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Rhode Island in fall: 13 things to do during fall in Rhode Island

Rachel HannahAugust 27, 2022
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Fall in Rhode Island is one of the best times of the year to come for a visit. The weather is moderate, the crowds have dissipated, and the leaves are morphing into their vibrant uniforms. There are many things to do during fall in Rhode Island across the whole state that go beyond the popular cities of Providence and Newport.

Keep reading to discover which things you want to add to your fall in Rhode Island bucket list!


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.


Overview of Visiting Rhode Island in Fall

The Best Things to do in Rhode Island in the Fall

Rhode Island State Capitol

1. Road Trip to See Fall Foliage in Rhode Island

The pull for you to visit Rhode Island in the fall wouldn’t have something to do with seeing the colorful leaves, would it? Joking aside, there are several great spots to peep the leaves that can even be as simplistic as strolling through one of the popular cities like Providence or Newport.

Providence would be your best bet if you are traveling without a car because its easily accessible from the airport. If you are driving you will have lots of options. Here are some of the best spots for fall foliage in Rhode Island:

  • Roger Williams Park, Providence
  • Slater Mill, Pawtucket
  • Goddard Memorial State Park, East Greenwich

If you want to learn more in detail about the different routes you can take check out this guide here for some incredible choices. 

I stayed in the town of Pawtucket for one night at an Airbnb and it was such a laid-back area. It really felt far from a major city but it was only 10 minutes from Providence. So if you are visiting Providence or driving through it make sure to stop off and see the Slater Mill since it’s so close. Fun fact, the Slater Mill is a National Historical Landmark that was used as a cotton mill in the 1700s. 

pawtucket along river during the fall in Rhode Island

Also, if you can, plan to come early in the morning for breakfast at the Rhody Hen Cafe. It’s a tiny little family-owned diner but their breakfast is AMAZING! They had a fall-themed specials menu when I went and I tried the pumpkin spice pancakes which were endearing. 

2. WaterFire Festival in Providence

WaterFire gondola lighting

The Water Fire festival is an epic FREE evening show on the Providence Riverfront where thousands gather to watch as bonfires are lit by gondolas on the water.

The day we flew to Providence, there was a lighting that evening, and we debated whether it would be worth checking out. I have to say it was way grander than I had expected it to be.

It’s a full sensory experience, from the smell and sound of fire in the air as dusk comes to the enchanting music being played as the gondolas gracefully glide down the river. 

There was something special about the energy there. Almost all of the people gathered around were fully engrossed in the ambiance or were lightly chatting with their friends as they looked out.

The main hangout spot for the “show” is at the ring basin section of the river right across from Station Park. It is a more wide open area where the cement dips down closer to the water so you’ll get the views from here. 

If you want to make your evening extra special you can ride one of the gondolas down the river! It costs $55 USD per person for a 30 minutes ride but I would suggest booking here in advance because spots are limited! It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Providence in the fall. 

WaterFire has a rather inconsistent schedule but the last lightings for the year typically end in early November. You can check the full schedule here for dates and times.

If your trip doesn’t fall during a WaterFire date you can still take a 1-hour boat tour down the river where you will discover all of Providence’s best architectural sights.

My Finding’s Tip: Make sure to park early to avoid paying a lot or walking a long distance. I would recommend coming for dinner first so you already have your parking spot taken care of.

3. Discover the Lighthouses in Jamestown

beavertail lighthouse rhode island
  • Beavertail Lighthouse – You can park right at Beavertail State Park and easily walk to the 45 ft (13.7 m) lighthouse. The lighthouse itself isn’t the most impressive from this list but the ocean and coastal views make it worth this visit.
  • Dutch Island Lighthouse – Visible from Ft Getty Recreational Area in Jamestown, RI
  • Plum Beach Lighthouse – Can be seen from the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge
  • Fort Hamilton Lighthouse on Rose Island– To see this one from the water you can go on this lighthouse and mimosa cruise of Narragansett Bay from Newport. You can also go onto the island by taking a ferry or private tour from Jamestown or Newport. 

The island of Jamestown is one of the most beautiful areas of Rhode Island in the fall. During this time of year, there will be fewer crowds and autumnal colors will line the streets. 

Other than visiting the lighthouses there are a few different things to do in Jamestown some of the most popular ideas are seeing (or driving across) the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, checking out a couple of nature parks and preserves, stopping in for the view at Jamestown Beach (also referred to as Mackerel Cove), or grabbing a cup of coffee from a cute coffee shop in town.

