Gay Vacations in Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island, skyline
Providence Skyline (courtesy, The Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Like a Jan Brady sandwiched between her flashier siblings, New York and Boston, most people simply know Providence as an off-ramp they speed past on their way to or from those other well-known metropolises. But Providence has been picked up on the radar of savvy travelers who now see it as New England's best-kept secret city. A lot of the credit for the city's new high profile is due to the forward-thinking mayor David Cicilline, who also happens to be openly gay. He has brought a newfound prosperity and confidence to the once downtrodden city. Now luxury condos and high-class hotels are sprouting up at record pace, Hollywood movies are being shot here, the historic downtown is awash in trendy stores, and Bostonians (many of them gay) are moving in to take advantage of the relatively cheap rents, low crime, great restaurants, and high standard of living.

Providence has long been a refuge for tolerance, ever since the defiant Roger Williams set up a colony here in 1638 that espoused religious freedom and liberty. Liberal institutions like Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design (the latter's alumni include the Talking Heads and queer filmmaker Gus Van Sant) keep Providence on the youthful artistic cutting edge. Several other colleges fill the town, including the world-renowned Johnson & Wales culinary school (Emeril is an alum), which keeps the city's food scene top tier. Galleries, live music venues, loft spaces, theaters, cafes, and design stores make the city feel a lot more hip and happening than its population of 175,000 would have you believe. Providence has put itself on the cultural map with a summertime bonfire river canal event called Waterfire, which draws over a million visitors a year and is now being copied by other international cities.

Don't let Providence's small, manageable size lead you to think it doesn't have a gay (and particularly lesbian) life. The city has more queer bars and clubs than Boston—and gay saunas and strips clubs too, which Boston lacks. A huge nighttime pride festival in June dominates the entire downtown with outdoor concerts and festivals. Overall, the gay populace here is out and proud and very friendly to new faces.

Published: 3 Feb 2009 | Last Updated: 29 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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