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The Providence Performing Arts Center is the second largest theater in New England. It seats 3200 people and it originally opened as a Loew's movie theater in 1928. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places after its 1977 renovation. In this baroquely elegant space, the stage is set for Broadway musicals and concerts. Events as diverse as a Jackson Browne concert or The Sound of Music can be found on this venerable establishment's schedule. Located downtown on Weybosset Street, PPAC (pronounced Pea-Pac, as it is known locally) is close to many downtown hotels as well as other attractions.
The Rhode Island School of Design is one of the country's leading art schools and it has a museum to match this lauded reputation. Located on colonial Benefit Street, RISD museum traces the history of art from antiquity to the present day through more than 85,000 works of art from all over the world. There are also collections showing Providence's history as a manufacturing center for silver, but the main galleries are categorized as follows: The Grand Gallery, Early Renaissance & Medieval, Ancient Greek & Roman, Contemporary & Modern and Decorative Arts & Design.
In 1764, three men from Newport established 'The College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,' which, for the sake of brevity, was shortened to Brown University in 1804. One of the original eight Ivy League Colleges, standing strong ever since its inception, Brown University boasts an excellent educational offering which spans diverse disciplines including engineering, design, ancient studies, archaeology, academics and sciences, among others. However, the university bears as much brilliance in its architecture as it does in its academics. Its campus is laden with exceptional examples of late 18th-century architecture residing around the Wriston and Simmons quadrangles, as well as those on the Pembroke College campus, and along Benefit Street.
The winding sculpted paths of this park named after one of Rhode Island's founding fathers will allow you to see more than 900 different zoo animals. There are giraffe, zebra and cheetah habitats as well as an open-air aviary which allows visitors an up-close look at the birds. Some of the animals with more exotic names include the Babirusa, the Binturong, the Aoudad or the amphibious and endangered Axolotl. The exhibits also feature different geographical regions and environments, such as Australasia and North America or a Wetlands Trail and a Marco Polo Adventure Trek. The zoo is always hosting events that focus on conservation, environmental stewardship and an overall zoological education for schools throughout the greater Providence area.
The Providence Children's Museum is a hands-on place of fun and learning for children as well as adults. Here, children can explore the awesome power of air, light and sound in the exhibit entitled Play Power or splash around in Water Ways, a wet and wild playscape of pumps and fountains. There is also Littlewoods, a whimsical woodland environment made especially for younger toddlers. Some educational exhibits include activities that investigate Rhode Island plants, trees and shrubs in the Children's Garden or little guys can go on a time-traveling adventure, solve bridge-building challenges and do much, much more!
The Providence Athenaeum is one of America's oldest member-supported libraries and it has functioned as such since 1753 (though the present structure was built in 1838). According to 19th-century legend, the poet Edgar Allen Poe courted Sarah Whitman in the stacks of this granite Greek Revival building. Some of the collections include documents and books from the original Providence Library, rare editions from American authors like Louisa May Alcott and Herman Melville along with the Robert Burns collection, which has more than 400 items. Today, the Athenaeum hosts events throughout the year with a focus on education for both adults as well as children.
WaterFire is a magnificent array of more than 80 mini bonfires or braziers that illuminate the three rivers of Providence. It began in 1994 when artist Barnaby Evans used the confluence of the rivers to create this ephemeral water exhibition. However, it was not that fleeting because the city of Providence along with generous volunteers and donors continues to present the exhibition every weekend. The route runs from Waterplace Park to South Main Street and it winds nearly two-thirds of a mile through parks and public spaces in downtown Providence. Here, people can stroll along the riverbanks while listening to the sounds of classical music hum over loudspeakers. The fires are lit approximately 20 minutes after sunset each Saturday and usually burn for two to three hours.
Rhode Island State House is a neoclassical white marbled beauty with an imposing dome dominating the skyline of the downtown area. It is considered to be among the fourth largest self-supporting domes in the world. Built between 1895 through 1904, it is the state's seventh state house and the capital's second. Bedecked ornately, the gilded State Library, arresting rotunda and Governor’s State Room are some of its architectural masterpieces.
Stretching from Main Street in the northern part of College Hill to Alves Way in the neighborhood of Fox Point, this street is also called the 'Mile of History'. Benefit Street has been a catalyst in the history of the city and state. Along the way, visitors will see many Victorian and Colonial homes as well as the campus of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. The street is dotted with other historical attractions like the Providence Athenaeum, the First Baptist Church in America and the anachronistic John Brown and Nightingale Houses. If you choose to walk yourself, the Providence Preservation Society provides free pamphlets in order to guide you down the street.
Federal Hill has one of the most varied and historic reputations as a neighborhood could have in any city. Today it's filled with ritzy bars, restaurants, shops, apartments and entertainment, though it was not always this way. Situated in the heart of the city, this neighborhood is known for its rich Italian-American population. The Italian-Americans here have contributed immensely over the centuries to the development and betterment of the city. The many Italian restaurants here offer delectable food to patrons throughout the year. As you walk down Atwells Avenue, you'll definitely know where you are when you see La Pigna (the pine cone) under the gateway arch.