Cultural Experience | Rhode Island

Hot Spots for College Students in Providence

Places to see as a college student n Providence RI

By Bonnie Pan, Brown University

Providence is, at heart, a college town. So it is to be expected that it would be host to a wide variety of urban attractions for bored college students looking for a change of pace! Where do we all go when we want to have a little fun, but not spend too much? Here are some of the places I’d recommend to visit if you want to get a college experience in Providence, Rhode Island:

Thayer Street

Want to take a break from studying? Get some froyo with a friend? Meet a professor for coffee? Thayer street is the go-to place for students wanting to get a change of scenery from libraries and lecture halls. It’s not fancy, it’s not particularly neat, and there are usually a couple of sketchy-looking people on the corners looking for a buck, but it’s quaint, and in a cluttered sort of way, charming.


a little thrift shop on thayer

Highlights: The small, diminutive boutiques tucked away between weathered brown bricks, the quirky specialty shops that hand out free peacock feathers to incoming freshmen (Spectrum India), and the small, family-owned restaurants. CVS is right at the end for extra supplies.

Providence Place Mall

When I came to Providence, I wasn’t expecting much city life. I thought that the shopping would be sparse, since it’s not a very big city. Providence Place Mall completely changed my perceptions. Three stories high, and towering with huge, expansive windows, Providence Place has whatever you may want to buy, whether it be clothing, furniture, or a movie night out with friends.

Avon Theater

avon theatre Rhode Island image

Avon Theatre

I’m cheating a little with this one because the Avon Theater is actually located on Thayer Street. I think it deserves its own section though because it is special—it plays a lot of independent, Sundance-like films (what do you expect? RISD, one of the most prestigious art schools in America, is right down the road) and the environment is very old-fashioned.

Highlights: Curtains that actually have to fully open to reveal the screen, vintage movie clips that play before your film, and the feeling that you’ve traveled to a theater from the past.

Capital house

I’ve only seen this from the outside, but I’ve always admired the architecture and the clean, crisp look of the building. I think every college student here has briefly passed by the capitol building, whether it be on the way downtown, College Hill, or the Amtrak train station

RISD Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design is one of the best art schools in the country—is a beautiful art museum any surprise? There are five to six levels of exhibits from all eras—from the modern era to old antiquity.

Highlights: The student display on the second floor. It can be mind-blowing to see what people my age, or sometimes younger, can create out of some imagination and art supplies. There are usually some rotating exhibits as well, which you can look up on

The Riverwalk/Waterplace Park

Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk are great places for a relaxing and scenic stroll with plenty of nice shops and restaurants along the way. The Riverwalk is just a street or two down from College Hill, which makes it extremely convenient to visit for brief interludes of time. These areas are especially beautiful during Waterfire.

Highlights: Waterfire (see below)


Every year, in Fall, the little river running through much of downtown Providence is illuminated with the light of Waterfire. Students, couples, and families alike flock to the strange tradition and watch performances by fire acrobats on boats.

Highlights: Blazing balls of fire aloft the river running through Providence set to eerie, religious music, and romantic gondola rides at ~$160 for two people (I know because my roommate is going on one soon!).


I haven’t actually been here, but my friends went at the beginning of freshman year and loved it. There is some beautiful scenery and nice houses to take pictures of, and the views of the ocean are lovely.

Highlights: The Cliff Walk, which extends 3 miles long along the cliffs of the ocean. You can take pictures of, or climb, or simply admire the rock formations at different areas of the walk.


If Thayer Street isn’t enough for you, Wickenden is a slightly classier neighborhood of restaurants and little shops. It is farther to travel, but if you’re looking for a nicer, less “university” feel, Wickenden is the place for you.


brown university image

Brown University

Where can you feel more like a college student than at an actual uni? Brown is arguably the best “attraction” in Providence, and definitely a must-see for anyone visiting.

Highlights: University Hall, the first building built on campus, and the main green, which is especially crowded on nice, bright days when everyone wants to soak up the sun.

Beini Pan

Brown University | 4 stories

I was born in Shanghai and I moved to the United States because my parents got accepted to grad school. After, my mom got a job in Washington so we moved there. 14 years later, I got into the best college ever and packed my stuff up for Providence, Rhode Island!

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