4. Scout out the Newport Mansions on the Cliff Walk

Girl with hand on hip newport cliff walk

If you’re coming to Rhode Island in the fall the Cliff Walk in Newport is a must-do activity for first-time visitors! The cooler and breezy weather makes it a perfect time of year for a long walk along the coast and great for a lot of different interests. It encompasses scenic views of the ragged cliffs as you look to find mansions along the way while also getting in some movement for the outdoor lovers. 

If you don’t enjoy longer walks then you can opt for a simple scenic trolley ride that will drive past several mansions and historical sites on ten-mile Ocean Drive and Bellview Avenue. Your driver will also give you lots of interesting information about the area and stories of the past. At $30 USD per adult, I think it’s a great value for money.

If you have your own car you can just pay to download the audio and go at your own pace to visit all the sights. To avoid any issues you have to download the app first and load it before making your way to the notated starting point. 

If you love history or architecture then you must also tour the inside of some of the mansions! I personally visited the Breakers, The Elms, and Rosecliff. I was happy with my choices because they were pretty different from each other.

girl looking over legde in breakers mansion

The Breakers was very beautiful and detailed on the interior with a very interesting history lesson. The Elms had an impressive property and gardens and a unique room with wallpaper. Whereas Rosecliff was the smallest of the 3 but had an open floor plan with a gorgeous staircase and ballroom.

My Finding’s Fact: The Breakers Mansion was a summer “cottage” built by the Vanderbilt family, one of America’s wealthiest families. It was made a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

the elms garden entrance

We did the self-guided tour in a bundled trio ticket but there are also narrated trolly tours which are not much more expensive and include both transportation but also your admission to certain mansions depending on which tour you purchase. 

For example, this Guilded Ages Trolley Tour includes your choice of one mansion and transport and cruises past over 150 sights in the area while this Newport Vikings Tour includes admission to the Breakers and Marble House with transport. 

You can also browse all the Newport mansion tours for yourself to see which interests you most.

5. Try a Gourmet Soft Pretzel

gourmet pretzel with pesto garlic

Did you know that soft pretzels originated in Pennsylvania? That being said fresh homemade soft pretzels are a hit in the northern part of the east coast which is why the popularity has spread into the rest New England.

You must try one, especially if you are visiting Rhode Island in the fall! I think it makes for the perfect warm snack paired with a seasonal craft beer, wouldn’t you agree? 

When I visited Providence I was able to try a couple of different flavors from The Malted Barley in downtown Providence – get this, they have a separate pretzel menu! Wow was it hard to narrow down our choices.  

6. Take the Ferry to Block Island

block island grass lanscape with sand trail to ocean

Block Island is an underrated destination located 12 miles from mainland Rhode Island that is most popular during the summertime for its beautiful beaches and peace and quiet. But not to fret, there are several ways to enjoy Block Island, Rhode Island in the fall too!

You can go horseback riding, try one of the the hiking or biking trails covered with fall foliage, or simply sit and read on the beach or watch the sunset. There are still plenty of hotels, restaurants, shops, and cafes that are open in autumn (and even decorate for the season) and some annual events like Taste of Block Island that happens towards the end of September.

You can visit the island by ferry from several different departure spots but you will need to check which ones are running at the time of your visit. You can find the ferry transport information here.

7. Warm up in Newport With a cup of Lobster Bisque

lobster bisque

Rhode Island during the fall might just put you in the mood for some warm comfort food. Of course while anywhere in New England you have to have lobster bisque or clam chowder. In particular, Newport is one of the most scenic spots to do so as there are several restaurants on the wharf to choose from. 

I tried The Newport Lobster Shack as it had the best reviews. While it was yummy, fresh, and a good size for the price I couldn’t say it was the best lobster bisque I’ve had but the views here were excellent. The Mooring Kitchen Seafood & Bar is also another highly rated option that you could visit instead.

8. Go Apple Picking

apple orchard

Apple picking in Rhode Island in fall, what could be better than filling up a basket full of apples on farmland? There are a few different places across Rhode Island where you can go to do this.

Rocky Brook Orchard is a family-run farm not far from Newport that has over 80 different types of apples on their trees – they also have pears and quince too!

