Rhode Island is located in the New England area of the United States. Nicknamed "The Ocean State", it is surrounded by large bays and ocean inlets. Sandy shores, coastal woods, state parks, and seaside Colonial towns provide a number of scenic vacation destinations. Rhode Island is also home to prominent cities such as Newport, which is regarded as the center of the Gilded Age. The country’s wealthiest, industrialist families had a home or a summer cottage here. Thus, Newport is famed for its many mansions, such as The Breakers and the Marble House. An esteemed sailing destination, there are more than 30 islands within the bay; the largest is Aquidneck Island. History, glamour, ingenuity, and seaside culture offer a unique menu of things do with kids in Rhode Island.
Located in Newport, Belcourt Castle celebrates Rhode Island’s unique culture and history. An eco-conscious restoration effort was spearheaded by Carolyn Rafaelian, a local business mogul, whose massive undertaking has garnered the attention of Forbes magazine and The History Channel. Originally designed in 1891 by Richard Morris Hunt, the estate served as a summer retreat for Oliver Belmont and his many horses. Carolyn and her team of experts relied on old photos to guide the process of reviving the mansion to its original grandeur. Vaulted ceilings that tower two stories high, immaculate plasterwork, wood panel walls, marble fireplaces, stained glass windows, and crystal chandeliers are just a few of the estate’s exquisite features. Weekend tours run Friday through Sunday.
657 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI, Phone: 401-846-0669
2.Beavertail State Park
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Hundreds of people flood Jamestown each summer, eager to explore Beavertail State Park, which boasts fun for the whole family. Beautiful views along the New England rocky coastline can be seen by vehicle or accessed on foot at one of the four overlooks. Scenic hiking trails and saltwater fishing capture the adventuresome spirit. Children will love splashing around in the tide pools, which are brimming with sea life. The park offers a unique blend of interactive marine and geological education opportunities. Visitors may enjoy a guided walk along the Beavertail fault line, while learning about its story. The onsite aquarium also hosts several activities, including a marine life scavenger hunt.
Beavertail Road, Jamestown, RI, Phone: 401-884-2010
3.Biomes Marine Biology Center
Biomes Marine Biology Center has been providing interactive marine and biology programs for schools and families since 1989. Guests to the center will enjoy learning about local marine animals from Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Sea life petting stations feature tide pool animals offering children a chance to get their hands wet, and an opportunity to touch tide pool animals. Eels, horseshoe crabs, sea turtles, and even sharks can be found in the petting pools. The center offers family memberships, for those who attend frequently. Biomes happily hosts birthdays, field trips, and even a traveling tide pool. Children under two years old receive complimentary admission. The center is open daily, from noon to 5 p.m.
6640 Post Road, North Kingstown, RI, Phone: 401-885-4690
4.Blithewold Mansion Gardens and Arboretum
Built in the early 1900s, the Van Wickle family summer estate is emblematic of the “Country Place Era”, a time during which wealthy Americans commissioned extensive landscape architecture in an attempt to emulate the European gardens they saw while traveling abroad. Blithewold Mansion Gardens and Aboretum spans 33 acres, has views of the Narragansett Bay, and a boasts a greenhouse housing rare plant and tree species – a trademark of the garden’s commitment to excellence in horticulture. The mansion has 45 rooms and is filled with heirlooms. Intimate dairies and photographs display personal accounts of the family’s history. Guided tours run April to October. A children’s summer day camp, planting classes, and botanical drawing classes are just a few of the estate’s yearly offerings.
101 Ferry Road (Rt. 114), Bristol, RI, Phone: 401-253-2707
5.Burlingame State Park
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Located in Charleston, Burlingame State Park’s campground is nestled within 3,100 acres of rocky woodland. There are 700 rustic campsites to choose from. The grounds host 20 cabins, with conveniently located restrooms and shower facilities. Each cabin has two, mattress-free bunkbeds. A freshwater beach, playground, and arcade offer families plenty of entertainment options. Canoe rentals are available for scenic paddles across Watchung Pond. A number of hiking trails give campers a chance to explore the natural beauty of the forest. There are no utilities at this campground. Guests may purchase firewood at the Burlingame Camp Store.
Route 1, Charlestown, RI, Phone: 401-322-8910
6.Coggeshall Farm Museum
Located in the historic town of Bristol, the Coggeshall Museum is a working farm that offers unique ways to explore 18th-century farm life. Forty-eight acres of woodland, open fields, and salt marsh characterize the farm. There are a variety of programs designed to entertain every age. Preschool-aged children will love the “Story Walk”. Giant storybook pages from the fictional book “Hard Scrabble Harvest” meander through the farm’s various settings, narrated by a guide in character. Older youth and teens will enjoy learning how to make candles and lip balm, or how to compete in garden meadow games. Practical skills like wood processing, feeding animals, collecting eggs, milking, and spinning wool are also taught. Hours vary by season.
