Historic seaside city of Newport, Rhode Island, US, featuring iconic architecture, whimsical signs, and colorful displays of nature. Editorial credit: George Wirt / Shutterstock.com

9 Towns in Rhode Island With the Best Downtown Areas in 2024

Rhode Island, aka the “Ocean State,” might be the smallest state in the US, but it’s packed with some of the best small towns with exciting downtown areas. With over 400 miles of coastline, these cities are jam-packed with historical sites, beachy views, and adventure. Whether you are looking for a beachside retreat or prefer exploring forested inland areas, these towns offer options for the whole family in 2024. Head to the Long Wharf Mall in Newport for a day of shopping, or explore the stunning Hearthside House Museum in Lincoln. Whatever you love, these towns are sure to keep you busy for days!

East Greenwich

Street scenes of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, early morning.
Street scenes of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Editorial credit: digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock.com

Ready for a bit of shopping? East Greenwich is in the middle of the state and hosts a downtown area that’s perfect for shopping. Main Street in East Greenwich offers quirky, locally owned boutiques, cafes, and restaurants for a pleasant afternoon. Catch a live show at the Greenwich Odeum and then grab a beer at the trendy LineSider Brewing.

East Greenwich is historically significant as the birthplace of the US Navy! Head to the medieval-style Varnum Memorial Armory to learn more about the origins of the Navy and check out their weaponry collection. With so many museums, festivals, shopping, and local diners, there's so much to do in downtown East Greenwich.


Members of all four United States armed services, in formal dress, marching in a Fourth of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA.

Fourth of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA. Editorial credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Bristol is also known as America’s most patriotic town, and for good reason! It’s home to America’s longest-running 4th of July celebration held downtown. Between Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay, this waterside town is always bustling. For an afternoon of shopping down the historic streets of Hope Street and Thames Street are locally owned shops with neat finds and plenty of antiques.

Head to the Bristol Art Museum, or the waterside Herreshoff Marine Museum to learn a little more about Bristol. For a slower pace, the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum is a great way to spend the day. Admire the fantastic gardens, and take a tour of the stunning estate.


Business street on Thames Street, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
Thames Street, Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Editorial credit: Yingna Cai / Shutterstock.com

Newport is a charming New England town on the shores of Narragansett Bay with gorgeous views, breathtaking architecture, and so much to do in its downtown area. Whether you want to spend a day on the beach, exploring museums or historical landmarks, Newport is a town that has something for everyone.

Check out the Museum of Newport History in the Old Brick Market located in the heart of downtown. For shopping, there’s no better place than the Long Wharf Mall. The pathway dates back to the town's origins in 1639 as the main road leading to the freshwater spring. Today, it’s a bustling shopping district with beautiful architecture and fantastic shops.


The Twin Towers on Ocean Road by the Coast Guard House, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA.
Ocean Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island, US. Editorial credit: MollieGPhoto / Shutterstock.com

If you love beachside towns but also need a little excitement in your life, Narragansett is a great spot. While it’s famous for its pristine beaches and lighthouses, the downtown area provides a bustling shopping district and plenty of adventure. Head to the Pier Marketplace for an afternoon of seaside shopping with local shops and cafes all within walking distance.

However, no visit to Narragansett is complete without checking out the historic Point Judith Lighthouse. Built in 1810, it’s the third lighthouse built in the state. The lighthouse offers magnificent views of the ocean and is best enjoyed at sunrise or sunset. For more amazing views, head to Block Island, which has incredible views of the Mohegan Bluffs.


Border between Tiverton, Rhode Island, and Fall River, Massachusetts.

Border between Tiverton, Rhode Island, and Fall River, Massachusetts. Editorial Credit: Roger Williams via Flickr.

Tiverton is a sleepy waterside town with quaint shops, friendly locals, and so much to see and discover. Only 60 miles from Boston, it’s an excellent place for a peaceful getaway without straying too far from the city. Explore the cozy shops and cafes at Downtown Tiverton Four Corners in the heart of town. The Amicable Church Thrift Shop and Arch Contemporary Ceramics are some of the more popular attractions in Downtown Tiverton Four Corners

While you’re there, make sure to check out the Four Corner Art Center to admire the quirky sculptures and stunning scenery. Other notable attractions in Tiverton include Weetamoo Woods & Pardon Gray Preserve, Fogland Beach, and the historic Fort Barton Woods.


Aerial view of Ashton Mill and George Washington Bridge over the Blackstone River between Cumberland and Lincoln, Rhode Island, USA.

The Blackstone River between Cumberland and Lincoln, Rhode Island, US.

Looking for excitement without the crowds and traffic of larger cities in Rhode Island? Look no further than Lincoln! This charming is just north of Providence and provides wooded serenity with an exciting downtown area. Head to Bally's Twin River Lincoln Casino for gambling, great food, and live music. Go rock climbing at Rock Spot Climbing or go-kart riding at R1 Indoor Karting.

For a more leisurely pace, you can head to the shops at Lincoln Commons or check out the award-winning Hearthside House Museum. Or, take in the stunning scenery at Lincoln Woods State Park. With so much to do, you’ll never get bored in Lincoln!


Entrance of Wickford Harbor, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.

Entrance of Wickford Harbor, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.

The town of Wickford is a sleepy historic village that’s home to friendly locals, small shops, and so much to discover. Wickford was nominated as America’s Best Historic Small Town by USA Today. Take a walking tour of the historical buildings restored to their former glory and admire the historic architecture. Casually stroll the shops, boutiques, and antique stores for treasures you won’t find anywhere else! After a day of shopping, kick back at Wickford on the Water for a fantastic meal.

With stunning views of the Wickford Harbor, visitors can rent a boat through the Wickford Boat Rentals and spend the day on the water admiring the sunset. Visitors can also head to Updike Park in the center of town which feels like stepping back in time.


Shops in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Shops in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Editorial Credit: David Wilson via Flickr

Jamestown is a coastal town on Conanicut Island with some of the most unique restaurants and old-fashioned shops in the state. Grab a burger at the Chomp Kitchen & Drinks or the Gas Lamp Grill. Make sure to head to Narragansett Street to check out art galleries like the Fuller Art and Frame Gallery as well as so many quirky shops and boutiques.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum. In Beavertail State Park, the Lighthouse was built in the 1830s and delivers some of the most stunning seaside views of the Atlantic Ocean.


Martin House, a historic five-story former hotel in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, USA. Built in 1888, it features a red brick facade with large windows.

Martin House in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, US. Editorial credit: Rachel Rose Boucher / Shutterstock.com

Westerly is the perfect mix of old-world history and modern fun and attractions. The downtown area of Westerly offers a mix of shopping, cafes, beaches, museums, and historical sites. Spend the morning soaking up the sun on the beach, and then head to the famous Atlantic Beach Park, where you can check out the arcade, grab some ice cream, and admire the views of the ocean. The downtown area has walkable shops, cute boutiques, and plenty of cafes and restaurants worth trying!

There is also a modern and scenic winery in the heart of downtown across from the Colonial Theatre of Rhode Island, the Tapped Apple Cidery & Winery.

Discover Rhode Island's Charming Downtown Areas

The great thing about these Rhode Island cities is there is so much to see in such a small space. Most downtown districts are on walkable routes, and everything you want is within a city block. In fact, most of these cities encourage walking rather than driving because parking is often limited. Hang out on the beach, rent a boat to spend the day on the water, or explore one of the many museums or lighthouses. As one of the original colonies, Rhode Island has so many scenic mansions and exceptional architecture to discover.

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