"Rhode Island: 3% Bigger at Low Tide," reads a locally made T-shirt—an exaggeration, of course: the state geologist calculates it's actually more like 0.5%. But the smallest state's size is a source of pride, given all there is to do within its 1,500 square miles. You may find it hard to choose among so many experiences: historic walks, fine dining, and the WaterFire display in Providence; apple picking and riverboat cruises in the Blackstone Valley; fishing trips and beach excursions in South County and Block Island; pedaling along Bristol's bike path; and taking sunset sails in Newport and touring the Gilded Age mansions.
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the state's official name, has a long history of forward thinking and a spirit of determination and innovation embodied in the 11-foot-tall bronze Independent Man atop the 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, which brought workers from French Canada, Italy, Ireland, England, Portugal, and Eastern Europe.
Rhode Island remains an attractive, spirited place to live or visit. A public works project has opened up the river in Downtown Providence; infrastructural improvements at Fort Adams State Park in Newport allow it to host international yacht-racing events; extended commuter rail service makes it easier to travel between Providence, T. F. Green Airport, and Wickford; and bike-path expansions allow cyclists to traverse South County, East Bay, and Blackstone Valley. Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns—none more than 50 miles apart—offer natural beauty, inspired culinary artistry, and many opportunities to relax and enjoy its scenic vistas.