Settled in 1636, Providence offers
fetching scenes at every turn, from the
1928 Industrial Trust Tower, or “Superman
Building” for its Gotham City likeness, to
Colonial-era College Hill.
Aside from time capsule Federal Hill and
its vintage Italian restaurants, food emporia
and shops, virtually every major experience sits within easy walking distance of
the Rhode Island Convention Center and
group hotels, including Capitol Hill’s commanding Rhode Island State House, which
offers guided and self-guided tours.
Updating a 1920s Masonic tower across
the street, the elegant Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel offers 272 spacious
rooms (including six regal suites) and nearly 15,000 square feet of space. The adjacent
national landmark Veterans Memorial
Auditorium, or The VETS, rents spaces that
include the ornate 1,933-seat main theater,
naturally lit Gallery, and VIP-style Encore
Accentuating downtown’s Venice-in-spired Waterplace Park are gondola rides
on the Providence River. This tidal waterway is also for entertaining tours with
Captain Tom McGinn and his Providence
River Boat Company.
For art aficionados, the stellar RISD Museum, featuring exhibits from antiquities to
the avant-garde, hosts corporate and association meetings, receptions and dinners.
Other cultural coordinates include
downtown’s Providence Performing Arts
Center. Originally a 1928 Loew’s movie palace, this neon-lit heirloom offers pre-show
or post-show function rooms and other
Connected by skybridge to the
200,000-square-foot Rhode Island Convention Center as part of the Rhode Island
Convention & Entertainment Complex
(The VETS included), the 14,000-seat
Dunkin’ Donuts Center, home of the
AHL Providence Bruins and Providence
connects to the newly renovated 564-room
Omni Providence Hotel and Providence
Richly deserving its national acclaim,
Providence’s culinary scene is par excellence, from authentic Neapolitan fare at
Trattoria Zooma on Federal Hill to bustling
Chef Cindy Salvato’s “Savoring Federal
Hill” walking tours are a group must, along
with drinks and events at riverside institution the Hot Club.
One highlight is WaterFire, a much-cel-ebrated annual fire sculpture installation
by WaterFire Providence founder Barnaby
Evans’ (see Zoom In). Featuring nearly
100 bonfires crackling in metal “braziers”
in downtown’s three confluent rivers accompanied by enchanting music, this free
Venetian carnival-like experience attracts
thousands of people each Saturday from
April to November.
Taking Care of Business
On the business end, the PWCVB closely
collaborates with state, local and business
“We have a laser focus on meetings and
conventions aligned with state economic
development initiatives,” explained Thomas Riel, PWCVB’s vice president of sales &
services. “These include biomedical and
healthcare, engineering, IT and software
development (including data analytics),
defense, shipbuilding and maritime, plus
the design and customer manufacturing
RHODE ISLAND STATE CAPITOL
How does art transform environments and shift minds and hearts?
Art and beauty present new and surprising opportunities to understand our world and
surroundings. Artists see things in unexpected ways that can delight and surprise us into
realizing new potential all around us. Modern environments can become too similar the
world over. In Providence, a strong sense of the historic past with an adventurous young
perspective that relishes the new produces excitement and freshness. Presenting the impossibility of fire and water in graceful, balanced co-existence, the WaterFire experience
takes on aspects of the sacred, but in an atmosphere of adventure and festival.
It’s been 23 years and counting, what does WaterFire mean to you and Providence today?
WaterFire is the symbol of the renaissance of Providence. Twenty-three years ago, we
uncovered the rivers at the heart of the city’s historic port and created a series of new
city parks and building sites. I created WaterFire to celebrate and emphasize this new
beginning. With those building sites now developed, the city attracts millions of visitors
intrigued with its historic architecture, cultural vitality and rich culinary treasures. As a
critical part of this renaissance, WaterFire established Providence as a destination city,
representing transformation, the unexpected and renewal.
What can groups learn from WaterFire?
We all need the value of seeing things in new ways. The unexpected can be invaluable
for problem-solving. Deep involvement in the moment is a gracious, even intoxicating
experience. There is romance in discovery and the power of metaphor. Beauty itself gives
us new insights, and artists involve all your senses and many of your memories. WaterFire
allows the visitor great freedom in the moment to wander and discover what they will. Deliberately eclectic, much of the music will be new to visitors. All of this creates valuable
newness in the urban experience.
Q&A with Barnaby Evans // Founder and
Executive Artistic Director // WaterFire Providence
Zoom In JEFFHEILM