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
http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Physics/Ladd/
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 www.tricycleicecream.com for their list.

My surfboard on the sand

My surfboard on the sand

Ah, summer. Finally, we’re together again.

Although I do enjoy ice skating and skiing, for me, they just don’t compare to lying on a warm beach, swimming, and surfing. And in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to find everything we need to enjoy summer right here in the Ocean State.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a list of ten of my favorite ways to spend a day during the summer in Rhode Island. I’d love to hear yours too, so post in the comments below!

1.  Surf, Beach, and Mini-Amusement Park in Narragansett

Photo by Dee and Tula Monstah.

Narragansett Town Beach. Photo: Dee and Tula Monstah.

For more low-key (read: novice) surfers like myself, Narragansett Town Beach generally offers small (one to three foot) waves, and the water tends to be freer of seaweed than some other local surf beaches. You can set up a surf lesson in Narragansett or rent a board with Warm Winds Surf Shop or Narragansett Surf & Skate, or just head out with your own board. The beach is separated by a surf side and a swim side, so if you’re only up for swimming, you can head to the other side of the beach. Note that Narragansett Town Beach has a fee both for parking and for entrance on the beach.

Prepare to get wet on the bumper boats...

The bumper boats at Adventureland.

For lunch, I love Crazy Burger, which has a great selection of burgers, salads and sandwiches for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

If that’s not enough action for the day, then we’ll stop at Adventureland, a miniature amusement park with a carousel, bumper boats and a kids’ raceway.

We usually like to pick up some local seafood at Champlin’s to cook at home later (likely stopping for some ice cream at the Sweet Spot while we’re there), and picking up some local corn at Sunsets Farm on the way home.

2. Bike Ride and Lunch Along the Bay

Stopping along the East Bay  Bike Path.

Stopping along the East Bay Bike Path.

If it’s not too hot, one of my favorite things to do is take a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows the coastline of the bay between East Providence down to Bristol, Rhode Island. The ride isn’t terribly hilly, and it’s so peaceful to ride along the water.

I like to stop along the way at the Audubon Society in Bristol to explore their outdoor grounds or indoor museum.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray's Ice Cream.

A cup of coffee chip at Gray’s Ice Cream.

Although the food is underwhelming, it’s hard to beat the view at Agave in Bristol. Save room for ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream, which is one of my favorites.

3. Rocky Coast Hike and View of the Bay in Jamestown

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown.

The view from Fort Wetherill State Park.

When I’m up for a more adventurous activity, I love to hike up Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with children, and the views of Narragansett Bay are fantastic. If you think ahead, you can pack a picnic lunch. Or, you can make your way into the town of Jamestown to pick a spot along the water.

There’s also the Jamestown Community Playground for kids that need to let off steam before or after their meal.

4. Beach, Boats, Kites and Seafood in Newport and Middletown

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

Second Beach in Middletown, RI.

I usually skip Newport’s Easton’s Beach (“First Beach”) in Newport, and head to Sachuest Beach (“Second Beach”) in Middletown, Rhode Island. The water tends to be freer of seaweed, although the seagulls remain as aggressive as ever here, which is why I don’t recommend lunch on the beach. Plus, who needs lunch when you can go straight from the beach to Frosty Freez for delicious soft-serve.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

Kite flying in Brenton State Park along the water in Newport.

We always like to try to make time to take a drive along the coast on Ocean Drive, stopping at Brenton Point State Park, which typically makes for a great kite-flying spot.

We’ve also spent many pleasant hours over the years in the rental boats available at Sail Newport in Fort Adams State Park.

For dinner, I usually head to Flo’s Clam Shack for my favorite lobster roll and clamcakes. Or if I’m in the mood for a more relaxing sit-down dinner, then I head to  Scales & Shells for local seafood or Mamma Luisa for homemade Italian, both favorites that have stood the test of time.

5. Pool, Cake and a Drive-in Movie

Pool-time.

Pool-time.

Although I do love the ocean, swimming in a pool can often be much easier–no waves and sea creatures to contend with.

If you don’t have access to a pool, see if you can find a friend and get invited by someone with a membership to one (guest fees tend to be about $5-10 per person at local clubs).

Wrights Dairy Farm

Wrights Dairy Farm

After swimming (I like to do laps), I like a treat (shocking, I know). Depending on where I am, I might drive to Eskimo King.

