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17 Favorite Things to do in Rhode Island in the Summer

Whether you are planning a summer staycation, building your summer bucket list, or taking a vacation to the Ocean State, here are our favorite things to do in Rhode Island in the summer.

With such short summers, June through August is all about being outdoors in Rhode Island and enjoying the warm weather and longer days. It is our time to munch on delicious local seafood and appreciate the natural beauty of our 400 miles of coastline.

Newport Pell Bridge at Sunset

Things to do in Rhode Island in the Summer

1. Go to the Beach

We are the Ocean State after all. Rhode Island beaches are generally not very wide and our sand is not as soft as some states further south, but they also aren’t as rocky (or cold) as the coast of Maine. There is a mix of public and private beaches in Rhode Island, although I tend to think the prettiest beaches are our State Park beaches. Private beaches either are reserved for residents or have members-only access.

Girl in pink bathing suit play in waves

Our favorite beaches in Rhode Island include:

  • Roger Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett (also known as Sand Hill Cove). The waves here are calm, there are picnic tables scattered throughout, there is a small playground, and the pavilion offers concessions, restrooms, and showers.  The only downside is the ever-present seaweed, but we’ll take that compared to what washes up in Newport.
  • Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. This is one of the most popular beaches with locals and visitors, so the parking lot fills up early. The beach features a half-mile of sand and includes a playground, concessions, outdoor showers, and shade gazebos.
  • Charlestown Breachway and East Beach in Charlestown. While less developed, the Charlestown beaches offer a beautiful stretch of sand. Just keep in mind that parking is limited so you need to arrive early.
  • East Matunuck State Beach. Popular with surfers, East Matunuck State Beach has a modern beach pavilion and great views of the Block Island ferry coming and going from the Port of Galilee. The only downside is that the parking lot fills up early in the summer. But on the plus side, it is easy to stop at the exceptional Matunuck Oyster Bar after you leave the beach!

2. Attend a Parade

July 4th float in Arnold Mills parade

Bristol, Rhode Island has the oldest Fourth of July parade in the country, and residents go all out to show their patriotic spirit. But if you don’t want to get up super-early to line up along Hope Street to have a decent view, there are other towns around Rhode Island where you can also enjoy a July 4th celebration and fireworks including:

  • Providence Independence Day celebration and fireworks
  • Warwick Independence Day fireworks on Oaklawn Beach
  • Newport Fourth of July fireworks over the Newport Harbor
  • Pawtucket fireworks and food trucks at Joseph Jenks Jr. High School
  • Arnold Mills parade and road race in Cumberland

3. Have a Picnic at Beavertail State Park

Beavertail State Park lighthouse from the rocks below

Beavertail State Park in Jamestown is our favorite spot in Rhode Island and a perfect location for a summer picnic. You can bask in the sun on the rocks like a seal or fly a kite on the grassy hills along the cliffs. The park is free to visit but offers limited parking and facilities.

Kids love playing in tide pools (just exercise caution and pay attention to the tides) and visiting the tiny Beavertail Aquarium to learn about the local sea life. For a small fee, you can also visit the tiny Lighthouse Museum. This area is also popular for saltwater fishing.

Bretton Point State Park in Newport is another popular spot for kite flying nearby.

4. Pick Flowers

Lavender plant

Summer comes into full bloom in Rhode Island at various pick-your-own flower fields across the state. The Lavender Waves Farm in South Kingstown offers 4,000 lavender plants and, on select dates, you can cut your own bundle of lavender (tickets required). On other days, you can walk the farm grounds, visit the farm animals, and check out the shop. Visitors can even stay on the property!

In mid-summer, Dame Farm and Orchards in Johnston offers pick-your-own dahlias, zinnias, and sunflowers (or you can just visit to walk through the flower fields for a charge.)

5. Eat Fresh Seafood

Tray of clam cakes
Dune Bros. clam cakes

Once summer rolls around, it is prime time to enjoy some fresh New England seafood including lobster rolls, clam cakes, clam chowder, and, our state appetizer, RI-style calamari. A few of our favorite spots to enjoy local seafood include:

  • Aunt Carrie‘s in Narragansett is our go-to spot for a traditional lobster or seafood dinner
  • Iggy’s in Narragansett or Oakland Beach serves up the best fried clams and clam cakes around
  • Dune Bros. in Providence offers rich clam cakes oozing umami and fresh fish and chips
  • Blount Clam Shack in Warren is our favorite spot for a giant lobster roll and chowder
  • Champlins Seafood Deck in Narragansett is another favorite spot for lobster with a view
  • Matunuck Oyster Bar has, hands-down, the best oysters in the Ocean State

5. Attend Newport Polo

Newport Polo field with picnic grounds and bottle of wine in a wine bucket in the foreground

The Newport International Polo Series takes place from June through September. Locals love to reserve a tailgate section and set up a fabulous picnic while watching the match. Lawn seating is also available, where you can bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating. A real treat is to purchase a table in the pavilion and invite your closest friends to join you. You bring the snacks and there is a full bar or themed refreshments for purchase. Be prepared to stomp the divots between sets.

