What to do and see in Rhode Island, United States: The Best Architectural Buildings

December 1, 2021 Dorsey Hagwood

With the perfect combination of great seaside views, colorful local culture, and endless family activities, Rhode Island is a big vacation destination in a small package. Whether you are into art and culture, beautiful seaside sights, or great family-friendly activities, there is sure to be something for you in Rhode Island. If you're staying in Newport, try a breathtaking tour of the harbor in the Schooner Madeleine, or enjoy a bit of history at Fort Adams State Park. The Newport mansions are one of the most popular attractions around, and the nearby Cliff Walk is a great place for a hike. Narragansett is home to the lovely Narragansett Town Beach and Point Judith Lighthouse, and if you hop on the Block Island Ferry you are only a short trip away from Block Island, where you can enjoy the sights of the Mohegan Bluffs or party it up at Capt. Nick's Rock and Roll Bar. Take a drive up to Providence for some great shopping at Providence Place Mall and to visit the unforgettable Roger Williams Park Zoo.

1. Cathedral Church of St. John & Graveyard

274 N Main St at Church St., Providence, RI 02903-1240 +1 401-274-4500 [email protected] http://www.episcopalri.org/ProgramsMinistries/TheCenterforReconciliation.aspx
Excellent
100%
Good
0%
Satisfactory
0%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 1 reviews

Cathedral Church of St. John & Graveyard

2. Newport Tower

5 Touro Park St W Touro Park, Newport, RI 02840-3148
Excellent
100%
Good
0%
Satisfactory
0%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 5 reviews

Newport Tower

Reviewed By 215rickp - Sherrard, United States

We scheduled a visit with Jim Egan who owns the museum across from the Tower. He started with an explanatory tour around this iconic Newport structure. That alone was very enlightening, but afterwards we went into the museum & were blown away by his extensive knowledge, study & conclusions about who built the Tower. I strongly urge anyone visiting the Tower to set up a tour with Jim. You won’t regret it!

3. Rhode Island State House

82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903-1105 +1 401-222-3983 [email protected] http://sos.ri.gov/publicinfo/tours/
Excellent
59%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 404 reviews

Rhode Island State House

This imposing marble building houses King Charles' 1663 charter of the Rhode Island colony.

Reviewed By Decaf7

Take the half hour free guided tour, worth your time. See the House and Senate chambers, the library, portraits of former governors, portrait of George Washington painted by our very own Gilbert Stuart and learn about the history of this beautiful building. Dome is a beautiful piece of architecture.

4. Marble House

596 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840-4265 +1 401-847-1000 [email protected] http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/marble-house
Excellent
73%
Good
23%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,729 reviews

Marble House

Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. It was a summer house, or "cottage", as Newporters called them in remembrance of the modest houses of the early 19th century. But Marble House was much more; it was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport's subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. Mr. Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the family's fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. His older brother was Cornelius II, who built The Breakers. Alva Vanderbilt was a leading hostess in Newport society, and envisioned Marble House as her "temple to the arts" in America. The house was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost of the house was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.

Reviewed By KimGTravels - Pacific Grove, United States

Designed by the famous architect Richard Morris Hunt for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt, Marble House was considered the finest and most opulent home at its completion in 1892, and influenced the building of the future grandiose estates during the Gilded Age. The Vanderbilts, Astors & Morgans raced their yachts on Narragansett Bay while America's social elite enjoyed approximately eight weeks of lavish entertaining and events each July & August. Presented as a gift to Alva from her husband for her 39th birthday, the unfortunate couple ultimately terminated their marriage. Designed with similar exterior aspects of "The Whitehouse", this 50 room mansion is considered one of the top three, and is a must visit. The grand flowing marble staircase; gilded & painted details; massive chandeliers; sculptures; stained glass windows and Gothic fireplace; ornate plasterwork & ceilings; this estate is a remarkable work of art & craftsmanship. Over 500,000 cubic feet of marble was used in its construction, which provides an enviromental cooling element to this lavish property. A Chinese Tea House was erected in the back garden, but later moved from the cliff area to a safer position on the property. American socialite Cornelius Vanderbilt II, older brother of William, ultimately constructed the stately and much larger "Breakers" nearby in 1895, but I prefer the more "intimate" feeling of Marble House, which is available for special occasions, should your budget allow.

