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We have no shortage of great orchards for apple picking in Rhode Island, and over the years, we’ve visited Jaswell’s, Knight Farm, Sweet Berry Farm and Hill Orchard. This year, we all had our requirements — Geoff wanted cider doughnuts, I wanted it to be in ‘apple valley’ (near Smithfield), and the girls wanted some kind of ride.

So we agreed on Sunset Orchards, where there was a small train ride and tractor ride through the orchards, as well as fresh cider doughnuts, unpasteurized cider, and plenty of apple varieties to pick from (including macintosh and empire apples, my two favorites).

We were a bit surprised how bustling it was there (clearly, we hadn’t ‘discovered’ this place), but once you got out into the orchard, it felt more lowkey. Despite the 18 pounds of apples we bought, not one apple went to waste. And the resulting pie Geoff made, well, I guess that had at least something to do with the apples.

Sunset Orchard Farms
44 Gleaner Chapel Road
North Scituate, RI

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After living in Providence nearly six years, we finally made the day trip to Block Island. I’m not sure what took us so long exactly, but now I know what we’ve been missing.

Not surprisingly, the first thing we sought to do was eat – although the smell of bacon and long line at Ernie’s suggested it would be worth the wait, we decided to go somewhere we could eat outside without a wait, which turned out to be the Surf Hotel. Breakfast turned out to be perfectly fine (egg sandwiches on brioche, and reasonable kids’ meals).

We decided to rent a car so we could more easily explore. With six of us in our party, we opted for the circa 1980s minivan on the lot, which was offered to us for an absurd fee — oh but don’t worry, it hasn’t been cleaned, it’s on ‘E’ and it may not start. I’m not kidding – the agent actually had trouble starting the car.

With our cool ride, we drove across the entire island (it didn’t take long). We drove past rolling hills with cows and horses and impressive ocean views around nearly every corner. We parked by Settler’s Rock and walked the rocky beach over to the lighthouse.

I’d say the highlight was Mohegan Bluffs, where you climb down a winding staircase of over 100 stairs down to the water. As if that’s not enough of a barrier, the stairway ends abruptly at a treacherous cliff with a sketchy rope to ‘help’ you make your final leg down to the beach. It is quite beautiful once you make it down – with the ocean up against an enormous cliff, and it’s impressive how many people of all ages actually seemed to be able to make it down and back up without harm (including our four-year-old, although I’ll admit to not being very ‘relaxed’ about the whole experience at the time).

After we returned the car, we walked over to Ballard’s Beach, where we sat on the beach, got a snack, and enjoyed our last ocean swim of the season.

I can’t wait to go back (and I definitely can’t wait for it to be summer again). The only thing that’s missing seems to be great ice cream (and no, Turkey Hill ice cream at the Ice Cream Palace does not count, in my opinion), so next time, I’ll plan to stop at the Sweet Spot in Narragansett when I get off the ferry.

212 Water Street
New Shoreham, Block Island, RI

Surf Hotel
32 Dodge Street
New Shoreham, RI

Fried chicken, cole slaw, fresh corn, creamy mac and cheese - this isn't the TV dinner I remember.

Fried chicken, cole slaw, fresh corn, creamy mac and cheese – this isn’t the TV dinner I remember.

Remember those mushy, gravy-coated TV dinners made in the microwave that ‘revolutionized’ cooking? Well, the TV Dinner meal at The Shanty in Warwick is actually nothing like that — rather, it’s what you had wished a TV dinner could be.

Geoff opted for the burger and fries - another fine choice.

Geoff opted for the burger and fries – another fine choice.

Delivered to your table on a stainless steel plate, you’ll receive two pieces of crispy fried cornish game hen, creamy mac and cheese topped with sprinkled breadcrumbs, coleslaw, fresh buttered corn, and a biscuit with whipped cream and stewed raspberries.

The Shanty
3854 Post Road
Warwick, RI 02886
(401) 884-7008

Admiring the trains in action

Admiring the trains in action

When our youngest daughter said she wanted a train set for her birthday, Geoff started researching and stumbled upon the Providence Northern Model Railroad Club.

A model of the original Providence train station.

A model of the original Providence train station.

Located in a nondescript building near T.F. Green airport, the club has spent six years building miniature — in HO (1:87) — railroad tracks that weave through a model of the original Providence train station, the Framingham station, a miniature lumber yard, a Vermont town, tunnels, forests (complete with deer, bears and moose), and more.

The club opens to the public for a few hours most Saturday afternoons, and on our recent visit, a volunteer took us through the detailed work-in-progress (volunteers get ‘permits’ to work on sections).

Providence Northern Model Railroad Club
1175 West Shore Road
Warwick, RI

Public hours are typically noon – 4 pm on most Saturdays. Call or check website to verify.

Ladd Observatory

The dome opens on Tuesdays on Hope Street.

The Ladd Observatory is surprising. There are a few rooms on the ground floor packed with astronomical photographs and vintage instruments, including a brass orrery with 7 planets. Upstairs is a large deck packed with students and various telescopes pointed around the sky. I’ve never been there with less than 6 staff on hand to explain the machines or the subject matter. Of course the main attraction is the big telescope under the dome. Last week we had an excellent view of Saturn–rings and all.

Ladd Observatory
Open Tuesday at night when the weather permits
Observatory Lane & Hope Street
Providence, RI

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I definitely have mourned the loss of Farmstead, which had been my favorite Providence restaurant until chef Matt Jennings moved back to Boston (the horror).

That’s really my only excuse for taking so long to make it to The Salted Slate, which took its place in Wayland Square.

However, I was pleasantly surprised on our visit for brunch. The dishes we tried ranged from the savory, like the wedge salad with iceberg lettuce, pear tomatoes, bacon, and bleu cheese dressing, to the sweet such as the bag of warm doughnuts (what’s not to love there) and a French Toast made from brioche topped with sweet strawberries and orange chantilly cream.

I still miss Farmstead, but I’m glad to discover its worthy replacement, which will easily top my list of East Side brunch spots.

Tricycle Ice Cream at the Hope Street Farmers' Market.

Tricycle Ice Cream at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market.

Gourmet ice cream sandwiches. I’m glad someone finally had this genius idea, and even happier that they’re in Providence. Last weekend, I had the chance to try Tricycle Ice Cream at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market, nevermind that it was only 11 am, and I hadn’t yet had lunch.

Strawberry ice cream between two vanilla shortbread cookies.

Strawberry ice cream between two vanilla shortbread cookies.

Their flavors change regularly, but apparently that day the strawberry ice cream between two vanilla shortbread cookies (made with local strawberries from Salisbury Farm) was so popular they brought in an extra delivery during the market. Its popularity was well-deserved too, tasting as good as one of my summer favorites, strawberry shortcake.

The only downside: you have to wait a minute or two for the ice cream to melt when you get it. That can seem like a long two minutes.

Tricycle Ice Cream

At Farmers’ Markets throughout Providence, Pawtucket and Newport. See for their list.


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