47 Fascinating Facts About Rhode Island

20 years ago, the only thing I knew about Rhode Island was that it was on the US’s east coast. Then I moved here and have learned how much this little state has to offer. Enjoy these 47 Interesting facts about Rhode Island.

  1. Rhode Island is the smallest US state.
  2. Until 2020 it had the longest state name. That award now goes to Massachusetts.
  3. Despite its diminutive size, Newport has over 400 miles of coastline.
  4. Rhode Island is one of the original US colonies. It was the last colony to become a state.
  5. Rhode Island is surrounded by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The border with New York is a water border.
  6. The US Open began in Newport, Rhode Island at what is now The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Although that tournament has moved to New York, Newport still holds a tournament in July where you can see tennis greats play of grass from very close for a much smaller cost than the Open.
  7. The oldest synagogue in the United States, Tuoro Synagogue, is in Newport. Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams when he was expelled from Massachusetts because of his religious beliefs. He started the state to provide religious freedom for all.
  8. He established the first Baptist church in the US in Providence in 1638.
  9. We were the first state to abolish slavery!
  10. The Rhode Island state bird is a Rhode Island Red Chicken.
  11. Rhode Island is known as the sailing capital of the world. Many of our children spend summer in sailing camp.
  12. Newport Rhode Island is often a stop on sailings America’s Cup.
  13. The White Horse Tavern in Newport is the oldest operating restaurant in the United States and the 10th oldest in the world.
  14. The US’ oldest carousel sits beachside in Watch Hill. It opened in 1876.
  15. Although Rhode Island never ratified the 18th amendment, which brought about prohibition, you cannot buy alcohol in our supermarkets.
  16. The Blackstone Valley in northern Rhode Island was important in the dawn of America’s industrial age. Slater Mill, one of the first mills in the 1790s, sits on the Blackstone River.
  17. Rhode Island has a least one haunted house. The house that inspired the movie “The Conjuring” is in Harrisville, Rhode Island. We also have a vampire buried here. You can still visit Mercy Brown’s grave behind the baptist church at 467 Ten Rod Road in Exeter.
  18. One of Rhode Island’s most recognized icons is a 58-foot long Eastern Subterranean Termite called The Big Blue Bug, or “Nibbles Woodaway” which looms over 95 south. He welcomes people into the capital city of Providence, often dressed in seasonal garb. Right now, he is wearing a mask.
  19. Roger William named Providence for the blessing of escaping the religious persecution of Massachusetts.
  20. Rhode Island’s capital building has the fourth-largest self-supported marble dome in the world. Ours is gold coated and supports a statue of “The Independent Man.”
  21. The state shell is a Quahog, a hard-shelled clam native to the east coast. When you drive by Rhode Island’s shallow coastal waters, you will likely see people clamming for them.
  22. One of the foods that you should try when you are in Rhode Island is the stuffed Quahog, called a stuffie. It is often stuffed with Portuguese sausage, chorizo.
  23. There is even a fictional town on The Family Guy named Quahog.
  24. Although I have never heard of a six-year-old being charged, cap guns are illegal in Rhode Island.
  25. In Rhode Island, you cannot race a horse down a highway.
  26. Speaking of horses, Newport was the location of the first polo field in the US, The Westchester Polo Club. You can still catch matches of the Newport International Polo Series in Portsmouth. It is great fun to grab some friends and a grill and watch the ponies.
  27. Jackie and John F. Kennedy got married in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in the colonial city of Newport. Jackie’s childhood was spent summering in Newport.
  28. Her wedding reception took place at Hammersmith Farm, which you can ride by on a bike ride along Ocean Drive in Newport.
  29. Fort Adams in Newport is the largest fort on the US’ east coast.
  30. Apropo to its name, Rhode Island has a few islands. The largest island is Aquidneck Island, which is covered by the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, and Middletown. It is the “island” in Rhode Island and lies in Narragansett Bay.
  31. We also have an offshore island, Block Island. Block Island has the US’ first offshore wind farm.
  32. The official state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk. Autocrat has made the syrup since the 1930s, which is added to milk to make the coffee milk. Its origins are unclear but may be a nod to home from our large Italian immigrant population.
  33. 18.9 percent of Rhode Islanders have Italian heritage, making it the most Italian state. Most are concentrated in the north of the state in Johnston, Cranston, and Providence.
  34. Our main Italian section is called “The Hill” on Federal Hill. Along with a plethora of Italian dining choices, there is outdoor dining and a plaza, DePasquale Square, where you can sing along with crooners around an Italian-style fountain.
  35. Since we are a coastal state, we have lighthouses- 21 of them!
  36. The only US lighthouse named after a person is the Ida Lewis Lighthouse in Newport. It is named after the courageous woman who took over lighthouse duties when her father suffered a stroke and saved at least 18 people from the bay.
  37. The headquarters of Hasbro Toys is in Providence. That is why you may see Mr. Potato Head on some of our license plates.
  38. Many industry magnets from the early 20th century, such as the Asters and Vanderbilts,  had “summer cottages” in Newport Rhode Island. These huge mansions can still be toured or seen from a walk along the Cliff Walk.
  39. One such person was the owner of Rough Point, Doris Duke, whose money may have helped her get away with murder. She was the richest woman in the world when she “accidentally” ran over Eduardo Tirella, who was in town to sever ties with Duke. No inquiry was even made into the death, although she suddenly made many monetary donations around town. She had also stabbed a previous lover with a butcher’s knife.
  40. Providence has the most number of donut shops per person in the US. I know my family enjoyed its Rhode Island Donut Road Trip.
  41. Some might say former mayor Buddy Cianci is the reason that Providence is the vibrant town that it now is. He cleaned up the waterfront, beautified the city, brought in a hockey team and the wonderful moving art installation, Waterfire. He also served prison time for running a corrupt enterprise and racketeering conspiracy between his first and second terms. That means that the people of Rhode Island voted a convicted felon back into office. I should mention that I am vaguely related to Buddy, but most Italians in this small state are.
  42. A few famous people that are from Rhode Island are Viola Davis, James Woods, Meredith Viera, Debra Messing, and HP Lovecraft.
  43. There is an HP Lovecraft museum in Providence.
  44. Central Falls is the smallest, most densely populated city in the smallest state. Maybe because of this, 100 percent of its population lives within 10-minutes of a park or green space.
  45. Speaking of green space, 59% of Rhode Island is covered in forest. Pretty impressive for the Ocean State.
  46. By the way, The Ocean State is our nickname.
  47. But the Rhode Island motto is “Hope.”

