A Guide to National Parks in Rhode Island

Although it’s the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island still has several national parks for visitors and locals alike to enjoy.
Written by Natalie Todoroff
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on May 26, 2022
Thinking of exploring some national parks in
Rhode Island
? You won’t want to miss Roger Williams Park, Touro Synagogue, Blackstone River Valley, or the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. 
As the smallest state out of the 50, Rhode Island probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind when you’re planning your national park road trip. At just 1,214 square miles, you may even wonder if there’s enough room for a major destination like a national park. Surprisingly, the answer is yes! 
Rhode Island has four designated national parks within its borders, and
, the
app for
car insurance
, is your guide to visiting them. We’ll tell you a little bit about each park, what you can expect to do there, and how to find the best insurance policy to protect your car along the way.  
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Roger Williams Park 

, Rhode Island 
Hours of operation: Park grounds are open dawn to dusk daily, the
Visitor Center
is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-4 pm 
Admission price: Free 

What makes Roger Williams Park special 

Established by Congress in 1965, this park pays homage to Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams. Williams first settled in the puritanical Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s. About twenty years later, he was banished for his radical beliefs in religious freedom and fair treatment of Native Americans. 
In 1636, he set up Providence Plantations as a refuge for those in pursuit of “liberty of consciousness.” Today, the 4.5 acres of urban greenspace in the heart of downtown Providence is a testament to his legacy. At the heart of the park, you’ll find the same freshwater spring that provided water to Providence’s first colony. 

What to do in Roger Williams Park 

Right in the middle of downtown Providence, Roger Williams Park offers a much-needed patch of green in an otherwise developed city. At the park, you can: 
  • Go to the Visitor Center: Catch a five-minute film about the life and contributions of Roger Williams before you trek out to the park’s grounds. Take a peek at the center’s newest exhibit,
    New & Dangerous Opinions
    , which invites you to question your own opinions on the nature of freedom in a contemporary American setting.  
  • Have your dog become a B.A.R.K Ranger: Traveling with your
    ? Let Fido become a B.A.R.K Ranger: bag and throw away his waste in a nearby trash can, always keep him leashed, respect the wildlife, and know where you can (and cannot) go. Head over to the Visitor Center to get your pooch their official B.A.R.K. Ranger badge! 

When to visit Roger Williams Park 

Summer and Fall are the best seasons to visit Roger Williams Park. Providence summers are ones to write home about: with a temperature range of 56-83 F, you’ll avoid the stifling heat. 
And what could be better than New England in autumn? Take in Rhode Island’s stunning fall foliage as you learn more about its founder’s history.  

Touro Synagogue 

, Rhode Island 
Hours of operation: 10 am-1:45 pm Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Closed Wednesdays and Saturdays 
Admission price: $14 for adults; $12 for seniors; $10 for students, NTHP, NPS, and military; free for children 12 and under 

What makes Touro Synagogue special 

Touro Synagogue
is a national historic site and the oldest standing synagogue in the United States, built in 1763. Much of colonial Jewish history goes underappreciated and untold, and the Touro Synagogue (in addition to being a fully functioning house of worship) attempts to redress this imbalance. 
The synagogue was the first place colonial Jewish people, primarily of Spanish and Portuguese origin, came together to practice their faith without fear of persecution. 

What to do in Touro Synagogue 

  • Take a
    Colonial Jewish walking tour
    : Offered on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, this walking tour allows participants to turn back the clock to the early 1700s. You’ll learn where colonial-era Jewish people worshiped, frequented, and how they lived. It’s about an hour-long walk, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.  
  • Pore through the exhibits at
    Loeb visitor's center
    : This visitor’s center is more of a mini-museum than a simple welcome center. There are portraits of America’s early notable Jewish people and a bit of history about how the Newport community laid the groundwork for much of what we recognize today as our constitutional first amendment rights. Best of all—there are historical reenactments designed to educate viewers on the relationship between colonial Christians and Jewish people.  

When to visit Touro Synagogue 

Because many of the activities at Touro Synagogue are indoors, there isn’t really a bad time of year to plan your visit. Keep in mind, though, that should you want to do the walking tour, you are better off planning on doing so when the weather is a little milder like in the spring, summer, or fall. 
As a synagogue, this national historic site adheres to the high holidays of the Jewish calendar. In case you are not familiar with the holidays, you should do a quick google search to make sure the synagogue is open before hitting the road.  