1 Colt Drive, Bristol, RI, Phone: 401-253-9062
7.Goddard Memorial State Park
Goddard State Park attracts thousands of visitors each year as Rhode Island’s most popular metropolitan park. Spacious lawns, open fields, and thickly forested areas offer visitors scenic views. There is no shortage of fun to be had at this fresh-air getaway. A nine-hole golf course, equestrian showroom, and lifeguard attended beach are just a few of the activities to be shared. There are 18 miles of bridle trails, 11 game fields, and a performing arts pavilion available for use. Gazebos, picnic pavilions, and 355 picnic tables offer places to gather. The park has multiple restrooms. A small-craft launch area is on-site. The park is open sunrise to sunset.
1095 Ives Road, Warwick, RI, Phone: 401-884-2010
8.Haines Memorial State Park
The Haines Memorial State Park has 33 picnic sites, each with a fire pit and table. Picnic areas are reserved on a first come, first serve basis. There are various game fields located at the park, all available to reservation. A bike path offers guests a scenic cruise through the trees. Fishing is permitted at the water’s edge and along the beach. There is no lifeguard on duty, so families with small children or weak swimmers will want to exercise caution. The boat ramp is wheelchair accessible. A bathhouse and restrooms are available to the public.
Route 103, East Providence, RI, Phone: 401-253-7482
9.Hannaway Blacksmith Shop
Located next door to Hearthside House Museum, the Hannaway Blacksmith Shop originally opened in 1880. True to its era, the shop has wood plank walls and dirt floors. Original blacksmithing tools that are 100 years old hang on the walls. Blacksmithing classes and demos are offered to youth who have an interest in craftsmanship. Students learn how to hand forge; shaping steel and iron into intricate designs. Each class is two hours in length and is available to a maximum of two students at a time. Children must be at least 11 years old to attend, and kids under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Classes are offered every other Saturday and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
677 Great Road, Lincoln, RI, Phone: 401-726-0597
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10.Historic Fort Adams
Regarded as the largest, most sophisticated fortress in North America, the historic Fort Adams stands guard at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. Visitors to the fort will observe spectacular views of Newport harbor and the bay. Tours run 75 minutes in duration and travel from the top of the fort walls, all the way down to the underground tunnels. Nearly 190 years of American history and French military culture, architecture, and engineering are on display. Golf cart “hard hat” tours explore the Fort Adams Advanced Southern Redoubt, dubbed “The Lost Fortress”. Guests may also tour the Eisenhower summer house, once home to commanding officers. Youth overnight stays within soldiers’ quarters are offered. Lucky visitors will catch a Civil War reenactment.
90 Fort Adams Drive, Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI, Phone: 401-841-0707
11.International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum
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The Tennis Hall of Fame museum displays nearly 2,000 artifacts and mementos of tennis history. Located on seven acres of historic grounds within the famous “Newport Casino”, the museum’s spread includes the manicured grass courts of Bill Talbert stadium, as well as indoor tennis courts. The term “casino” refers not to gambling, but instead to Newport’s elite summer social club, which hosted National Championships until the year 1914. The tournament’s growing size prompted a move to New York, where it is known today as the US Open. The museum offers an abundance of interactive exhibits, providing fun for the whole family. Self-guided audio tours are available. Hours run 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Children 16 and under receive free admission.
194 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI, Phone: 401-849-3990
12.Lincoln Woods State Park
Lincoln Woods State Park is nestled between routes 146 and 123 in Blackstone Valley; a short drive from Pawtucket, Providence, and Cumberland. A popular escape for Rhode Islanders, visitors to the park enjoy swimming, trout fishing, hiking, jogging, and horseback riding. A lifeguard is on duty seasonally from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The REI Boathouse offers kayak and SUP rentals, along with classes. Permits are required for use of picnic areas and baseball fields. Picnic shelters, gazebos, bathhouses, a first aid station, and a food shack are located on the grounds. Lincoln Woods is one of only three Rhode Island State Park locations tested for safe ice during the winter months.
2 Manchester Print Works Road, Lincoln, RI, Phone: 401-723-7892
13.Misquamicut State Beach
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A half-mile stretch of beachfront makes this one of Rhode Island's most popular beaches. The Misquamicut State Beach bathhouse pavilion first opened in 1999 and features a village-like layout. Turquoise blue buildings house showers, concessions, a gift shop, and on-site offices. Towering among them is a lifeguard tower and several shade gazebos. Composting toilets are available for use. A $700,000 renovation of the parking area was completed in the year 2000, and includes an electric vehicle charging station. Lifeguards are on duty from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during summer months. Misquamicut beach does fill to capacity during sunny weekends, so families may want to head out early to beat the crowds.
