Looking for inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island for your next vacation? Never fear, because you don’t need to shell out lots of bucks to have a great time at The Ocean State! Rhode Island may be a small state, but it has its fair share of fun, quirky, and relaxing destinations to keep your vacation interesting. So, enjoy a budget-friendly getaway with our list of cheap but amazing destinations in Rhode Island!
- 1. Green Animals Topiary Gardens
- 2. The Breakers
- 3. The Elms
- 4. Roger Williams Park Zoo
- 5. One Way Gallery
- 6. Lincoln Woods State Park
- 7. The Stephen Hopkins House
- 8. Fort Adams State Park
- 9. Norman Bird Sanctuary
- 10. Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
- Finding the Right Rental Property Near Inexpensive Things to Do in Rhode Island
1. Green Animals Topiary Gardens
Let’s kick off our inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island with a trip to the Green Animals Topiary Gardens. This is a 7-acre estate that features bushes and plants shaped into different animals. Green Animals Topiary Gardens is America’s oldest topiary garden, situated on an estate that dates back to 1872.
The topiary animals were created by Joseph Carreiro and his son-in-law George Mendonca. Carreiro served as an estate superintendent from 1905 to 1945, when Mendonca took over his father-in-law’s role as superintendent until 1985. Together, the men transformed ordinary shrubs and bushes into a whimsical garden of fantasy.
Discover more than 80 pieces of topiary animals inside the gardens! You’ll find birds, giraffes, camels, elephants, and many more. There are also plenty of geometric shapes and ornamental figures sculpted from English boxwood, California privet, and yew.
Also, the estate has a vegetable and herb garden, orchards, ponds, and a Victorian-style house that overlooks Narragansett Bay.
Green Animals Topiary Gardens is a part of the Preservation Society of Newport County. The estate is open seasonally, with usual operating hours starting at 10 am until sunset (last admission at 6 pm). Tickets cost $18 for adults and $8 for youth aged 6-17 years. Kids under 6 years of age can enter for free.
As an added bonus, you may keep your ticket as it allows you to tour two more beautiful Preservation Society of Newport County estates – The Breakers and The Elms.
2. The Breakers
Location: Ochre Point Avenue, Newport
Next on our list of cheap but beautiful destinations in Rhode Island is The Breakers. This is a grand mansion owned by the rich and prominent Vanderbilt family during the 19th century. The building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1994 and is also a part of the Preservation Society of Newport County.
The Breakers served as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The mansion was crafted in an Italian Renaissance style designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. It was then inherited by Gladys, the youngest Vanderbilt daughter. She turned the estate into the present-day The Breakers in 1948 to help raise funds for the Preservation Society of Newport County.
Tour the 13-acre estate of The Breakers and be amazed at the grandeur of its rooms and overall architecture. The mansion boasts 70 rooms including The Central Great Hall and The Gold Room. During summer, the mansion’s third floor is closed to the public as Vanderbilt II’s great-grandchildren spend their time in the family home.
The Breakers is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission rates are $18 for adults, $4.50 for children 6-17 years, and free for kids under 6 years of age. As mentioned earlier, you can tour it together with the Green Animals Topiary Gardens and The Elms.
3. The Elms
Location: Bellevue Avenue, Newport
Our third destination is yet another lovely mansion you can visit for a small cost in Rhode Island – The Elms. This mansion and estate were owned by Edward Julius Berwind and Sarah Berwind, his wife. Mr. Berwind was the founder and president of Berwind-White Coal Mining Company, making him an influential coal magnate in Rhode Island during the 1880s.
The Elms sits on a 10-acre estate with a grand mansion, a sunken garden, carriage house and stables, and a large garage. The main mansion was constructed by architect Horace Trumbauer, who modeled it after the 18th century French Château d’Asnières.
Julia Berwind, sister of Edward Julius Berwind, stayed at The Elms until she died in 1961. The Preservation Society of Newport County then bought the estate at a 1962 public auction and opened it to the public soon after. In 1996, it was listed among USA’s National Historic Landmarks.
You can go on a self-guided audio tour of The Elms which may last for 1-2 hours. The Elms also offer another tour at an extra cost – the Servant Life Tour. In this guided tour, you may see interesting parts of the house such as the underground tunnel system, the kitchens and servant quarters, and a rooftop view of the estate and Newport Harbor. After all that touring, stop by the Carriage House Café for a delicious meal.
The Elms is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last tour admission at 4 pm. Admission costs are the same as The Breakers. Snag a deal at the Newport Mansions website to tour The Elms, The Breakers, and Green Animals Topiary Gardens in one ticket!
4. Roger Williams Park Zoo
Add Roger Williams Park Zoo to your bucket list if you’re planning a trip with your children. This fun and affordable destination is among the most inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island.
Roger Williams Park Zoo is the USA’s third-oldest zoo, having been established in 1872. It is home to more than 160 animals including amphibians, birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles. Well-loved animals in the zoo include a Komodo dragon, African elephants, Masai giraffes, sloths, red pandas, zebras, bears, flamingoes, eagles, otters, anteaters, and many more!
The zoo features themed exhibits where you can see and appreciate the animals in their natural habitats. These exhibits include:
• Fabric of Africa
• Alex and Ani Farmyard
• Hasbro’s Big Backyard
• Faces of the Rainforest
• Marco Polo’s Adventure Trek
• North America
• World of Adaptations
• Feinstein Junior Scholar Wetlands Trail
Educational programs, workshops, and fun seasonal events also take place inside this wonderful zoo!