6. Go to Waterfire

Waterfire in river in front of Citizen's Bank building

Summer is not complete without attending at least one lighting of Providence’s legendary Waterfire. This world-class art installation was created by Barnaby Evans and is installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence. Waterfire has been lighting up Providence on select dates from May through December for 25 years.

And it isn’t just about the fires. Waterfire features hauntingly beautiful music, street performers, food carts, and special events like ballroom dancing or jazz stages flanking on either side of the river. If the candlelit fixtures lighting your path under arched bridges, ambient light from the fires, and the smell of smoke and fire, isn’t enough to make you feel like you have escaped to another place, the gondolas might convince you that you have been transported to Venice.

7. Set Sail

Hogs Island Lighthouse

Since Rhode Island is the Ocean State and Newport is the Yachting Capital of the World, summer in Rhode Island means getting out on the water. Whether you kayak down the Narrow River, join a harbor cruise in Newport, or hop on the Block Island Ferry, there are many ways to get out on the water in Rhode Island.

8. Newport Folk Festival or Jazz Festival

RI offers so many cultural activities that you don’t have to search hard to find a movie on the block, theater by the sea, or outdoor concert like the RI Philharmonic Summer Pops series, Friday Night concert series in Waterplace park, or other outdoor concerts.

One of the most popular concerts is the Newport Jazz Festival or the equally popular Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park.

9. Go for a Bike Ride

Bike on East Bay Bike Path

There are over 60 miles of off-road bike trails in Rhode Island, making it easy to go for a bike ride. We tend to stick to the Blackstone Valley Bikeway because it is so close to home, but we also love to ride the East Bay Bike Path from Providence to Colt State Park in Bristol, with a little stop off-path at Blount’s Clam Shack in Warren.

10. Take a Hike

Covered bridge in Lincoln Woods

Rhode Island may not be exactly what you imagine when you think of hiking in New England, but there are over 300 hiking trails in New England across parks, nature preserves, and public land. A few of our favorites include:

  • Norman Bird Sanctuary
  • Sachuest Point National Wildlife Preserve
  • Lincoln Woods
  • Carr Pond
  • Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge
  • Purgatory Chasm
  • Stepping Stones Falls
  • Napatree Point Conservation Area Trail
  • and, of course, the Newport Cliff Walk

11. Connect with Nature and Animals

Girl feeding goat

During the summer it is nice to take advantage of the good weather to get outside and explore nature and animals. A few options that we enjoy include:

12. Enjoy Outdoor Dining

The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn

Summer means eating outside and the good thing about recent years is that the number of restaurants offering outdoor seating has expanded considerably. You can find dining with a view in Newport, Bristol, Warren, Narragansett, East Greenwich, and Providence, as well as some other local restaurants and cafes.

A few favorites, in addition to ones mentioned earlier, include:

  • Huck’s Filling Station in East Greenwich
  • Bayberry Garden in Providence
  • The Lobster Bar in Newport
  • The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport

13. Visit a Vineyard or Brewery

Beer flight at Moniker Brewery

There are 32 craft breweries in Rhode Island and a handful of wineries. Most offer outdoor seating of some sort or a tasting room. Many have partnerships with food trucks or pop-up restaurants and some also offer games or entertainment. Summer is the perfect time to try something new, or just pop down to the Providence Beer Garden by the Pedestrian Bridge to sample brews from a variety of makers.

14. Attend a Food Truck Festival

Burgundian food truck

You can find food trucks all over Rhode Island from farmer’s markets to ball games and special events. One sure way to get to try foods from a wide variety of vendors is by attending a PVD Food Truck Event. During the summer, you will typically find a food truck festival in Roger Williams Park at the Carousel Village, along with other locations such as Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland and Chase Farm in Lincoln.

15. Go to a Drive-In Movie

Growing up in the 70s as part of a family of six, drive-in movies were often our sole source of summer entertainment. We would pack some snacks, make a giant bowl of popcorn, load up the sleeping bags and blankets and head out to the drive-in. It was a thrill to introduce my family to this classic pastime at the Rustic Drive-in in Lincoln. Drive-in movies are a great family tradition in the summer!

16. Have a Del’s

Del's Lemonade cup

It isn’t summer in Rhode Island until you have had your first Del’s frozen lemonade. Watermelon, blueberry, cherry, peach mango, blood orange, grapefruit, or original lemon — what is your favorite? And don’t come after me with your Mr. Lemon preferences.

17. Day Trip to Block Island

Block Island ferry and National hotel

Hop on board the Block Island ferry for a day trip to “the Block”. Whether you are hanging out at Ballard’s or sipping mudslides at the National, biking around the island, or taking a taxi tour, this island getaway is just a short ride away.

So there you have it.  We are always looking for new things to try to pack into this (too short) summer season so please leave your tips, suggestions, and favorites in the comments below.

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