I'm a local to the Providence, RI area and I love to show out-of-towners all the great places to eat and shop here. This is a great city. I hope you enjoy it when you visit!
First of all you MUST eat on Federal Hill. It's the little Italy of Providence. If you drive, valet park. You will never find a space. You are going to need reservations for everywhere on Federal Hill. Here are the best places on "the Hill."
Andino's - is the most casual. The food is super yummy. It tastes like an Italian Grandma made it. The service is excellent. They will basically make you anything you want if they have the ingredients on hand. Prices start around $14 and go up from there. The portions are large.
Zooma - is a tad fancier and a tad more expensive. They serve southern Italian food. I recommend anything that is made with their homemade pasta. FYI all their "fresh herbs" are grown on the roof. The dishes are small so you will need a starter, salad, and meal. Sit in the front for the "scene" or sit in the back dining room for a quiet meal.
Cassarino's - is fancy (but in Providence fancy is jeans and your nice shirt). It's the type of place you go if you're celebrating. The dishes start around $20 and go up. It will probably be one of the best Italian meals you've ever had in New England. Everything is good except the salad which is usually inexplicably limp.
Siena - is the see and be seen place. The drinks are good but the food is not. A lot of people will recommend this place. But it's only for the scene NOT the food.
Oyster Bar - If you want some local seafood instead of Italian head here. Order the local oysters ($1.50 each) and Rhode Island chowder (a dairy free clam chowder). This place has a bit of a scene too. Dishes start at $12 and go up quickly from there.
DePasquale Plaze - This is a great place for an after dinner drink. It's an open plaza surrounded by restaurants, bars, and hotels. Sit down at any outdoor bar, order a drink, and enjoy the singing.
DO NOT EAT DESSERT at any of the above places. After dinner walk around the back of the block and go to Pastiche Fine Desserts. Yumm! You can ask your server for directions. They will totally understand that you are heading over to Pastiche instead of having dessert there. If you are eating late don't forget to ask the valet what time the valet closes.
There are other good restaurants around Providence too. Some of them include:
Garden Grill Cafe - is an all vegan restaurant. It's very good if you're vegan. It's actually in Pawtucket right over the Providence line. Go to Wildflour Bakery for desert. It's right next door.
Wildflour Bakery - If you are vegan or lactose intolerant you MUST go here. It's right next to the Garden Grill Cafe and two doors down from Rasoi. They have the best vegan baked goods I've ever had, specialty cupcakes, truffles, cakes, cookies, yumm!!!! They also have raw food if that's your thing. If you are eating late get your dessert first. They don't stay open as late as the restaurants.
Rasoi - This is the best Indian food in Providence. They are excellent about helping with food allergies and have lots of vegan and veggie offerings. It's next to the Garden Grill and Wildflour Bakery. It is not to be confused with India right down the street.
Sura - Is the best sushi in Providence. But the Korean food is even better than the sushi.
Ri-Ra - They serve authentic Irish pub food. This place turns into a bar with live music at night. It's a blast.
Capital Grill - Want a $45 dollar steak? You'll find it here. The food is excellent but it's going to cost you $100 per person.
Hemenway's - How about a $30 piece of fish? It's yummy but bring a fat wallet.
People might recommend you go to the Thayer street area for dinner. You'll have fun walking around and shopping here. But the food is pretty boring.
There is no good Mexican in Providence.
Head over to Westminster St. where you'll find:
-Craftland - This is the best store in Providence. Imagine if Etsy became a store. This is it. If you love Etsy your eyes are going to pop out of your head when you walk in here.
-Modern Love/Queen of Hearts - One side of this store is super funky women's shoes (Jeffrey Campbell, Irregular Choice, etc.). The other side is women's clothes, equally as funky and many made by local designers.
-Homestyle - While you're down here check this place out. It's packed with fun housewares.
On Thayer St. I recommend:
-Nava - A small store with really cool women's new and vintage clothes.
-Second Time Around - A consignment shop with cool stuff cause it's right near RISD. FYI The men's stuff is in the back.
-Zuzu's Petals - has beautiful dresses but most for $400 dollars.
-Berks - Another funky shoe store
-Urban Outfitters is up here.
-Pleasant Surprise - is a cool gift store.
For antiques head to Wickendon St.
I'm not a big antique person but ask around and someone will point you towards the best.
-Foreign Affair is a cool vintage store in this area.
-Into the Wardrobe is fun if you like consignment.
Randomly around the city there are a few more cool stores.
-Lola's fashion boutique on South Main St. carries women's clothing. They stock a lot of local fashion designer's pieces.
-Frog and Toad is a cool gift shop on Hope St.
-Savers on Branch Ave. is a big super fun thrift store similar to Goodwill.
-Gasbarro's Wines, on Federal Hill, has an amazing selection of Italian wines.
-Venda Ravioli, also on Federal Hill, is an amazing gourmet, Italian grocery. You'll think you just stepped into Rome.
My eight favorite stores at the Providence Place Mall are Tiffany and Co., Lush, Aveda, Origins, Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, Newbury Comics, and Papyrus. The Imax theater is pretty cool too.
Trinity Bar - is a dirty, no frills bar with really great home brewed beer.
Ri-Ra - is an Irish pub with live music and outdoor seating. This place is a blast!
Aqua - is a chic, relaxing, pool side bar. It's in the Marriott Providence Downtown (not the Marriott next to the mall). Only open until 11pm. I love this place. It's so relaxing.
Olives - has live music and dancing.
Have a great time in Providence!