"Rhode Island: 3% Bigger at Low Tide," reads a best-selling T-shirt by designer Hilary Treadwell. It’s a bit of an exaggeration: the state geologist actually calculates.5%. But the smallest state’s size is a big source of pride given all there is to do and see within its 1,500 square miles (one-third of those are water). The visitor may find it hard to choose from so many experiences: historic tours, fine dining, and WaterFire in Providence; apple picking and canal-boat rides in the Blackstone Valley; fishing trips and hitting the beach in South County or Block Island; pedaling along Bristol’s bike path; and taking sunset sails and touring Gilded Age mansions in Newport.
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the state’s official name, has a long history of forward thinking and a spirit of determination and innovation symbolized by the 11-foot-tall bronze Independent Man atop its marble-domed State House. The first of the 13 colonies to declare independence from Britain can also claim the first successful textile mill in Pawtucket, America’s oldest synagogue in Newport, and the first lunch wagon in Providence. A state founded on the principle of religious liberty drew Baptists, Jews, Quakers, and others throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, then flourished with factories, silver foundries, and jewelry companies that drew workers from French Canada, Italy, Ireland, England, Portugal, and Eastern Europe.
The state’s leaders keep working to make Rhode Island a dynamic place to live and work in and to visit for the 21st century. They moved a highway to carry on the revitalization of Downtown Providence, made infrastructure improvements at Fort Adams State Park in Newport to host international yacht-racing events, extended commuter rail service linking Providence to T. F. Green Airport and Wickford, and planned bike-path expansions in South County and Blackstone Valley. Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns—none more than 50 miles apart—offer natural attractions, inspired culinary artistry, and many opportunities to relax and take in its scenic vistas.