Everyone talks about Bristol when Independence Day rolls around, but there’s so much more to the seaside town than a parade.
Pedal to the Metal
One of the great things about Bristol is that even though it feels a million miles away – in a good way – the town is only 14.5 miles from Providence. That is, as long as you travel along the East Bay Bike Path. The scenic, relatively flat ride takes you from India Point Park on Providence’s East Side to Independence Park in Bristol. Pick up the path at any midpoint, like the Blount Clam Shack in Crescent Park in East Providence, for an easier and shorter ride.
Stars and Stripes Forever - Literally
Bristol calls itself America’s Most Patriotic Town for a reason: They’ve been hosting a Fourth of July Parade since 1785. But there’s a lot more celebrating in Bristol than just the parade. Festivities start on June 14 and include two weeks of outdoor concerts, a gala ball, a carnival, fireworks and lots more.
Exploring the Town
Downtown Bristol, along Thames and Hope Streets, is the kind of place you’re going to want to spend some time exploring. The Mint Gallery has local art, and Kate and Company offers a selection of delicious and stylish gifts. Bristol is also a destination for antiquers, with shops like Alfred’s and The Foolish Fox.
All that shopping will probably make you hungry, and there are a lot of delicious options in just a few blocks. On summer mornings, there will probably be a line out the door at Beehive Cafe for their house-made treats. Bristol Oyster Bar is the go-to place for super fresh seafood. Statesman Tavern serves inspired gastropub fare and cocktails. DeWolf Tavern is a classic for a reason: Make sure to try their lobster popover.
The Great Outdoors
With its rocky waterfront and small beach, plus green spaces perfect for flying kites, Colt State Park is a must-visit. To explore a little more nature, take the kids to the Audubon Environmental Education Center, which is a natural history museum and aquarium with walking trails through the McIntosh Wildlife Refuge. Both are easily accessible from the Bike Path.
For serious garden envy, visit Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum, which has literally thousands of plants on display throughout the property, and hosts events like gardening workshops, teas and yoga in the garden. Mount Hope Farm is a 325-year-old country estate that’s home to heritage animal breeds and one of the best farmers markets in the state, which happens every Saturday morning year-round.
Though it’s technically part of Portsmouth, the only way to get to Prudence Island is via the ferry at Bristol’s Church Street Wharf. The short ride will get you to a totally unspoiled island where there is one store, 150 year-round residents and tons of beach and wilderness to explore.