When summer hits the East Side, it brings a kind of stillness. Birds chirp, lawn mowers buzz, ice cream trucks tinkle. But, with most of the college students away, the kids at camp and the neighbors on vacation, the streets are pretty quiet. Listen closer, though, and you will hear a hum of activity. The scene in your immediate area this season just happens to be hopping. From swinging concerts to exciting exhibitions, here are a few of the many swell things to do, right near you. So, skip the beach traffic and stick around town.
1. Pack a Picnic and Take in a Show
The Roger Williams National Memorial (282 North Main Street, Providence. 521-7266, www.NPS.Gov/ROWI), with its 4.5 acres of peaceful, green grounds, offers free events all summer. The park hosts the Manton Avenue Project’s appropriately themed “National Park Plays,” short, funny works penned by third graders and performed by adult actors, from 6-7pm on July 23 and August 20. It also presents acoustic concerts featuring a diverse line-up of local artists (7-9:30pm on July 9, July 23, August 6 and August 20), capped off by the third annual Providence Folk Festival (12-6pm, August 28).
2. Beat the Heat, with Royalty
On July 24 at 12:30pm, the air-conditioned Avon Cinema (260 Thayer Street, Providence. 421-0220, www.AvonCinema.com) screens an encore presentation of National Theatre Live’s The Audience. Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II in this Tony Award-winning play about the British monarch’s private meetings with her Prime Ministers – Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher included. The broadcast style gives you a front row seat to the original West End stage production. Bows and curtsies are optional.
3. Try New Food, Glorious Food
Since moving to the site of the former Rue De L’Espoir from its native Bristol this May, Persimmon (99 Hope Street, Providence. 432-7422, www.PersimmonRI.com) puts a unique spin on American cuisine. On the other end of the street, opened just a few months prior, Wara Wara (776 Hope Street, Providence. 831-9272, www.WaraWaraRI.com) offers a traditional Japanese breakfast on weekends and delicious tapas, seafood and sake during the week.
4. Experience the Elements
Mainly focus on two of the four. Simply walk down College Hill to the Providence River to wonder at WaterFire (Full schedule available at www.WaterFire.org). In the more than 20 years since artist Barnaby Evans first lit his bonfires, WaterFire has become the city’s signature event. It burns brighter than ever this summer, with upcoming lightings including draws like illuminated fish sculptures, mounted to canoes and kayaks, weaving amid the braziers on July 9, and an educational performance by Festival Ballet on August 6.
5. Enjoy Tunes Among the Trees
The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) helps you start the weekend early with its Concerts Under the Elms, a seasonal series held Thursday nights on the lawn of the John Brown House Museum (52 Power Street, Providence. 331-8575 x133, www.RIHS.org). Bring a beach chair and tap your feet to local favorites like Duke Robillard (July 7), The Becky Chace Band (July 14), Neal & the Vipers (July 21), Pendragon (July 28) and the Reggie Centracchio Quintet (August 4). The outdoor shows are free for RIHS members and children under 12, with $10 tickets available on-site to all others. The food trucks Fugo, Citizen Wing and Mijos make appearances on different nights, with drinks from Granny Squibb’s and desserts from Ellie’s Macaron Millie available too.
6. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Ever wanted to learn how? Or, to get back into rowing after a few years (okay, possibly decades) away from the sport? Make this the summer you do it. In addition to paid classes, the Narragansett Boat Club (2 River Road, Providence. 272-1838, www.RowNBC.org) offers free, introductory lessons on the Seekonk River on select Saturday mornings. Reserve your seat in the barge for the next one, coming up July 23. Encourage friends and neighbors to join your crew. The oar, the merrier! (No word yet on whether bad jokes will get you thrown overboard.)
7. Expand Your Literary Horizons
Local libraries don’t close shop in the summer, so borrow some good reads for the hammock, porch swing and park. The Rochambeau branch (708 Hope Street, Providence. 272-3780, www.ProvComLib.org) offers a bevy of activities as well, like the community poetry reading July 6 at 1pm. To hear more from authors directly, join radio host Robin Kall for the next, live installment of the Point Street Reading Series on July 21 from 7:30-9pm at Dueling Pianos (3 Davol Square, Providence. www.ReadingWithRobin.com).
8. Shop ‘Til You Drop
Find everything under the sun, and then some, at the Providence Flea (on the Providence River Greenway, across from 345 South Water Street, Providence. 484-7783, www.ProvidenceFlea.com). Open Sundays through September 11 from 10am-4pm, the outdoor, juried (i.e., not junky) market offers booth upon booth of crafts, antiques, collectibles and more. Food trucks provide sustenance, but if you do drop, don’t worry. The Flea’s view of the city skyline looks great from a horizontal position, too.
9. Celebrate Good Times
On July 10, the RI Cape Verdean Independence Day Festival kicks off at noon at India Point Park (India Street, Providence. 785-9450, www.RICapeVerdeanHeritage.org). Expect traditional food and music, arts and craft activities for kids, and educational tents to highlight Cape Verdean culture and heritage. Cape Verde itself achieved independence in 1975, and the RI community launched this festival the following year. Now, 40 years later, it’s the oldest of its kind in the country. Party ‘til dusk for a mere $2 admission fee.
10. See a Band at Burnside
Now in it’s eighth summer, the Downtown Providence Park Conservancy’s Burnside Music Series and Beer Garden (Burnside Park, Providence. www.ProvParksConservancy.org/Visit/Music/) returns on July 7. With the perfect reason to cut out of work early every Thursday through September 8 from 4:30-7:30pm, catch Boo City out in the fresh air, fill up at a food truck and chill at the Trinity Brewhouse beer garden.