Are you even more in love with Rhode Island than you were before?

Read on for fun and fabulous facts about the smallest US state, Rhode Island. #UStravel #RhodeIsland

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13 thoughts on “47 Fascinating Facts About Rhode Island”

  1. I’ve never been to Rhode Island, and don’t know much about it except that its capital is Providence (I think I learned about that when we watched the movie Miss Congeniality, haha…), and that Jackie Kennedy used to spend her summers there (I was a huge fan of Jackie Kennedy when I was in college and read a lot of books about her). Next time we travel to the USA, we’ll have another road trip but from NYC do Boston, and will definitely stop in Rhode Island for a visit.

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  2. Having never been to Rhode Island, most of these facts were interesting to know if we ever plan to visit. Given how many places are on the seaboard in the US, I was surprised to find that Rhode Island was the sailing capital of the world. Interesting that you can’t buy alcohol in the grocery store. But then, it has only been a few years since you could do that in Toronto! But we would definitely try to taste a “stuffie”. Good to fuel up before we headed off to see all of the 21 lighthouses!

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  3. Interesting facts! If you can’t buy alcohol from supermarkets, where can you buy it? Gas stations? I also found the info about Baptist Church interesting because Baptist is big in the southern states.

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    • There is a difference between the Baptist and Southern Baptist religions. “Baptist is a general style of running a church. The individual congregation is the main structure of the church. Southern Baptist is a narrower grouping of churches. It originated over the question of whether slavery ought to be tolerated among Christians.”

      Reply
  4. This is a great list! I had no idea Rhode Island had a lot of Italian heritage but knowing that there are good authentic dining options there just makes me want to visit that much more. Same for the donut shops! I will absolutely have to make it over there in the next few years. Seeing the mansions at Newport is something I’ve always wanted to do, but it sounds like there’s so much more to check out than that!

