Posted by Brandi in Happy Summer: Rhode Island, Road Trip for Kids on September 1, 2014
Rhode Island was surprising. Our two-week stay was fuller and busier than I expected. Something like 45 miles by 35 miles, they sure manage to stuff a lot of goodness into a tiny space. No matter what, I always know Shelton and I will be fine — a good restaurant, a good view, maybe some music, we’re easy to please. But keeping Paisley busy is a task!
Our days split like this — I work the mornings until around noon, giving Shelton and Paisley a few hours together. And he works the rest of the afternoon, while Paisley and I go find something to get us in trouble. I always present it this way, and Paisley always says “Nooooo mom! We’re not going to get in trouble!” It’s the balance we’ve struck in this work-from-home, stay-at-home, nanny-free (OMG HELP ME) life we’ve (temporarily) created for ourselves.
So Rhode Island, Providence specifically. I was surprised to find so much to do. And not only that, but accessible and affordable. Denver, for instance, offered TONS to do, if we wanted to shell out $50 per activity.
ROGER WILLIAMS PARK is basically the place to be. This park has everything and is a veritable one-stop-shop for keeping a kiddo entertained. In fact, Paisley and I returned on several different days because there was enough to do to spread it all out and we still didn’t get to everything (paddle boat rides, Japanese garden, natural history museum, planetarium…).
ROGER WILLIAMS PARK BOTANICAL CENTER
$3 total; Children under 6 are free
We are members at Botanica back home, and Paisley has asked to visit the botanical garden in each city we’ve visited. We finally made it out in Providence and it was a delight! While they don’t cater to children, the gardens were more than welcoming to this tiny visitor. She explored every garden, greenhouse, and field. She especially enjoyed wandering the maze around the rose garden, rolling down the long, tall hills out near the water, and stopping to smell all the different kinds of flowers.
ROGER WILLIAMS PARK CAROUSEL VILLAGE
$2 per rider
The indoor carousel is one of these century old Victorian relics that still sings and spins its way into kids’ hearts — like Paisley’s. The ride is short-lived but gave us a reprieve from the sunny afternoon.
ROGER WILLIAMS EXPRESS
$3 per rider
She was most excited about this little ride, similar to the one she took outside the Denver Aquarium. I fit comfortably inside the little car, which gave her more than enough room to play around, too. The conductor drives around a very short path making multiple figure-8 passes to extend the ride. While I was bored out of my mind, Paisley may as well have been on her first ride to Hogwarts! She enjoyed every minute, and continued to belt out the ear-worm “all aboard” song that played hours later.
A few steps from the carousel and train is the second-best playground I’ve ever been to (the first being Reeves Park in Norman, OK). Paisley played for an hour and never once got bored; try that at our neighborhood park at home! The giant Mr. Potato Head greets at the gate and quickly opens up to the most exciting structure, slides, swings, and more we’ve ever had the pleasure.
The official specs say that the park was designed so that special needs children could enjoy as much as 70% of the activities without having to leave behind support equipment. That’s pretty impressive! Plus, everything caters to sensory development and enrichment. The slide made of rolling pipes, for instance, was Paisley’s go-to.
ROGER WILLIAMS PARK ZOO
$25 total; $14.95 adults + $9.95 kids aged 3-12
I was most surprised and the biggest fan of this stop. I expected some small petting zoo kind of place, but this was a full scale, very involved zoo and it was impressive. In fact, of all the zoos I’ve ever been to, I might have to rank this one high at the top. It was clean, bright, and very well organized. It had animals we hadn’t seen before; but better than that, the enclosures were massive and felt as close to natural as they could. There were even a multitude of activities within the zoo that, for an extra fee, added more to the experience. Paisley made a beeline for the rock climbing ball.
Not even a princess dress could stop her! She made a decent hike on her own and then “bravely” descended! The petting zoo was also an unreal experience. It was clean. IT WAS CLEAN! The animals didn’t attack us. And the gate had a bouncer, so it wasn’t too crowded. For the first time ever, Paisley was able to feed the goats at one of these things. Overall, a rave review for an excellent zoo experience.
PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
$18 total; $9 each
THIS! PLACE! WAS! AMAZING! It exists in this small, unassuming space downtown, and it kept Paisley completely occupied and engaged for three full hours. Bonus? Even I was occupied and engaged that entire time. She hadn’t done it all when we left, so Shelton took her back the next day for another three hour tour. Again, Rhode Island has an impressive ability to cram a lot in a little. This place was like Botanica Children’s Garden + Exploration Place x 2 = WOW! The exhibits had so much detail and you could spend a lot of time deeply involved in any one. From sailing on an original Pilgrim’s ship, driving construction equipment, building mazes with dominos, splashing in an entire room dedicated to water play, to vacuum tunnels, mirrors, a massive life size Lite Brite, etc. etc. etc. — it was all there! And that was only indoors!
This two or three story climbing tree “thing” kept Paisley entertained for a long, long time. She even made a few little friends in there while she was lost above. The rest of the outdoor play area had balance boards, hula hoops, tunnels for exploring, balls, and more. It was absolutely worth the $18 admission, and absolutely worth paying that two days in a row!
PROVIDENCE PLACE MALL
Talk about one spot that caters to all audiences! I actually cannot stand to be in the mall, but necessity dictates sometimes! One trip for glasses lead to three more visits, at Paisley’s request. It was large, bright, and wide open space across three stories. Paisley actually digs going to the mall and doing the window shop/browse thing. And sometimes I need something that doesn’t require any more of my attention to entertain her than to chaperone. There was a bath product shop she got to sniff around, a bean bag store to lounge around, and a toy store where she practically moved in! Plus, round after round of escalator rides.
We also visited Dame Farm to pick our own blueberries. And we visited Wright’s Dairy Farm to watch live milking. I wrote about both of Rhode Island Farm Experiences here. Both are free to visit, the only cost was to pay for the fruit we picked or the goods we bought at the dairy farm. She loved both, and asked to go back several times. From Providence, each was a 20-30 minute drive. (But isn’t everything in RI?)
GET TO THE WATER
A few other things Paisley liked doing: shopping at Whole Foods, playing around at REI, getting her first pedicure at Cosmo Nails, driving over the bridges.