5. Providence Athenaeum

251 Benefit St, Providence, RI 02903-2709 +1 401-421-6970 [email protected] http://www.providenceathenaeum.org
Excellent
72%
Good
23%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 116 reviews

Providence Athenaeum

The Providence Athenæum is an independent, member-supported library and cultural center located on Providence’s historic Benefit Street. Over its nearly 200 years of existence, the library has welcomed illustrious writers, spirited thinkers, and energetic community members through its doors to engage in reading, conversation, and debate. At its heart, the Athenæum encourages a love of reading and learning to all. Free & open to the public.

Reviewed By 349cynthiae - Boston, United States

Inside this beautiful building is a world of real books (complete with card catalogue!) and helpful docents. The architecture and decor would be worth a visit; the rare books collection astonishing. The shelves are filled with books, some familiar, others waiting to be explored. The Raven tour (Edgar Allan Poe was a visitor) is fun and informative. Throughout the year, special events are offered to members. Easily worth the price of admission to membership!

6. Isaac Bell House

Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840 +1 401-847-1000 [email protected] http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/isaac-bell-house
Excellent
61%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 102 reviews

Isaac Bell House

The Isaac Bell House is one of the best surviving examples of shingle style architecture in the country. The house was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead and White in 1883 for Isaac Bell, a wealthy cotton broker and investor. After passing through a succession of owners, the Isaac Bell House was purchased by the Preservation Society in 1996, and is today designated a National Historic Landmark. The Isaac Bell House was remarkably innovative when it appeared in 1883. It is a combination of Old English and European architecture with colonial American and exotic details, such as a Japanese-inspired open floor plan and bamboo-style porch columns.

7. The Towers

35 Ocean Rd, Narragansett, RI 02882-1321 +1 401-782-2597 [email protected] http://www.thetowersri.com/
Excellent
70%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 134 reviews

The Towers

The remaining building left from the Narragansett Pier Casino fire now hosts events and dinner theaters.

Reviewed By 465ChristineD465 - West Greenwich, United States

This place is prime for any ocean view venue in the heart of Narragansett. We came in December for the Christmas cocktail caberet and it was elegant and perfect

8. The Elms

367 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840-6915 +1 401-847-1000 [email protected] http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/the-elms
Excellent
76%
Good
21%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,851 reviews

The Elms

The Elms was the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. Mr. Berwind made his fortune in the coal industry. In 1898, the Berwinds engaged Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design a house modeled after the mid-18th century French chateau d'Asnieres (c.1750) outside Paris. Construction of The Elms was completed in 1901 at a cost reported at approximately $1.4 million. The interiors and furnishings were designed by Allard and Sons of Paris and were the setting for the Berwinds' collection of Renaissance ceramics, 18th century French and Venetian paintings, and Oriental jades.

Reviewed By Passenger798499 - Texas, United States

Mary Ann was our most excellent delightful tour guide, she knew everything about this beautiful mansion. I highly recommend this tour. The Newport Preservation Society has done an awesome job to upkeep the mansions. See them all...

9. Kingscote

253 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840-3571 +1 401-847-1000 [email protected] http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/kingscote
Excellent
54%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
11%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 158 reviews

Kingscote

Kingscote is a landmark of the Gothic Revival style in American architecture. Its appearance in Newport marked the beginning of the "cottage boom" that would distinguish the town as a veritable laboratory for the design of picturesque houses throughout the 19th century. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Jones family left Newport never to return, and the house was sold in 1864 to China Trade merchant William Henry King. His nephew David took over the house in 1876, and several years later decided to enlarge Kingscote. He engaged the firm of McKim, Mead and White to make the renovations, including the new dining room. The room combines Colonial American details with exotic ornament - reflecting the architects' interest in combining eastern and western motifs. The innovative use of materials was also important, such as cork tiles as a covering for the wall frieze and ceiling, and an early installation of opalescent glass bricks by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The house remained in the King family until 1972, when the last descendant left it to the Preservation Society. Today, Kingscote is a National Historic Landmark. It is a rare example of a Gothic Revival house and landscape setting preserved intact with original family collections.

10. Providence Performing Arts Center

220 Weybosset St, Providence, RI 02903-3707 +1 401-421-2997 http://www.providencetheater.com/
Excellent
74%
Good
19%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 607 reviews

Providence Performing Arts Center

Reviewed By johncS9798FD - Slatersville, United States

Over the years we have seen some wonderful productions at PPAC. Among our favorites: Les Miserables, Jersey Boys, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Book of Mormon and so many more. We have never been disappointed!

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