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    • Interesting list – having grown up here, I would add a few items:
      * The Capital city of Providence offers a rare water/fire installation on pre-determined summer Saturday evenings that is an absolutely “must see”! Dozens of Floating/ anchored cauldrons, carefully stacked with seasoned cedar, are lit to illuminate fire balls in symmetrical lines along the convergence of the Providence, Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket rivers. Add water music to the mix, with small floating barges of musicians and a couple of gondolas, you’ll be in for a treat! This installation was the brain child of Barnaby Evans, a beloved RI artist.
      * Del’s (frozen) Lemonade, can be found at strategically parked trucks and lemonade stands throughout the state, and is a must, and please, never ask for a spoon – the trick is knowing how to “work the cup”.
      * Al forno, established 40 years ago, offers perhaps the world’s most delicious thin crusted wood stone oven pizza experiences, which is always carefully devoured with a fork and knife.
      And this is just the opening act to treats that have me flying 3,000 miles annually, to enjoy!
      * In addition to Hasbro and the famous Big Blue Bug guarding the top of New England Pest Control headquarters, Rhode Island is home to dozens of other world class businesses, such as Textron, Raytheon, A.T. Cross (writing instruments) Rhode Island is also covered with privately held innovators that collaborate with companies like Boeing.

      Getting back to food, food and more food, Newport Creamery, famous for the Awful Awful’s – and Dunkin Doughnuts are the well known chains, but let’s not forget the iconic New York System (only found in RI). In fact, NYS to RI is what White Castle is to Ohio … but never overlook the mom and pop oceanside seafood shacks, which range from simple take out places, to Family-Dinner/diner style clam houses like Aunt Carrie’s to a bushel more upscale like the Matunuck Oyster Bar.
      The dining experiences are sometimes unimaginable, like what’s found at the Tree House Tavern in Warwick.
      * And finally, the Rhode Island education scene is also world class, with one of the nation’s eight Ivy League schools (Brown University) planted firmly upon College Hill, on Providence’s historic East Side to less than a stone’s throw, you’ll find RISD, one of the nation’s most prestigious Art Schools, (and museum) that offers world class training in Architecture, Painting, Print making, Industrial Design and many other disciplines, including culinary. Speaking of culinary, it must be noted that Johnson and Wales, one of the nation’s most commercially successful culinary schools, is also headquartered in Providence. This school has expanded internationally, with its own division located in the Carribean.

      What makes Rhode Island the most unique state in the union, is its people. With a population of one million, everyone literally knows someone who knows everyone else. For example, I moved to the west coast 21 years ago and still know both current Senators and one of the two house representatives, on a first name basis. Not to mention 4 previous governors.
      Because everyone knows everyone, being the best you can be is crucial for any person, or business to be successful in this state, because in this state, your reputation is your life line and Rhode Islanders always mean to please.

      Reply
      • beautiful addition, Jeff. I absolutely agree with the uniqueness of knowing someone every where you go in our little state as well. Thank you.

        Reply
  5. 48. The very first banked (rather than flat) car racing track was in Rhode Island, at the Narragansett Speedway in Cranston. The Speedway started life as a field where Governor Sprague exercised his trotting horses. It later became the State Fairgrounds and was known as Narragansett Trotting Park or, later, Narragansett Park. (Not to be confused with Narragansett Park, the horse racing venue in Pawtucket, RI.) Dan Patch, the world-famous pacer, once raced there (he was the first harness horse to beat the two-minute mile, a record he held for 30 years). The park then began to feature car races. Eddie Rickenbacker, who later became a World War I flyer and “Flying Ace,” won his first car race at Narragansett Park. The track was paved in the 1920s and renamed the Narragansett Speedway, and later the banked track was installed, but declining business finally caught up with it and the land was sold and cleared for homes in the late 1920s. The neighborhood streets are all named for car manufacturers, most of which are now out of business except for Fiat. (The others are Packard, Peerless, Overland, Flint, Chandler, Westcott, and Jordan. Overland later became Jeep.)

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