It takes about 45 minutes to drive across Rhode Island, or just enough time to watch the opening scenes of Interstellar on your laptop. Forstall, because historic Providence is worth a visit.

East Side of Providence
Brown University is located on the East Side of Providence, a fifteen-minute walk from the Omni. From Exchange Street take a left onto Westminster. Cross the Providence River and head up College Street to historic, 1.2-mile long Benefit Street, which is definitely worth a stroll in either direction for its outstanding examples of simple colonial and ornate Georgian-style homes.

Providence Athenaeum Library

Providence Athenaeum Library

Benefit Street is home to the Providence Athenaeum Library (corner of Benefit and College; photo, right) and the RISD Museum (Rhode Island School of Design). Nearby historical museums include the John Brown House Museum and, farther afield, the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum, an American National Historic Landmark, at 199 Hope Street.

Thayer Street

Thayer Street

You can grab one of Geoff’s spectacular sandwiches (163 Benefit), a local favorite, or continue to walk up College Street to Prospect and take a peak inside Brown’s campus (corner of Prospect and Waterman), with its eclectic mix of architectural styles. Then take Waterman Street down the opposite side of the hill and turn left onto Thayer Street (photo, left), where you’ll encounter a lively stretch of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as the Brown University Bookstore and the Avon Cinema. Be sure to stop by Blue State Coffee (300 Thayer Street) before you leave.

Blackstone Blvd footpath

Blackstone Blvd footpath

A longer walk takes you along Thayer to Lloyd Avenue, which you can follow past Moses Brown School all the way down to Blackstone Boulevard. The north and southbound lanes are divided by 100-foot wide parkland. The center, 2-mile-long footpath (photo, right) is a favorite spot for runners and walkers.

The cultural tour of Providence ends with a visit to Trinity Square Repertory Company, which will be performing A Flea in Her Ear by French playwright Georges Feydeau (March 26 – April 26, 2015; call 401-351-4242 for tickets, or visit www.trinityrep.com/a-flea-in-her ear).

If you have a full day to spare, you can travel by car to Newport, Rhode Island, and time-travel back to the Gilded Age (www.newportmansions.org). Newport was the first city in world history where all people were allowed to express themselves freely, worship without interference, and was governed by an elected, secular government. The King Charles II Charter of 1663 provided the first formal recognition of these freedoms.