If you want something this is a little more involved check out Pippin Apple Orchard in Cranson, Rhode Island. They have lots to offer apart from their apple picking. You can try their fresh apple cider donuts (maybe even catch them being made), candy apples, and homemade pies. Or take back with you some of their other products and fresh fruits.

Jaswell’s Farm in Smithfield, Rhode Island offers apple, pumpkin, and sunflower picking! It’s also one of the best for kids because you can take them on a behind-the-scenes tour of the orchard and a video presentation of the cider-making process.

9. Spend an Afternoon Drinking Local Wine

rhode island vinyard

I never knew that Rhode Island was capable of producing wine but upon further research, I learned that the climate is actually more moderate than the inland parts of New England which make the growing season longer. This is because warm water from the Straits of Florida gets brought up through the Atlantic Gulf.

I love how wine tasting feels very much like a summer and fall activity – there’s just something about sipping a glass of Riesling in the sunshine, or bundled up in a cozy sweater with a cool breeze. So go out on a crisp day during fall in Rhode Island and sample some wines!

While Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the country it does have around 11 different wineries in the state. You can check out this list of the best wineries and vineyards here.

Tour option from Providence – If you are hanging out around the city you can join a Floating Wine Tasting Tour with samples from Gooseneck Vineyards. Gooseneck is currently remodeling their winery otherwise you could also check them out in person.

10. Go on a Goat Hike

goat with a collar

If you’re looking for something a bit unique to do during an afternoon then take a drive to Simmons Farm Organics. It’s located in Middletown, RI which is halfway between Newport and Portsmouth making it an easy stop off when in the area.

Enjoy hiking with goats before browsing their farm stand which offers selections of all kinds of foods made or grown from the farm along with other local products. 

The goat hike is somewhat of a funny concept because you’re essentially taking a goat for a walk! It’s definitely not something I’ve heard of doing before. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do this on my visit but I thought this would’ve been cool!

For just $10 USD a person you’ll get your goat and take it for a 30-minute walk around the scenic property of Simmons Farm with one of their farmers who will chat with you about the history of the farm and the life of a farmer while answering any of your questions.

At the top of the farm, you’ll see views of Narragansett Bay and stop in to visit many of the other farm animals. When you finish you’ll be given a refreshing glass of lemonade. 

The farm stand is open all year but you can only do the goat hiking during early fall. The last tour of the year ends on the last weekend in October before it gets too cold.  

11. Autumnfest 2022

Something that will get you feeling the fall in Rhode Island spirit is Autumnfest. It is the largest fall festival in Rhode Island that takes place in Woonsocket, RI over Columbus Day weekend.

You can expect to enjoy live music, food, crafts, a parade, and amusement park rides. The dates for 2022 are October 8-10.

12. Scenic train tour on Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay

narragansett bay

Taking a scenic train ride on Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay is a way to see the fall foliage in Rhode Island that is a bit more interesting than driving around the area yourself.

The company that does this is Grand Bellevue out of Portsmouth. You can do the scenic dinner train or the more hands-on murder mystery theatre with dinner. The fall-themed departures for the murder mystery are September 9th – November 12th.

The standard dinner ticket costs $85 per adult and the murder mystery is priced at $108

Another company called Rail Explorers has their own special twist on a train ride with a pedal-powered explorer rail vehicle. I think it’s so cool that the trains are open air and only your group will go in either a two-seater or a quad. This is a super unique and personal experience that would also be very romantic during fall in Rhode Island.

Tours for two people begin at $90 USD and last for around 1.5 to 2 hours.

13. Visit Bristol

bristol rhode island harbor

Experience Rhode Island in the fall from the town of Bristol! This town has a whole lot of historic charm and is known as “The Most Patriotic Town in America.” The downtown street even has red, white, and blue stripes down the middle of it.

You can spend the day visiting the local businesses in downtown, gazing at the historical buildings, walking on the paved waterfront park, and biking the East Bay Bike Path before deciding which bayfront restaurant to eat at for dinner.

My Finding’s Fact: Did you know that Bristol was once the state capital of Rhode Island until 1854?

My final thoughts on visiting Rhode Island in the fall

There you have it, all the best things to do around Rhode Island in the fall! I hope you found this guide of use so you can start planning your epic autumn trip to one of New England’s finest states.

I’m so happy you came across my site! If you enjoy traveling around the USA here are some of my other guides you might find interesting:

Best waterfalls in Michigan

Weekend in St Petersburg, FL

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