Another one of my favorites is an excursion to Wrights Dairy Farm for some coffee milk and strawberry shortcake.

And what better way to finish a summer evening than with an outdoor movie at the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In?

6. Fishing, Baseball and Fireworks

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

I love to sit on the grassy field by the outfield at McCoy Stadium.

What could be more American? Start with fishing and a ride on the carousel at Slater Memorial Park.

Then head to a Paw Sox game at McCoy Stadium, where you can grab some beers and a Super Pretzel, some shelled peanuts, or hot dog, and spread out on the lawn to watch the game. If you pick a night with fireworks after, then you can end the night with a close-up show.

7. Beach, Cocktails and Oysters

One of my favorite state beaches is East Matunuck Beach–it’s a bit rockier than some, but it’s has a great atmosphere for children. Plus, you can eat at the waterfront Matunuck Oyster Bar before or after. Am I the only one who finds the beach makes them hungry?

If I’m looking for a more lively beach day, I might head down to Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI and have cocktails and lunch at The Andrea’s newly restored bar, right on the beach.

8. An All-Providence Summer Day

Breakfast sandwich from Pat's Pastured.

Breakfast sandwich from Pat’s Pastured.

On Saturday mornings, you’ll typically find us at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Lippitt Park, Providence. There are dozens of farm vendors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and throughout the summer, the produce increases in variety. You’ll also find the Pat’s Pastured Pork stand for breakfast sandwiches, or Tallulah Tacos for lunch. There’s even a series of local craft vendors if you want to do additional shopping.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

DePasquale Square on Atwells Ave.

On other days of the week, I might head to Venda Ravioli, where you can eat outside in DePasquale Square on Atwells Avenue.

You might not think of the zoo as too appealing on a hot summer day, but the Roger Williams Park Zoo now has Hasbro’s Big Backyard with sprinklers and water play for the kids (and I suppose, over-heated adults). Don’t forget to squeeze in a few minutes to see some elephants, giraffes and gorillas while you’re there.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Sparks fly on a windy night.

Then, it’s hard to deny the tourist appeal of Providence’s Waterfire. It was the first event that brought us into Providence before we moved here, and its success has led to its adoption in other small cities. It’s one of the only times you’ll see actual traffic in downtown Providence, as a novelty, I appreciate it, especially since I don’t have to drive.

In my ideal day, I’d begin with watching them light the fires, then enjoy a meal at Figidini or Gracie’s, and finish off with a concert at Lupo’s.

9. Berry Picking and Wine Tasting on Aquidneck Island

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

Newport Vineyards tables overlooking the grapevines.

When I get sick of the beach (it takes a lot of beach days in a row for this to happen), I love going to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown for berry picking. They also have a small gourmet grocery shop with other tasty treats.

Then, I’d enjoy a relaxing snack and glass of wine at Newport Vineyards at their outdoor seating overlooking their rows of grapevines.

10. Biking and Surfing on Block Island

Ok, this one is actually on my ‘to do’ list.

It’s a bit absurd to admit, but even after living in Providence several years, I have failed to make the short ferry ride to Block Island. But I’m determined that this will be the year.

List of Places Mentioned (without links):

Narragansett Town Beach
39 Boston Neck Rd.
Narragansett, RI
www.narragansettri.gov

Crazy Burger
144 Boon St.
Narragansett, RI
www.crazyburger.com

Sunsets Farm
www.farmfresh.org

Audubon Society of RI
1401 Hope St
Bristol, RI
www.asri.org

Agave
805 Hope Street
Bristol, RI
www.agavebristol.com

Jamestown Community Playground
41 Conanicus Ave.
Jamestown, RI

Sachuest Beach
474 Sachuest Point Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.visitrhodeisland.com

Brenton Point State Park
Ocean Drive
Newport, RI
www.riparks.com

Sail Newport
60 Fort Adams Dr.
Newport, RI
www.sailnewport.org

Scales & Shells
527 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.scalesandshells.com

Mamma Luisa
673 Thames St.
Newport, RI
www.mammaluisa.com

The Andrea
89 Atlantic Ave.
Westerly, RI
www.andreabeachbar.com

Hope Street Farmers’ Market
Lippitt Park
1059 Hope Street
Providence, RI
www.farmfresh.org

Venda Ravioli
265 Atwells Ave.
Providence, RI
www.vendaravioli.com

Gracie’s
194 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.graciesprov.com

Lupo’s
79 Washington St.
Providence, RI
www.lupos.com

Newport Vineyards
909 E Main Rd.
Middletown, RI
www.newportvineyards.com

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I’ve driven by the Swiss Valley Farm (SVF) in Newport, RI dozens of times, marveling at how Newport packs a quaint New England town, rocky ocean cliffs, and rustic farmland into a few miles.

