The arts scene is buzzing with new galleries and museum expansions; the city’s most cherished attraction, an art installation called WaterFire Providence (a series of bonfires on the city’s three rivers) begins again in late spring; and you’ll also find trendy cocktail lounges, gourmet restaurants, and a new boutique hotel. Rhode Island’s capital is no longer in Boston’s shadow, and though it’s taken on a decidedly cosmopolitan edge, the city is still retaining all of its Colonial charm.

SEE: Visit the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (, whose permanent collection is 80,000 pieces strong, ranging from Chinese terra-cotta sculptures to French Impressionist paintings. Check out the exhibit Design and Description: Renaissance and Baroque Drawings (open until April 23), with works from such renowned artists as Rembrandt van Rijn and Giovanni Battista Bertani.

DO: This month, the popular program Gallery Night ( starts up again. On the third Thursday of each month, the city’s leading art galleries and art venues (museums, historic homes) open their doors to introduce people to Providence’s thriving art scene. A few of the participating galleries include Bert Gallery on South Water Street and Gallery Z on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill.

EAT: After exploring the city’s cultural attractions, have lunch at 3 Steeple Street (, housed in a historic three-story brick building with wide-plank floors, stone walls, and beamed ceilings. Enjoy soups (don’t miss the New England seafood chowder), sandwiches, and specialty salads accompanied by a glass of wine or a draft beer such as Old Speckled Hen or Stella Artois.

DRINK: Federal Hill’s main street, Atwells Avenue, is lined with Italian restaurants, bohemian boutiques, and specialty food stores. But one of the street’s (and city’s) trendiest nightspots is Lili Marlene’s (401-751-4996). The dimly lit cocktail lounge is decked out with red velvet curtains and red-upholstered banquettes, and it attracts a diverse crowd, who come for the cheap drinks, a game of pool, and good music.

SLEEP: Stay at the new Dolce Villa (, a boutique hotel on DePasquale Plaza, an Italian-style square with open-air cafés (order a glass of wine and enjoy the people-watching). The 14 suites are ultramodern and feature white-on-white bedrooms, a living area with flat-screen televisions, and kitchens with stainless steel refrigerators (some rooms have gas fireplaces and balconies).