257 Atlantic Avenue, Westerly, RI, Phone: 401-322-8910
Exquisitely constructed during the 1800s, the mansions of Newport once formed a coastal village of summer cottages, housing the era’s wealthiest families. Among the neighborhood mansions are The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, and Rosecliff. The estates are within walking distance of one another; perfect for a day’s stroll through luxury. Families should plan to spend 1.5 hours at each mansion. State-of-the-art digital audio players and smart phone apps allow self-guided tours. During The Breakers tour, families will be transported to another time, through imaginative first-person accounts of life in the house from members of the family, servants, and children. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but vary slightly during off-season. Visitors may purchase tickets at the welcome center’s Garden Café
424 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI, Phone: 401-847-1000
15.Norman Bird Sanctuary
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A wildlife sanctuary and environmental education center, this Aquineck Island gem spans across more than 325 acres of diverse habitats, featuring seven miles of hiking trails. Visitors to the Norman Bird Sanctuary are encouraged to carry binoculars while hiking the trails or enjoying a cross-country ski. A variety of local and migratory birds can be seen, depending on the season. The sanctuary’s mission to preserve and protect habitats is carried out through educational programs, which serve preschool to high school aged kids. During the school year, the sanctuary hosts field trips and after school programs. The center recently celebrated its 60th year of summer day camps, which offer age-appropriate curriculum, combining hands-on learning, games, animal encounters, and team building.
583 Third Beach Road, Middletown, RI, Phone: 401-846-2577
16.Providence Children’s Museum
Providence Children’s Museum is dedicated to the idea that children learn best through self-directed play. Thus, the museum’s hands-on learning environments and programs are designed to engage the imagination and innovation of children, ages 1 to 11 years old. There are several exhibits, such as Play Power, which inspires creative use of ramps, tubes, mazes, magnets, and blocks to learn about architecture and physics. The Water Ways installation teaches children about all of the different forms that water can take, while The Climber exhibit gives kids a chance to wriggle and stretch through a two-story climbing maze. Other installations include the Children’s Garden, Think Space, Littlewoods, and more. The museum offers field trip opportunities, room rentals, and memberships. Hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
100 South Street, Providence, RI, Phone: 401-273-5437
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17.Roger W. Wheeler State Beach
Named after Roger W. Wheeler, who created the Rhode Island State Life-Saving System, this state beach carries on his commitment to staffing beaches with trained, alert, and capable lifeguards. The beach is not only a safe choice for families with children, but it’s also a convenient choice. A pavilion, concession building, coin-operated hot showers, playground, and an environmental educational area ensure a day of comfort and fun. There are 63 picnic tables available for use. A large, paved parking lot is on-site. Lifeguard tours are staffed from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seasonally, as weather permits. No animals are allowed on the beach.
100 Sand Hill Cove Road, Narragansett, RI, Phone: 401-789-8374
18.Roger Williams Park Zoo
Lions, tigers, and bears, Oh, My. In addition to the zoo’s animal exhibits, this “40-acre living classroom” offers programs for every age. Babies and toddlers will love the music sing-along and dance programs. Preschool-aged kids will enjoy focused lessons about a particular animal that incorporates up-close encounters, an interactive activity, and a craft. One-day camps invite kids ages 6 to 11 to a full day of crafts, games, inquiry-driven activities, zoo tours, goat feeding, and so much more. Teen directed programs introduce youth to career opportunities within the zoo and treat kids to behind-the-scenes interactions with zookeepers and animals. The zoo hosts field trips, overnight adventures, and special programs for children with sensory sensitivities. Memberships and special rates are available.
1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI, Phone: 401-785-3510
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19.Slater Mill Museum
The American Industrial Revolution was birthed on the banks of lower Blackstone River. It’s marked by the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark. The cottages of 18th-century skilled workers Samuel Slater and Sylvanus Brown, as well as David Wilkinson’s early 19th-century mill, are among the sites. The mill houses an authentic nineteenth-century machine shop, and a reconstructed 16,000- pound water wheel. Visitors learn about the people of the early industrial revolution and the tools and machinery they used. The mill offers guided tours, on a varied schedule. Kids six years old and under enjoy free entry. Holiday exhibits, classes, concerts, dinners, and fairs are among annual event offerings.
67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI, Phone: 401-725-8638
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Rhode Island’s award-winning Smith's Castle is a historic site located in North Kingston. Four hundred years of state history are preserved here. History is on display through historic reenactments, tours, and educational programs for both children and adults. Docents dressed in colonial attire guide interactive tours of the castle throughout the day, bringing history alive. School and group tours may be booked. There are several different programs designed to meet the interests of every age group. Kids will get to experience hands-on activities such as carrying yokes and buckets, wool carding, and cornmeal grinding. Walking paths and manicured gardens offer an abundance of scenic, fresh-air strolls. Memberships are available. Hours and tour schedules vary by season.
