of "C." The old money here is a little different than the old money on the East Side or in Newport.

See also:FARMERS' MARKETS | To be clear, you will never meet a farmer in Providence. But at these trendy little markets, aspiring novelists and painters will sell you a tomato, their latest creation, and the shirts off their backs for next to nothing.

Okay, it's not San Francisco or London, but Providence isn't Hicksville, Alabama either. The city is filled with great gay bars (Alley Cat, Dark Lady, Stable) and the Gay Pride Parade is by far the best parade of the year. And if you're lucky, the state might actually legalize same-sex marriage by the time you graduate.

See also:GASPEE DAY PARADE | Similar to the Gay Pride Parade in that everyone likes to play dress-up and get drunk. Commemorates the time we torched a British ship and lit off fireworks in celebration. As it often does, Boston would later copy us with some Tea Party no one can stop raving about.

Greasy spoon conveniently located next to City Hall and about 50 feet from the city's only cab stand. Perfect snack after a long night of drinking cheap beer downcity. Suggestion: Get the burger.

Rhode Island was the first colony to declare its independence from Britain. But because all the men who helped lead the charge were short, pale, and probably starving, we decided to build a statue of a tall, tan, and muscular man to overlook the State House. And we gave him a spear because spears are badass.

See also:IGGY'S | The reason most of us don't look good when we're on the beach.

INTERNATIONAL TENNIS HALL OF FAME | Be on the lookout for Andre Agassi's wig.

Used to start the conversation, now just recaps it three days later. The only time you'll buy this is if someone takes a picture of you protesting whatever it is you'll protest in the next four years.

See also:JWU | Overeducating restaurant workers for nearly a century!

JEWELRY DISTRICT | What you'll know as the Knowledge District, Rhode Islanders know as the Jewelry District.

JOHNSTON | Where Jersey Shore gets better ratings than the Super Bowl.

Contrary to what Brown and RISD students will tell you, the buses and trolleys don't just disappear when they let you off at the Starbucks on Thayer Street. They end up here.

See also:KICKBALL | Our real sports teams suck. But if you're competitive and more importantly, like drinking, you can play kickball, bocce, dodge ball and ultimate Frisbee in various parts of the city.


One of the best places in the state to see a concert. Something for everybody. In the same week, you might get Wu-Tang, a Pink Floyd cover band, and an overnight sensation pop group welcoming teenagers into the wonderful world of clubland.

If you can't afford to catch a Sox game in Boston, definitely head to Pawtucket to see their AAA affiliate. It's cheap and there isn't a bad seat in the house.

See also:THE MET CAFE | A hot new hipster hangout located just outside of Providence. Live music, cheap beer, lots of open space.

MISQUAMICUT BEACH | Total tourist trap where kids from Connecticut go to skip school and pretend like they're in Seaside Heights. Most Rhode Islanders have never been. It's too far from everything.

Probably where your parents thought you were going when you told them you were going to school in Rhode Island. Home to all the mansions and a lot of people with names normal people give to dogs. If you can find 15 friends, you might be able to afford a tiny beach house down here for a week in the summer. Just don't fall off the Cliff Walk.

See also:NEW YORK SYSTEM WIENERS | Best. Hot dogs. Ever.


You've seen the movies, you know the deal. If you see a short Italian guy that kind of looks like Joe Pesci, it would probably be wise to turn the other way or at least not criticize his mother.

Where kids from Long Island and Connecticut go when they can't get into Boston College and don't want to go to Fairfield. Has many proud alumni who still pray Rick Pitino might come back and help the basketball team be relevant again.

See also:POLITICIANS | Fact: There are more General Assembly members than residents in the state of Rhode Island.

PAULY D | We know, we're sorry.

PPAC | Best way to catch a Broadway show without ever having to leave the state. When you factor in drinks, dinner, two tickets, and parking, you'll only be stuck about $300.

| So big you could live here without ever getting caught. It's been done. Seriously.


Before everybody teamed up to beat the shit out of the British, Bostonians decided Quakers shouldn't be allowed to practice their own religion. But Rhode Island accepted them with open arms and our population doubled to 28.

Remember that girl who wore a dress made out of newspaper cartoons to your senior prom? She goes to RISD.

See also:ROGER WILLIAMS | History doesn't give the man who founded Providence the credit he deserves. In fact, he doesn't even make Wikipedia's list of the 17th century's most significant people. Something Johnny Milton and Frankie Bacon probably tease him about every day.

Most popular majors: 1) Spending daddy's money 2) Debt accumulation 3) Sailing.

See also:SWAN POINT CEMETERY | Where kids who wear too much makeup go to play Ouija board on H.P. Lovecraft's grave.

A huge selling point for Brown and RISD, but the truth is you'll rarely spend much time here as the years go on. There's just too many high school students puffing their first cigarettes and trying to feel each other up to enjoy yourself.

Great place to party, but beware of the many frat guys who think Keystone Light is the shit, call everything gay, and say "bro" too much.

Rocky with a Rhode Island accent. On the Mount Rushmore of local athletes, he would be the one with the swollen eye.

Our quirky way of embracing the fact that our water is too polluted for anything to be living in it. Every other weekend each summer, we light the river on fire, play creepy music, and old people make out.

See also:WEST BROADWAY | What you get when a few pretentious East Siders decide they've had enough of the college kids and want to live somewhere else in Providence. Close to Atwells Avenue and a bunch of trendy bars.

WILD COLONIAL | Where you'll probably have your first legal beer.

Providence hosted the very first Summer X Games back in 1995 (you were like, way young). Unfortunately, Dodging Potholes wasn't as exciting as ESPN hoped it would be and the Games haven't returned since '96.


Why would you pay to go snow tubing here when you could slide down College Hill on cafeteria trays?

One of the coolest places most college students never seem to make it to in Providence. It's in Roger Williams Park. Be sure to check out the Pauly D Jersey Shore exhibit coming next summer.


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