With my last two weeks winding down before I leave, I’ve been visiting friends and saying goodbyes left and right before we all head back to school for the fall. This past Sunday, I met up with my friend Jamie in Providence and gave her a grand tour of the city, and I was surprised by some of what we found. I’m used to Portland having a lot of offbeat shops and restaurants, but after working in Providence this summer I learned that Rhode Island’s capital also has its share of cool and quirky things to do.
Providence Flea–This Brooklyn Flea style market runs every Sunday throughout the summer until September near College Hill on South Water Street. Vendors at the market sell a lot of upcycled products and not just the traditional flea market finds. One vendor sold pens and back scratchers made out of old skateboards (the colors inside of skateboards are pretty impressive, I must say), but I’m pretty sure I saw at least two different vendors selling Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. We milled around the market for a little bit (and scored some free stuff at the RISD tent) and then headed on to College Hill.
RISD Museum—In search of a bathroom, we ducked inside this popular Rhode Island art museum. I’ve visited before, but was a little overwhelmed by it. A couple of things surprised me this time around, though. The museum is free every Sunday (student IDs get you a discount every other day of the week), and it wasn’t particularly crowded for a museum’s free day. We also focused on a couple of exhibits that were more interesting to us and looked around those. So, we headed up to the sixth floor and looked around their Egyptian and Asian art collections. I particularly liked the Japanese woodblock prints and some of the statues of Hindu gods, not to mention the gigantic Buddha statue where a man was meditating.
After our fill of art, we headed into trendy Downcity to grab a coffee at Small Point Cafe. I would say that this is my favorite coffee shop in the city so far. There’s a fun atmosphere inside with Gumby at the register and chalkboard walls for patrons to write messages or draw pictures, and even the bathroom turns the paper towel and soap dispenser into robot “art.” It was a little pricy for a large mocha latte, but if you think of it as your ticket to an hour or two at a great table for people-watching, talking, or holing up and doing some work, I’d say it’s worth it.
Finally, we browsed around next-door Craftland. I’ve started to get the feeling that every city has at least one of these trendy, local artist, gift shops (Portland: Pinecone + Chickadee, Chicago: Rudy’s Roundup, Warren: Wooden Midshipman). As these stores are usually concerned, everything is overpriced but some of their stuff would make for a cool souvenir as opposed to cheesy postcards of WaterFire (the ones that may as well have words like “Aspire” or “Creativity” underneath). There were some great prints of different state maps as well as funny monster magnets. I didn’t get anything, but it’s fun to just look around.