Hugging the southern tip of Rhode Island's Aquidneck Island, Newport is a ritzy weekend escape for all sorts. Girlfriends flit through the upscale shops that line Thames Street, while sailing crews take over Narragansett Bay in preparation for one of the many regattas. And like every other New England seaside destination, this port town is happy to provide a simple seafood lunch and a day at the beach. But what really calls tourists to Newport is the architecture: The 19th-century summer "cottages" on the shore and the colonial-era buildings downtown give the city an Old World, blue blood appearance.
Long overshadowed by Boston, Providence holds its own as a historical heavyweight. Founded by banished Massachusetts Bay colonist Roger Williams in 1636, this Rhode Island city was the country's first experiment in a secular democracy (the separation of church and state). Today, Providence is a true college town, home to Brown University, Johnson & Wales, Providence College and Rhode Island School of Design. There's even a high concentration of dedicated Red Sox and Patriots fans in town, leading some to believe that it’s a copycat of the Massachusetts capital. But there's a more relaxed vibe to Providence – not to mention more affordable hotel rates and fewer crowds – that draws even loyal Bostonians into the city for the weekend.
Best Places to Visit in the USA