Roger Williams Park Zoo is open Thursday to Monday from 9 am to 4 pm. Timed tickets can be purchased online. Tickets cost $17.95 for adults, $15.95 for seniors 62 years and up, and $12.95 for kids 2-12 years old. Toddlers below 2 years old and zoo members may enter for free.
5. One Way Gallery
If you’re into arts, stop by the One Way Gallery in downtown Narragansett. This hub features modern and thought-provoking artwork from local and regional emerging contemporary artists such as Rebecca Adams, Nikki Juen, Tom West, Christian Harder, Justin McGill, and A. Dolt, to name a few.
One Way Gallery offers a unique space to expand your visual experiences and artistic mind. See a variety of paintings, photos, drawings, and even tattoos! Monthly exhibits are available for you to discover and enjoy. For example, the gallery holds a Summer Salon exhibit every July, showcasing works from around 30 upcoming local and national artists with a mixture of abstract art, pop culture art, cartoons, graffiti, and photographs.
One Way Gallery is open at varying hours: Fridays 12 to 8 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sundays 10 am to 2 pm. Call or email them for ticketing information.
6. Lincoln Woods State Park
Continuing on with our inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island list – we find ourselves visiting the Lincoln Woods State Park! This is a lovely public recreation area spanning 627 acres of natural surroundings in Blackstone Valley.
Lincoln Woods State Parks offers a variety of facilities for a fun yet affordable immersion in mother nature. It has a freshwater beach where you can swim, kayak, and fish for trout. Boats are available for rent with additional costs. Picnic tables and benches are provided for you to enjoy a delicious picnic while taking in the idyllic views.
You may also hike, jog, and ride a mountain bike or horse throughout the different trails inside the park. Note that horse riding may incur extra costs on your part. Free ball fields are also available for you to get your game on!
Lincoln Woods State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Lifeguards are on duty at the beach from 9 am to 8 pm. You may come earlier, but note that you can’t get in the waters without the lifeguards around. Admission is free, and you can even bring dogs along while making sure they’re kept on a leash.
7. The Stephen Hopkins House
Travel back to 18th century America and learn some history by visiting The Stephen Hopkins House! This is a museum and a National Historic Landmark found in Providence. The structure was formerly the home of Rhode Island governor and Declaration of Independence signatory Stephen Hopkins.
The house is a unique L-shaped structure purchased by Hopkins in 1742. It served as his home until he died in 1785. The property was restored in the late 1920s by Norman Isham and was turned into a museum now owned by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. It then became a National Historic Landmark in 1978.
You’ll be taken through a house tour by one of the museum’s friendly and knowledgeable staff. Most of Stephen Hopkin’s belongings remain untouched and can be seen inside the house. Discover Governor Hopkin’s study, the house’s main parlor, fireplaces, and the bedrooms on the second floor.
Stephen Hopkins House is open Wednesdays from 11 am to 2 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is free for all. However, tips or donations at least $3 each are highly recommended.
8. Fort Adams State Park
Moving on with our inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island list – a visit to the lovely Fort Adams State Park! Spend an afternoon or the entire day in this picturesque park and enjoy a plethora of activities and attractions for the entire family!
The park is comprised of 200 acres of natural spots and historical structures. It is built to preserve Fort Adams, a U.S. Army post that served as a First System coastal fortification from 1841 to the first half of the 20th century. The area became a Rhode Island state possession in 1965 and was then opened to the public as a state park.
Popular things to do inside Fort Adams State Park include guided tours, walking trails, picnics, and ziplines. Boating, swimming, and other athletic activities can also be done inside the park. You can also participate in different events and festivals such as Craft Brew Races, Newport Folk Festival, and the Newport Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival.
Fort Adams State Park is open to everyone all year round. It opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm. There’s no admission and parking fee, but the fort tour has a $12 fee for adults.
9. Norman Bird Sanctuary
Have a fun and pocket-friendly nature trip at the Norman Bird Sanctuary! This is a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary that offers 325 acres of beautifully diverse natural habitats. There are also 7 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Grab your binoculars and go bird-sighting at the sanctuary! You can find both local and migratory birds depending on the season. There are also free guided bird walk events for you to enjoy and explore.
Enjoy these other fun activities for the entire family:
• Hiking on the marked hiking trails
• Public programs such as Owl Prowls and Birding Ecotours
• Children’s summer and vacation camp programs
Norman Bird Sanctuary’s Welcome Center and trails are open from 9 am to 5 pm. It’s closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Trails are also closed during the Harvest Fair Weekend. Tickets cost $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and military, and $3 for students with ID and kids 3-`8 years. Kids under 3 years may come at no charge.
10. Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
Beavertail Lighthouse Museum is last but not the least on our list of cheap travel destinations in Rhode Island. The museum houses the third-oldest lighthouse in the United States, having been built in 1856. The restored lighthouse and museum can be found inside Beavertail State Park.
Beavertail Lighthouse is Rhode Island’s foremost lighthouse. It also serves as an entrance to Narragansett Bay. It stands at 64 feet and is built in a spot where beacons were traditionally erected in the early 18th century.
Explore the lighthouse and marvel at the rich nautical history of Rhode Island while taking in the scenic view of Narragansett Bay! Head over to the gift shop for some nautical-themed souvenirs. Also, you may visit the adjacent Beavertail State Park for its naturalist program and lovely hiking trails.
The Beavertail Lighthouse and Museum are open from sunrise to sunset. Parking and museum admission are free, but donations are gladly accepted, too. Visit the Beavertail State Park’s site to see specific days when the park, lighthouse, and museum are open.
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We hope you enjoyed our 10 fun yet inexpensive things to do in Rhode Island list! Find the destinations that resonate with you and start planning your memorable but pocket-friendly trip to The Ocean State today.