11. Admire Some Art
The Providence Art Club (11 Thomas Street, Providence. 331-1114, www.ProvidenceArtClub.org) presents a special exhibition called Outside/In through July 22 in its Maxwell Mays and Mary Castelnovo galleries. It features the works of Donato Beauchaine, Mary Brewster, Marjorie Hellman and Georgia Nassikas, the latter of whom uses wax from her own honeybee hives and damar crystals from fir trees to make her paintings. Concurrently, you can catch a members’ exhibition in the Dodge House gallery. The Art Club itself provides a charming backdrop, and its galleries are free and open to the public seven afternoons a week.
12. Jam Out
Clear your schedule August 13 to spend the day at the 7th Annual Waterfront Reggae Festival at India Point Park (India Street, Providence. 888-900-8640, www.NewportWaterfrontEvents.com/
Reggae-Festival). The late Bob Marley’s band the Wailers headlines the fest, with appearances by Etana, Jesse Royal, the Cornerstone Band and more. Feast on jerk chicken, curry goat and other Jamaican specialties in the Reggae Pit, shop for Caribbean gifts in the Artisan Marketplace, and enjoy uplifting music from 12-10pm.
13. Just Breathe
It’s amazing, isn’t it? In addition to giving life, air is also the subject of an innovative exhibition running through July 29 at the John Carter Brown Library (on the Main Green, Brown University, Providence. 863-2725, www.Brown.edu). Guest curated by Joyce E. Chaplin, a Harvard University history professor, Air America incorporates illustrations, maps and texts in its exploration of the role and meaning of air in the history of the Americas – from hurricanes to wind power.
14. Eat More
Who wants to fit into a swimsuit anyway? Winter is coming, at least, eventually. On August 6, the 2nd Annual Providence Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival hits India Point Park (India Street,
Providence. 617-782-7117, www.FoodTruckFestivalsofAmerica.com). From 12-6pm, test the limits of your waistband and digestive system with more than 50 varieties of beer and fine fixings from over 25 food vendors. Ticket options include a tastebud-teaser, a beer lover’s package and a V.I.P. special. Get the latter if you want to start eating and drinking an hour earlier than everyone else.
15. Get Inspired
Head to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (1 LaSalle Square, Providence. 331-0700, www.DunkinDonutsCenter.com) on July 28 for An Evening with Malala Yousafzai. Hear this incredible teen speak of her experiences, from being shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan, to becoming an advocate for education, a best-selling author and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
16. Rock the Park
There is nothing more quintessentially summer than the WBRU Summer Concert Series (www.WBRU.com). What started as a scattering of music events around the city has become one of our most beloved summer traditions. Thousands of people gather at Waterplace Park on Friday evenings, listening to up and coming musical acts as the sun goes down. This year, the series kicks off on July 8 with Rock Hunt winners Le Roxy Pro, and ends on August 12 with boozy Brit rockers The Wombats. Every concert pairs a local opener like Math the Band and Wild Sun with a national indie act like Lucius and Aurora. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard of the band – all that matters is that you’re outside on a beautiful summer evening appreciating all of the awesomeness that is Providence
17. Strut the Runway
Through September 11, All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion at the RISD Museum (224 Benefit Street, Providence. 454-6500, www.RISDMuseum.org) showcases more than 65 of the designer’s most clever and colorful ensembles. Marvel at the craftsmanship and revel in the exuberance of Oldham’s 1990s designs, once modeled by the likes of Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Fair warning: this exhibition may cause you to reject everything in your closet and require a new wardrobe post-haste.
18. Boogie on the Boulevard
A beautiful, leafy place for a walk or jog, Blackstone Boulevard also sets the stage for free, outdoor concerts at its old, stone Trolley Shelter (585 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence. www.BlackstoneParkConservancy.org). Swing by Wednesday, July 13, July 27, August 10 and August 24 from 6-7:30pm to enjoy the summer breeze and the sweet sounds of local musicians. If you get there early, you can even grab a few treats from the seasonal Hope Street Farmer’s Market at Lippitt Memorial Park (www.HopeStreetMarket.com), open Wednesdays from 3-6pm in addition to its usual Saturday hours.
19. Celebrate the Fourth
Fireworks and the Fourth of July. It’s a no brainer. Sure you could pile into India Point Park like you always do, or you could get out on the water. Hop on one of the Providence River Boat Company’s boats on July 4 at 8:30pm (575 South Water Street, Providence. 580-2628, www.ProvidenceRiverBoat.com), head out from the Hot Club and be the envy of all your friends on Instagram with the best views of the fireworks in town. Reservations are required for this 21-plus, $50 excursion.
20. Hit the Deck
If you haven’t been to The Hot Club (575 South Water Street. 861-9007, www.HotClubProv.com), in a while, it’s time for a visit. The no-frills bar serves cold drinks, best enjoyed outside on hot summer days. Its deck overlooking the Providence River is a perfect cross section of the city: everyone from hipsters to mortgage bankers heads there for an after work cocktail at some point in the summer. It’s a Providence tradition (so PVD, in fact, that the Farrelly Brothers filmed There’s Something About Mary there). This season, check out the new patio facing South Water Street, sip your Dark & Stormy, and breath a sigh of relief that it’s finally summer.