55 Richard Smith Drive, North Kingstown, RI, Phone: 401-294-3521
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21.Snake Den State Park
Located along Route 6 in Johnston, Rhode Island, Snake Den State Park boasts 1,000 acres undeveloped property. A combination of farmland and woodland is home to rustic walking trails, beautiful trees, plants, and flowers. During fall season the foliage is breathtaking. A succession of families owned the farm before the state acquired the property in 1969. The headquarters for the Parks and Recreation Division is now located within the original, 22-room farmhouse. Snake Den itself is a canyon-like stone fissure. The stone outcrop was once quarried for building material used to construct the city of Providence. Visitors to the park will enjoy hiking, exploring, bird watching, and bow hunting.
2321 Hartford Avenue, Johnston, RI, Phone: 401-723-7892
22.The National Museum of American Illustration
© The National Museum of American Illustration
The National Museum of American Illustration was originally created in 1998 by Laurence and Judy Cutler to display their personal collection of "Golden Age" American Illustration art. Today, the seven galleries located within the venue exhibit art featuring a variety of American periods, styles and artists. The galleries are located within the Vernon Court Mansion, an 18th-century chateau once listed with the White House and The Breakers as one of the ten greatest mansions in America. In a 1904 edition of American Estates and Gardens, Vernon Court was celebrated for its “startling beauty and daring originality”. Weekly tours, private VIP tours, group tours, and self-guided audio tours are offered. Visitors will love strolling the property’s collection of exquisite gardens.
492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI, Phone: 401-851-8949
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23.The New England Wireless and Steam Museum
In 1875 Rhode Island was the world center of the stationary steam industry. The New England Wireless & Steam Museum is dedicated to electrical and mechanical engineering, showcasing the beginnings of radio and steam power. The country’s finest collection of Rhode Island made engines are housed here. The museum also preserves the original Massie wireless station, built in 1907 for communication with marine shipping. As the oldest surviving wireless station anywhere in the world, it symbolizes the very start of the electronics industry as it’s known today. Many of the collection’s early radio and steam apparatuses are in working order, which affords visitors the opportunity to observe live demonstrations.
1300 Frenchtown Road, East Greenwich, RI, Phone: 401-885-0545
24.The Old Colony and Newport Scenic Railroad
The Old Colony & Newport Scenic Railroad is an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the railroad on Aquidneck Island. A variety of classic railroad and dining experiences transport passengers to another era, while they take in scenic views of Newport & Narragansett Bay. Guests are invited to imagine the way society’s elite once traveled to famous summer destinations, eager to spend summers rubbing elbows at mansions, yacht clubs, and beaches. Vintage era passenger cars host a menu of interactive and themed experiences. Guests may help solve a speakeasy-era mystery while dining, eat cookies and drink hot cocoa with Santa Claus, or enjoy a theatrical performance of A Christmas Carol. Event offerings are fun for the whole family.
One Alexander Road, Portsmouth, RI, Phone: 401-295-1203
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24 Best Things to Do in Rhode Island with Kids
- Belcourt Castle, Photo: erllre/stock.adobe.com
- Beavertail State Park, Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com
- Biomes Marine Biology Center, Photo: veliferum/stock.adobe.com
- Blithewold Mansion Gardens and Arboretum, Photo: leonikonst/stock.adobe.com
- Burlingame State Park, Photo: Olesia Bilkei/stock.adobe.com
- Coggeshall Farm Museum, Photo: JOHN/stock.adobe.com
- Goddard Memorial State Park, Photo: Dana/stock.adobe.com
- Haines Memorial State Park, Photo: pressmaster/stock.adobe.com
- Hannaway Blacksmith Shop, Photo: Aleksey/stock.adobe.com
- Historic Fort Adams, Photo: Tomtsya/stock.adobe.com
- International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, Photo: Chee-Onn Leong/stock.adobe.com
- Lincoln Woods State Park, Photo: Nice/stock.adobe.com
- Misquamicut State Beach, Photo: Marianne Campolongo/stock.adobe.com
- Newport Mansions, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Norman Bird Sanctuary, Photo: C. Hamilton/stock.adobe.com
- Providence Children’s Museum, Photo: Mihail/stock.adobe.com
- Roger W. Wheeler State Beach, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Roger Williams Park Zoo, Photo: chlodoweg/stock.adobe.com
- Slater Mill Museum, Photo: Vinoverde/stock.adobe.com
- Smith's Castle, Photo: Mirko Rosenau/stock.adobe.com
- Snake Den State Park, Photo: wavebreak3/stock.adobe.com
- The National Museum of American Illustration, Photo: The National Museum of American Illustration
- The New England Wireless and Steam Museum, Photo: jakkapan/stock.adobe.com
- The Old Colony and Newport Scenic Railroad, Photo: catwalkphotos/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: demerzel21/stock.adobe.com