Yesterday, we made it to their Annual Visitors Day. The Foundation is part science lab, part conservation organization, and part farm. They specialize in the preservation of rare and heritage breeds and livestock, like the critically endangered Arapawa goat and the rare Leicester Longwool Sheep. Although the farm is only open to the public once a year in order to protect the animals’ germplasm (semen and embryos) from outside contamination, you can purchase their heritage lamb, beef and honey year-round.

The farm’s architecture is reminiscent of a European village with its rolling hills and old stone structures (which have been impressively restored inside and out). The Visitors Day attracts people of all ages who come out to watch llama and sheep shearing; try out some of their heritage lamb, beef and pork; and explore some of the buildings across the foundation’s 45 acres. They even had some John Deere tractors and vehicles for children to pretend to drive.

This year, Julians arrived with their traveling omnibus, a double-decker bus where they cook on the ‘ground floor’ and have booths for dining on the upper open deck. Of course, the menu at SVF featured heritage meats including whiskey cola pulled pork sandwiches, lamb bratwursts and hamburgers (they did also have one vegan option, but we didn’t order it).

Now, if only I could figure out how to get invited to one of their visitor cottages… veterinarian school?

Swiss Valley Farm Foundation
Newport, RI
www.svffoundation.org
Annual Visitors Day typically in mid-June

Julians 
Travelling Omnibus: www.juliansprovidence.com/omnibus

Restaurant: Providence, RI www.juliansprovidence.com

Briden Nursery

A section of Briden Nursery's selection of plants.

Briden Nursery’s selection of plants includes dozens upon dozens of plants, trees, and flowers.

One of the ‘deals’ Geoff and I made when we moved into our house was that I would take care of all the yard and landscaping duties. Of course, this was a huge mistake on my part.

Fortunately, he hasn’t held me to it.

Rows of plants, including vinca.

Rows of perennials in one of the greenhouses at Briden Nursery.

But even with both of us working on it, keeping up a front and backyard is definitely a lot more effort than I had imagined. What did I know? When I grew up in New York City, we didn’t have a yard. I never raked leaves or watered plants or weeded gardens.

After living here a few years, I am learning how to make things easier. First, I decided to convert our front yard entirely to plants instead of grass. It’s too hard to mow our steep front yard, and grass doesn’t grow well anyway. So, seeing what seems to grow abundantly with little to no effort nearby, I decided to plant a field of vinca there. Briden Nursery, as it turns out, has an abundance of perennials, including vinca for $7.50 each (half the price of Home Depot even).

Briden Nursery caters largely to landscapers, so it’s not an in-and-out place, and you might not find the service you would at a smaller nursery. Still, their enormous selection can’t be beat, they take credit cards, and they even have Saturday hours.

Briden Nursery
460 Natick Ave
Cranston, RI 02921
www.bridennursery.com
(401) 680-6039

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The Wintertime Farmers’ Market remains one of my favorite things about Providence (even though it’s actually in Pawtucket). And it keeps getting better. Last year, the market expanded into another hall of Hope Artiste Village to allow for the growing demand for both more vendors and shoppers, which made it a much more pleasant (and less crowded) shopping experience.

And now, you can take a break from the market with ‘Brunch and Bowl’ at Breaktime Bowl & Bar right upstairs in the Hope Artiste Village. The half dozen lanes feature duckpin bowling, but it’s even more offbeat than that. Here, there is no automatic pin-resetting; there’s actually a person who sets up your pins after each turn.

Plus, the drink menu features some great beers on tap, and the food menu is notches above any bowling alley that I’ve been to: my favorite was the spinach and artichoke dip with parmesan crusted toasts.

And if you miss brunch, they’re open for lunch and dinner with bowling too.

Breaktime Bowl & Bar
999 Main Street
Hope Artiste Village
3rd Floor
Pawtucket, RI
www.breaktimebowlandbar.com or find them on Facebook

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