A Lot of Rhode Island in One Spot

Rhode Island's Historic Bristol

Colt State Park

Visitors to Rhode Island sometimes struggle to discover the very best part of the state.  For some, the Providence’s bustling downtown and collegiate artsy-ness defines Rhode Island, for others it’s the party atmosphere of Newport, and for others it’s the laid-back countryside of Rhode Island’s South County.  But if you have a broad range of tastes, you’re unlikely to find a better choice for a favorite Rhode Island town than Bristol.

Coggeshall Farm Museum


Blithewold Mansion


Herreshoff Marine Museum


Governor Bradford Inn at Mount Hope Farm


Bristol Harbor Inn


Insid the Bristol Harbor Inn



Lobster Salad at the Lobster Pot


DeWolf Tavern


Fisherman's Stew at DeWolf Tavern

Outdoor Dining at Quito's


Bristol is very walking-friendly, particularly its downtown, packed with dining and shopping opportunities.  A visit to the downtown might include a stroll on the waterfront, a visit to Bristol Historical Society, gift shopping for homemade woodwork and nautical accessories at the Knotty Dog, pausing for tea at the Revival Boutique, then perhaps more shopping at the Bristol Art Gallery and a walk in one of the many downtown parks before dinner and music.

But there are too many options to list, so here are a few highlights:

For water lovers, Bristol offers more than 800 moorings, miles of accessible scenic coastline, the beautiful sheltered Bristol Harbor and multiple boat ramps.  Popular activities include kayaking, windsurfing and of course, sailing. For land rovers, the scenic coastal 15 mile East Bay Bike Path begins in Bristol and is a favorite for bikers, walkers and rollerbladers.  Bristol also has 18 local parks, perfect for family fun and adventure.

The Audubon Society Environmental Education Center brings a State-of-the-art natural history museum and aquarium offering many natural wonders and interactive exhibits as well as extensive walking trails, a boardwalk along fresh and saltwater marshes and the East Bay Bike Path with majestic view of Narragansett Bay.  The Center also offers guided tours, nature walks, special family programs and more.

Colt State Park is one of the most scenic and largest public parks in the state with its entire western border an open panorama onto Narragansett Bay.  The park offers four miles of bicycle trails; acres of groomed fruit trees, flower bushes and manicured lawns; as well as ten large playfields, six picnic groves and a popular open air Chapel-By-The-Sea

Museums make up a significant part of Bristol’s activities.  Blithewold Mansion is known for one of the finest garden estates in New England.  Nestled in the gardens and specimen trees is a 45-room English style manor house filled with antiques and artwork, all chronicling the rich social history of the lives of one family over more than 80 years.  The Linden Place Museum is an 1810 Federal period mansion.  It is considered the “crown jewel” of Bristol’s historic waterfront district and is the former home of Ethel Barrymore.

Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame is one of the nation’s most important historic maritime treasures, the museum celebrates excellence in design, innovation, education and technology, featuring exhibits about the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, America’s Cup, and the people and iconic yachts that gained fame around the world.

Coggeshall Farm Museum is a living history farm set on 48 acres,  the hands-on museum recreates Bristol’s agrarian life in the year 1799 through live interpretation, historic structures, heirloom plants and rare-breed livestock.

Other museums include the Bristol Art Museum, the Bristol Historical & Preservation Society, and the Bristol Train of Artillery.

Mount Hope Farm is more than a historic place.   Its 127 acres are dedicated as a park for the city of Bristol and includes the fields, ponds, and streams that were once the summer home of Pequot chief Metacomet, also called Prince Phillip.  In addition to being a park, it’s also home to the historic home of RI Governor Bradford, now a popular inn.  Throughout the summer, the farm hosts weddings and farmer’s markets.

The 40-room Bristol Harbor Inn is an excellent choice, right in the middle of the action on the waterfront in a restored mill building.  This boutique hotel is very businesslike in its presentation – crisp and professional, with French Country fabrics.  Many of the rooms have gas fireplaces and views of Bristol Harbor.

Other lodging includes the Bradford Dimond Norris House, Bradford House, Bristol House Bed & Breakfast, William’s Grant Inn; mostly downtown B&B’s.  There is also the Point Pleasant Inn, a waterfront resort on the opposite side of the harbor.

Dining options abound in Bristol.

The Lobster Pot is the first Bristol restaurant to come to mind for Rhode Islanders.  It has been providing upscale seafood and amazing sunsets since 1929.  There’s more than the comfort of familiar and great views to bring people to the restaurant, the food is a reason to leave extend your range outside of downtown.  Lobster, of course, gets the most attention.  Lobster salad is the favorite lunch entrée, with chunks of sweet lobster on a bed of soft lettuce.  For dinner, it’s lobster.  One to three-pound lobsters boiled, broiled, grilled, or even stuffed and baked, served fisherman style, with the claws removed and stuffed with lobster meat and scallops.  Bouillabaisse and scallops are just a tiny part of an extensive menu that also includes vegetarian and beef dishes.

The DeWolf Tavern, right on the waterfront, where you can enjoy contemporary American cuisine in restored stone warehouse on the waterfront.  Dinner might start with appetizers of Asian style braised pork short ribs seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, soy sauce, chili, and star anise, or perhaps a popover filled with lobster sautéed in a light sherry sauce.  And then the food gets more amazing from there:  Their seafood stew includes shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, lobster, fish, and crab in a broth seasoned with coconut, coriander, star anise, and mustard seed.  The tandoor spice-cured pork chop is basted in bourbon jiggery and served on white cheddar grits.  Add a nice wine or a special mixed drink like a coconut-crusted white martini and you have a dinner to remember.

Or for more casual faire, consider Quito’s, more than a clam shack, this casual restaurant is wedged between the water and Columbus Park.  It’s a great place to experience clear Rhode Island chowder, stuffies, and clam cakes.  Other local favorites include Tweet’s, a family restaurant that is about as casual as it gets, with pasta served by the pound, and the Bristol Family Restaurant where breakfast might include banana French toast or a loaded omelet as you sit in wooden booths.

After dinner, consider hanging out at Aiden’s Pub, Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon, the British Beer Company, or head back to DeWolf Tavern for late-night entertainment, then back to your hotel room to fall asleep to the sound of waves in the harbor.

For more information about Bristol, visit their website at www.explorebristolri.com

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