Blackstone River Valley 

, Rhode Island 
Hours of operation: Park grounds are open sunrise to sunset daily, the Slater Mill is only open 10 am-4 pm on Fridays and Saturdays 
Admission price: Free

What makes Blackstone River Valley special 

Continuing with the trend of a national park with a historical slant to it, we have
Blackstone River Valley
Known as the birthplace of the American industrial revolution, Blackstone River Valley is home to the very first textile mill,
Slater Mill
. Built in 1790, this seemingly simple invention catapulted the American economy forward into a new era. 
Inventor Moses Brown found a way to tap into the hydropower of the nearby Blackstone River to power his mill to spin cotton fiber into thread. The park not only includes his original mill but also
, the mill village that sprung up alongside it,
Pawtucket Falls
, and the
Blackstone Canal

What to do in Blackstone River Valley 

Out of all the parks so far on our list, Blackstone River Valley perhaps offers the most traditional (or stereotypical, depending on how you slice it) national park activities. 
  • Do a self-guided walking tour: Go at your own speed and complete one of Blackstone River Valley’s
    four self-guided walking tours
    . You’ll learn how Slatersville became America’s first bona fide mill village and the nitty-gritty of how a textile mill works. 
  • Or, take a guided tour with a Park Ranger: If flying solo isn’t your thing, opt for a
    guided tour
    ! These tours run around 30 minutes and will take you around the Slater Mill. If you’re visiting during the months of June, July, or August, Rangers offer evening tours of the park on Thursdays at 6:30 pm.   
  • Get into the great outdoors: What’s a trip to a national park without breaking a little bit of a sweat? Hop on a bike and ride the
    Blackstone River Bikeway
    or grab your paddles and head down the
    Blackstone River and Canal

When to visit Blackstone River Valley 

We’d advise you to avoid visiting Blackstone River Valley in winter. Rhode Island sees some pretty frigid temperatures, and constant chattering teeth can really take away from the experience. 
There are more activities to do in the warmer months (summer in particular), and this is generally the best time to visit. 

Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route 

, Rhode Island and
, Rhode Island 
Hours of operation: 24/7
Admission price: Free 

What makes Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route special 

At 680 miles long, this is by far the largest national park on our list! The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route runs from
all the way up to
, making a dip into Rhode Island as well. 
The park tracks General Geroge Washington’s Continental Army and Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau’s Expédition Particulière 14-week march during the Revolutionary War. 
If you take the entire route, you’ll be treated to a sweeping look at America's east coast. 

What to do along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route 

Although there are dozens and dozens of historic sites to stop at along the entirety, here are the two main ones you’ll find in Rhode Island: 
  • Joy Homestead
    : Located in Cranston, this homestead was constructed around 1770. It’s a part of the larger Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route because the Joy family witnessed Rochambeau’s marching on the way to the Battle of Yorktown. The Joy Homestead is now home to Cranston’s Historical Center, where elementary school students are invited to participate in spinning, weaving, fireplace cooking, and other colonial activities throughout the year.  
  • Fort Butts
    : Has there ever been a more perfectly named battle fort? Fort Butts, also known as Butts Hill Fort, holds the honor of being the largest remaining Revolutionary War fortification. The town of Portsmouth is trying to get Fort Butts developed into a public park by 2028, just in time for the Fort’s 250th birthday. 

When to visit the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route 

You should visit these two different stops along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route at different times of the year. The Joy Homestead is only open to the public for certain times of the year, like around Christmas and in June for Rochambeau’s Strawberry Biscuit Tea. Before planning your visit, call 401-944-9226.  
Fort Butts is best seen in the summer sunshine or surrounded by Rhode Island’s stunning fall foliage. 

How to prepare to visit Rhode Island’s national parks 

We know we said earlier that it’s the smallest state, but if you plan on hitting all of these Rhode Island national parks, you’ll still be putting a lot of miles on your car. Before you head out, it’s wise to check that
your car's maintenance
is up to date to help avoid any major breakdowns.  
Some of the parks on our list are a little off the beaten track while others are closer to downtown. But no matter where you roam, you need to have
the right car insurance coverage
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