America's smallest state, Rhode Island, presents travelers with myriad opportunities to immerse themselves in great art and design, showcasing some of the nation's most celebrated museums, antiquing experiences and pristine natural landscapes, finds Cabana's insider, Ari Kellerman.



The Breakers, Rhode Island © Ari Kellerman 


Rhode Island, aptly dubbed the Ocean State, boasts a renowned coastline and stunning beaches. Both Newport, the colonial-era port city turned Gilded-Age summer retreat, and vibrant, cultural Providence, offer gateways to the rich history of America's smallest state. Rhode Island presents travelers with myriad opportunities to immerse themselves in American art and design, showcasing some of the nation's most celebrated museums, antiquing experiences and pristine natural landscapes.

For those seeking an alternative from the hustle and bustle of the popular Massachusetts islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Rhode Island’s own Block Island beckons. While it may not epitomize the quaint charm of bygone eras, Block Island retains its rustic allure, with the vast majority of its land under the stewardship of the Nature Conservancy. Here are my not-to-miss spots in Rhode Island.


The Marble House, Rhode Island © Ari Kellerman


Where to Stay

The Vanderbilt, Newport: An iconic 1909 mansion once owned by Alfred Vanderbilt has been newly reinterpreted into a glamorous downtown destination. The property offers multiple dining options including the Roof Deck overlooking Newport Harbor.

Castle Hill Inn, Newport: This 40-acre Relais & Châteaux property features quiet beach cottages, historic rooms furnished with period antiques in the 1875 Agassiz Mansion, and harbor houses on Narragansett Bay, which were frequented by Grace Kelly. Its restaurant, Aurelia, is known for local seafood and produce.

Graduate, Providence: Eclectic, colorful design in a downtown 1920s Biltmore landmark with in-house dining, a spa, and the city's delights on your doorstep. 

Block Island Beach House, Block Island: A Lark hotel overlooking Crescent Beach. Comprised of three distinct buildings, the c.1873 hotel offers an unfussy atmosphere and an on-site restaurant and beach bar. Worth noting: the hotel and the island is primarily seasonal and caters to summer activities so do check when booking. 


What to See and Do

RISD Museum, Providence: The Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was established alongside the school in 1877 as a part of a vibrant creative community. The large collection houses more than 100,000 works of fine art and design from around the globe, and offers rotating exhibits, workshops, lectures, and performances.

John Brown House, Providence: Owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society, this 1786 mansion was referred to as, “the most magnificent and elegant private mansion that I have ever seen on this continent,” by US president John Quincy Adams. The site interprets early American history, architecture, and material culture.

Arnold House, Lincoln: Historic New England’s rare extant example of a 1693 stone-ender, a unique architectural adaptation of the English Tudor brought to Rhode Island by settlers from western England. Tour the property for a look at 17th century construction methods and a glimpse into life in the frontier.


Newport Mansions, Newport: Eleven properties comprised of mainly grand late 19th-century 'summer cottages'. These include the homes and gardens of the prominent Vanderbilt family, the Breakers, an opulent Italianate palazzo, and the earlier 1892 Marble House inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. These homes set the stage for Newport’s transformation into an opulent summer colony. Do not forget to take in the views along the Cliff Walk while there.

Hunter House, Newport 1748: Georgian landmark that remains one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the city. The home features 18th-century furnishings throughout, with examples by Townsend and Goddard and a portrait by America’s foremost portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. The property retains its historical integrity with original paneling and ornamentation, period Delft tiles, marbleizing, and faux-graining. Recent research also tells the story of 13 enslaved residents and their immeasurable contribution to Newport’s history.

Nature Beavertail State Park, Jamestown: 150 acres of New England coastline offering serene overlooks, saltwater fishing, and an 1856 lighthouse and museum.

Where to Shop

Nick Haus, Warren: Antiques and art from the smallest shop, in the smallest town, in the smallest county, in the smallest state in America.

Old as Adam, Providence: Adam Irish has collected and dealt antiques since he was eight. In 2012, he opened his first location and deals in an assorted mix of Americana - material culture, fine and folk art, design, ephemera, textiles, oddments and curiosities.

Aardvark Antiques, Newport: Established in 1969 by Arthur Grover, this large warehouse contains a multitude of antiques and architectural salvage, including a large collection of statues, stained glass, iron gates, and just about everything imaginable to come out of the many Gilded-age Newport estates.


Aardvark Antiques, Newport RI © Ari Kellerman 


Newport Lamp & Shade, Newport: An expertly curated selection of lighting and lampshades from designers including Penny Morrison to Christopher Spitzmiller.

Tori Jones Studio, Block Island: Vintage and antique home decor and design services.

Griswold Textile Co, Westerly: “A secret source for textile insiders,” says Rhode Island resident and textile marketer for Samuel and Sons, Alexander Widener. One of the last remaining textile printers in New England, Griswold’s has been producing hand-screened fabrics since 1937. They sell seconds at their off-grid factory. Details are hard to find, but if you stop to try your luck, you’ll be glad you did.


The Dining Room, The Marble House RI © Ari Kellerman


Where to Eat

There, There, Providence: Casual comfort food in a stalwart historic diner. There, There in Providence was last year named one of the best restaurants in America.

Persimmon, Providence: Helmed by couple in life and business, Chef Champe and Lisa Speidel, Persimmon has received numerous accolades for its creative small plates served up in an intimate, yet unpretentious, space.

The Mooring Seafood and Kitchen Bar, Newport: Elevated seafood dishes with views of Newport's historic and picturesque waterfront.

Canterelle, Newport: Innovative French food within the Thames St. Bouchard Inn.


Rhode Island, America's smallest state © Ari Kellerman

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