New England in autumn has undeniable magic, and nowhere is it more apparent than the criminally underrated (and organized — allegedly!) city of Providence, RI.
As sun-roasted afternoons grow short, the cool breeze blankets the bustling neoclassical campuses at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design with tapestries of colorful leaves. It’s beautiful.
But while most fall visitors stick to Providence’s Little Italy on formerly mobbed-up Federal Hill, the discerning traveler knows to explore the city’s quietly vibrant food scene.
The change in weather kicks off end-of-season celebrations in restaurants across the city, where late summer produce features prominently alongside sustainable catches from the nearby Atlantic and wood-fired meats from local farms.
It’s an easy trip by car or train from anywhere in the Northeast, but for those wishing to splurge, regular weekend charters from Tradewind Aviation fly from New York to nearby Newport.
Flights start at $131 each way and depart from Westchester County Airport.
On your first evening, explore downtown Providence and its tangle of winding streets, where cast iron and brick garnish the historic buildings. For a luxurious stay, check out the 47-room Beatrice hotel (from $249/night; TheBeatrice.com) — a beautiful, centrally located property with an incredible staff and exclusive guest access to the members-only Bellini rooftop bar from the Cipriani group.
After checking in, walk a few blocks to begin the evening with a bottle from the excellent cellar list at Fortnight Wine Bar and sample beautifully composed small bites from chef Nikhil Naiker.
Look out for one of the semi-frequent takeovers with winemakers or local chefs like rising star Luke Mersfelder from Bywater in nearby Warren.
Nearby is chef Ben Sukle’s critically lauded Oberlin Restaurant, a can’t-miss on any visit to the city.
Meals at Oberlin should always begin with a selection of crudo, where lesser-known, sustainably caught local fish like tautog, butterfish and bluefish are presented simply: raw and garnished with high-quality olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
The menu changes regularly, but other standouts from our visit were a quattro formaggi tomato tart on a spelt crust ($12); a yellowfin conserva featuring fresh blueberries that provided a gorgeous lift to the dish ($18); and the fregola sarda with mussels, sweet corn and chilies ($22).
After dinner, wander to the Eddy for a digestif from a team of passionate bartenders to close the night.
In the morning, art lovers will want to stroll across the river to grab their morning caffeine dose from Bolt Coffee, conveniently located at the entrance to the RISD Museum, which houses works from master artists and artisans from all of human history alongside exciting contemporary pieces from students and faculty.
After the museum, climb College Hill to take in the sea of stone university buildings set against the colonial heart of Providence on your way to Aleppo Sweets for exquisite Syrian baklava before grabbing a new read from neighbor Twenty Stories bookstore.
Wander to India Point Park for a relaxing reading session, or go down the street to newcomer Glou, where you can taste natural wines and cocktails (regular or zero-proof) in hip environs.
For a more local evening, head west of downtown to the former-industrial neighborhood, Olneyville, for a stay at the boutique Dye House (from $129/night).
The converted dye factory features local art and home goods and is the perfect hub for exploring nearby record shops, bookstores, music venues and bars.
In this neighborhood, every evening ends at Olneyville New York System with a famous Providence hot wiener (don’t you dare say hot dog!) at the vintage counter.
On your way out of town the next morning, head to Dune Brothers Seafood for lunch, where the clear chowder ($12), lobster rolls ($33) and local fried fish ($20) are doled out from a walk-up window to cure whatever ails you from your unexpectedly hedonistic fall visit to Providence.