September 27, 2019 | Lifestyle
escaping the brown bubble
your guide to exploring providence
If there’s anything I wish I’d done differently my first year, it would have been exploring more of Providence. It’s easy to get trapped in the Brown bubble and forget that an entire quirky city lies below the hill. Fortunately, my four semesters and two summers here have led me to discover Providence in a way many people will never be able to. For those people, here’s my guide to escaping the Brown bubble. Don’t worry, I include directions in case you don’t know how to get to these faraway lands.
Wickenden Street: Thinking of trying out the cool indie lifestyle? Wickenden is the way to go! This street is the perfect example of what makes Providence one of the quirkiest cities of them all. Here, you can find a myriad of antique shops in which you’re bound to make the weirdest find of your life (I saw a statue of a ’60s era Ronald McDonald just lying around in one of the antique shops). Wickenden is also home to not only one, but two amazing record stores! If you’re a hardcore classic rock fan, Round Again Records is the place to go!
Or, if you’re looking for a quirkier, modern record store, check out my favorite, Olympic Records, right on the corner of Wickenden and Ives! Bonus: The owner is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. Wickenden is also the place to go if you’re the kind of person who can afford to be a brunch person. Be sure to check out Brickway on Wickenden or Amy’s Place for more affordable options!
But if you’re looking for something a bit fancier, check out The Duck & Bunny, located in a historic building.
Wickenden is also home to the greatest coffee shop in all of Providence (fight me!), Coffee Exchange. Visit to buy fair trade coffee beans from all around the world or to enjoy the greatest espresso drinks you’ll ever have.
And of course, you can always stop by India Point Park for a picnic or stroll!
Ives Street: Really just an extension of Wickenden Street. Ives is home to a bunch of College Hill favorites. This is the real place to go (think again, Thayer) once you’re off meal plan. Student favorites include Tallulah’s (if you thought Baja’s was good, you’re in for a real treat), Aleppo Sweets, and, of course, Instagram-story favorite PVDonuts.
Wayland Square: I had no idea Wayland Square even existed until this summer. While this area isn’t too different from Wickenden or Ives, the big sell here is that it is NEAR COLLEGE HILL. So if you’re looking to avoid the hike back up, this might just be your spot. Like Wickenden, Wayland Square is home to many brunch spots.
Wayland Square is also home to a variety of shops for your next shopping spree.
Prospect Terrace: Just walk “really far,” all the way to “almost RISD.” Prospect Terrace has many perks, offering a great view of the skyline tucked away in the quiet, residential part of College Hill. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset in the evenings (and a great date destination!).
Directions: Walk to BioMed at the corner of Brown St. and then head East.
Downtown Providence: No, your one random trip to WaterFire during your first semester doesn’t count. Yes, WaterFire is pretty and “uniquely Providence,” but it’s by no means all that PVD has to offer. More importantly, it’s literally the same thing every time, which can get boring after a while. The mall doesn’t count, either—there are malls everywhere!
I’ve personally come to realize that walking by the river canals during the day is the perfect way to experience downtown PVD.
RISD: Okay, folks, it’s time to acknowledge the fact that we’re not the only college students on this hill. Turns out there’s a whole other universe to be found on the slope. I used to think that RISD was just another regular college campus… “What could they possibly have down there that we don’t have up here?” Well, when I found out, I was jealous. Turns out there’s a lot more on the way up than I had expected.
Directions: Start at the corner of Waterman, where the clocktower is. Then, keep walking downhill and bear witness to everything we’re missing up here.
First, you’ll encounter this little garden with a waterfall that makes the Main Green look like a barren wasteland. On the weekends, local artists often play around this area on Benefit Street. Go check out the wonderful musicians of Providence, they’re amazing!
And right across from this garden is a beautiful green overlooking Downtown Providence—yet another place to witness a beautiful sunset if you’re inclined… so to speak. (Sorry, I had to).
And of course, once you’ve made it all the way downhill and have had enough of the great outdoors, be sure to check out the RISD museum. (IT’S FREE TO BROWN STUDENTS, GUYS, WHY WOULD YOU PASS UP SOMETHING FREE?)
South Main Street/Canal Street: If you haven’t had a chance to get to South Main Street yet, you’re missing out!
Directions: Make it to the Van Wickle gates and keep walking straight until everything flattens out; then, turn left. Pro Tip: DO NOT WALK UP THE HILL THIS WAY. Just walk all the way down South Main Street until you hit Wickenden, then take the gradual slope up. You’ll thank me later.
The State House is right to your left. It’s got really cool architecture, if that’s your kind of thing. Across the street is ICERM and the School of Public Health.
In front of the Courthouse is a bizarre “gun totem”… strangely, the sign in front of it contains no information which makes it all the more intriguing. However, if gun totem poles are not your thing, you can always check out Memorial Park!
If you keep walking straight after the park, you can also take a beautiful stroll along the canals. Also, be sure to look out for these murals! I only spotted two, but I have heard there are many more to be found!
Oh, and on the way down, be sure to visit The Athenaeum: This place is literally one block away from the Rock, but barely anyone I know has heard of it! Check out their massive collection of rare texts and enjoy the cozy, calm atmosphere.
Federal Hill: The epicenter of Providence’s rich Italian heritage, Federal Hill is a tiny pocket of Italy right here in Providence. Expect to find some of the finest Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries in the city. It’s the perfect place for a date. Destined to remain single for the rest of your life? Join the club. There’s still tons to do in Federal Hill.
Massimo is a student favorite, offering student-pocket-friendly lunch specials every weekday. And if you haven’t made it to Pastiche yet, you’re really missing out. Go immediately. There’s often great live music to be enjoyed here:
And of course, another one of my favorite record stores, Analog Underground (I love record stores) is also located here. Quick plug: