Musical Roots: Providence, Rhode Island
- Rhode Island
Jeff Prystowsky, founding member of the Indie folk band The Low Anthem in Providence, Rhode Island, says what makes his city unique is its wall-to-wall culture—and a creative community whose influence extends far beyond the region.
From the Columbus Theater in the West End, where Prystowsky’s band performs, to Downcity and the historic cobblestone streets of College Hill, Providence combines the friendliness of a small town with the culture and sophistication of a big city.
Historic spaces are being reborn all throughout Providence but nowhere more dramatically than downtown, also known as “Downcity.” Today, downtown Providence steals the spotlight with its nationally recognized arts and cultural institutions, great restaurants, and locally owned businesses. The streets hum with pedestrian traffic, and Downcity is vibrant with live music. Providence’s oldest theatre, The Strand, has been around for over a century and books comedy acts and music of every genre. If you’re looking for touring Broadway shows, the Providence Performing Arts Center, the second-largest theater of its kind in the country, is a venue of outstanding architectural beauty. For exceptional community theater productions, check out the Trinity Theater Tour Company.
Jeff recommends College Hill for a glimpse of the academic and creative culture of Providence. Home to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, College Hill is a historically preserved neighborhood known for its stunning architecture; postcard-perfect Benefit Street in particular makes for a lovely stroll. The student population gives the area an upbeat, funky vibe. Bookstores still thrive in this neighborhood, including Brown University Books, Paper Nautilus, and the unique Ada Books, a welcoming space in our digital age that prospers by selling “things of ink on paper”—mostly books, comics, and posters. College Hill is also a vinyl lovers’ mecca, with record stores such as the tiny Analogue Underground, Armageddon, and Olympic Records.
Thanks to its diverse population, Providence’s food scene is as vibrant and eclectic as its creative scene. Jeff’s favorites include Peruvian food at Los Andes, Japanese comfort food at Ken’s Ramen, and funky pastries at the popular Knead Donuts. When it comes to fresh seafood, farm produce, and international specialties, you can find it all in Providence.
To experience the outdoors, escape to Roger Williams Park. Designed in 1874, this stunning outdoor space has 100 acres of ponds in a rolling landscape, along with the RWP Zoo, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, and the Botanical Center. Jeff’s favorite way to experience the outdoors is on two wheels, along the East Bay Bike Path. Finished in 1992, this 15-mile-long multi-town bike path passes by many state and local parks as well as recreation areas. It’s a great place to enjoy the vistas—having been built along train roads, the path is mostly flat!
Roger Williams Park
Providence is more than a college town. It is a cutting-edge experiment in community and collaboration that has helped the music scene thrive. With its amazing architecture, great food, and wall-to-wall culture, Rhode Island’s capital has the best of both worlds—big-city sophistication and small-city charm.
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