When the days are longer — and we’ve all become desperate for the summer that seemed like it would never come — the temptation to pack your days with as much fun as possible can be costly. Sure, the zoo is free for PVD residents on first Saturdays, the RISD Museum is free on Sundays and third Thursdays, and your local library has options, but what about when you’re in the mood for more seasonal entertainment that won’t break the bank?
Beaches are the big obvious for RI summers. It might seem like fuzzy math, but we have 400 miles of coastline. Yet so many of us get locked into our beach-of-tradition (Narragansett! Misquamicut! Fight!) that it’s inevitable the average Rhode Islander is missing out on other beaches that could become a new favorite. Have you seen Block Island’s Mohegan Bluffs? Checked out the conservation area at Tiverton’s Fogland Beach? Bird watched and lit an evening fire at Goosewing Beach in Little Compton? Make it your goal to visit at least one new beach and be sure to do your research online for any free parking tips. (Like if you arrive to Goosewing Beach early enough, try to snag a spot in the P.T. Marvell Preserve. And while ozone alert days are definitely not a situation to be celebrated, remember RIPTA runs free.)
Movies on the Block goes on a bit of a construction-imposed hiatus this year, but has found a temporary new home on Fountain Street. We love this series and their bold “eff it” programming (who else would publicly project The Shining or Lost Highway on the side of a downtown street?) and encourage you all to join them for their two limited screenings this year: The Big Lebowski on June 21 and Pulp Fiction on July 19. Bring your beach chairs to the parking lot next to The Strand at 78 Fountain Street. For straight-up family friendly movies, visit Rocky Point Park’s Movies in the Park series (facebook.com/movienightri).
Abandoning dimly lit bars for live music outdoors is one of the purest joys of summer. The Burnside Music Series at Kennedy Plaza begins Noon Tunes (live music during your lunch hour, every Wednesday) on June 6 with Czésare Santana’s Latin Folk fusion. The park’s official Music Series & Beer Garden is held Thursdays at 5:30 in July and August. On the coast, North Kingstown Town Beach offers a free music series on Tuesdays, beginning June 19. Rooftop at Providence G also offers music throughout the week, including rock on Thursdays and acoustic reggae on Sundays, giving you all the good summer vibes you need to ease into the work week. Also in Providence, you can generally count on music in Waterplace Park, especially on evenings where there’s another little-known event: WaterFire. Every time we think it’s too obvious to mention, we hear someone say, “Fire… Water? RiverFire?” And then we’re reminded to not take the spectacle for granted. For more than 20 years, bonfires burning bright have been one of the greatest free summer activities we have. Is your summer really complete without people watching on Memorial Boulevard, taking pictures with a human gargoyle and trying to find the right Insta-filter for your river shot?
When you’ve had your fill of sweaty humans and need to retreat into nature, RI is filled with opportunities to hike, stroll or take what’s perhaps best referred to as a “woods walk.” On the less woodsy and more opulent, sweeping views/cover-of-a-romance-novel side of the coin, Cliff Walk in Newport is a must. The walking trail is largely accessible and offers simultaneous vistas of both ocean and mansions. There’s a reason it’s recommended in any Rhode Island guide book. For trails more off the beaten path, visit and follow the Hiking in RI Facebook page (fb/hikinginrhodeisland), which is updated constantly and loaded with tips and trails. If you want to add a touch of darkness to the summer sun, check out the trails at DuVal Farm in South Kingstown, which includes a small cemetery. Plentiful blueberries and a scenic overlook that offers a peek of the ocean on a clear day keep the hike from going too goth.