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Scenic Foliage Drives

Rhode Island Foliage Driving Tour

Leaves, Views, and Other Surprises in Little Rhody

by Wayne Worcester


Photograph of Scituate, RI
Submitted by Mike Dooley

Photograph of Scituate, RI
Submitted by Michael Phillips

Photograph of Jamestown, RI
Submitted by Sandra Erickson

Photograph of Warren, RI
Submitted by Butch Lombardi

I REALIZE THAT some travelers think of Rhode Island as a tangle of highway blocking easy access to somewhere else. I say give them a map and bid them Godspeed. I know this small and unruly state, and I can tell you for a fact that it affords more opportunities for easy enjoyment than any other in New England -- and there's greater variety, too.

Day One

The only thing you can't find in Rhode Island is a mountain; I suppose something had to go. After all, the entire state is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, and much of that is given over to coastline -- 460 miles of it, with literally dozens of public beaches. I know coastline doesn't spell trees, and therefore the foliage might not be what you'd see in the North Country, but believe me: We have autumn in Rhode Island. I know this, and that is why I've set out to find the best views that Rhode Island has to offer. Of course, one traveler's "best view" may be entirely humdrum to another, but to me the term implies a sense of beauty, uniqueness, joy, and inspiration.

If you're inclined to agree, come along. We will see some of the finest Colonial architecture in the Northeast, visit a classy zoo and a gem of a museum, see trees (with colored leaves) so magnificent and stately that you'd think you were in Yorkshire, gaze at mansions so elegant you'll question the century you're in, and take in seacoast as picturesque as any in New England.

For those of you who have been with us from the Connecticut tour and are heading to Providence from the Quiet Corner, we suggest that you take Route 14 east from Sterling, Connecticut. When Route 14 merges with Route 102 North, continue on 102 to the towns along Highway 6. The area around Foster and Scituate, Rhode Island, is gentle, rural, and not at all touristy. Colorful forests, windy roads, and acres of beautifully crafted fieldstone walls dot a landscape that begs for autumn rambling. A nice detour: Follow Route 14 east where it splits off from Route 102; make a hard right at Crazy Corners, where you'll cross the Scituate Reservoir for splendid foliage reflected in water. (Return to Route 6 via Route 116.)

Got Kids?

Next on the tour is a visit to Roger Williams Park Zoo. Take Route 6 from North Scituate to Interstate 295; head south. Take exit 5, the very next exit, and turn left at the bottom of the ramp to continue east on Route 6 until you arrive at the junction with Route 10. Take Route 10 southbound. Just after passing I-95, Route 10 intersects with Highway 1, also known as Elmwood Avenue; from there, follow the signs. The park covers 435 acres and includes nine miles of twisting roads. It harbors a chain of 10 small lakes, a botanical garden, specimen trees, small rolling meadows, beautiful flower gardens, a replica of a Victorian carousel, and a large Japanese garden where about a third of Rhode Island's young women pose for wedding pictures. It would be easy to spend a couple of hours here, and the penguins alone make the zoo well worth the visit.

PROVIDENCE

Retrace your steps back to Interstate 95 north, and get off at exit 22A in Providence. Turn left onto Francis Street and take your first right, where you will discover Waterplace Park, four reclaimed acres on Cove Basin at the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers. If you would like, you can come back here at night and enjoy WaterFire, unique performance art that features more than 100 bonfires set to music all along a one-mile stretch of water (call ahead to check the dates). Good lunch spots are easy to find. Only a short walk from Waterplace Park you can enjoy hearty sandwiches at Caffe Pazzo on Steeple Street (just off South Main).

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Reader Comments

Comment from Anne Devaney on October 3, 2010

Quick note - the Newport Bridge toll is now $4, not $2.

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