Rhode Island may lack the size, noting that it’s the smallest state in the United States in terms of area, but it’s full of adventures, beautiful small towns, and fun-packed beaches worth visiting. Although Rhode Island is small, some parts are expensive to vacation in, which can put budget-conscious travelers in a tight spot. However, tourists can choose off-the-radar spots, like Providence, rated as one of the best cheap destinations in the US for a weekend getaway. Most places like animal reserves, parks, and historical buildings have a fair share of exciting experiences that don’t require vacationers to splurge. Here are cheap vacation spots in Rhode Island with recommendations of nearby hotels that won’t break the bank.
10 Norman Bird Sanctuary
Female Northern Harrier, a bird species found in Norman Bird Sanctuary, Rhode Island
The Norman Bird Sanctuary offers a budget-friendly nature tour around its impressive 325 acres of varied natural habitats. Bird watchers grab their binoculars to spot local and migratory birds while walking along trails meandering through forests, fields, and beach habitats. The sanctuary’s ponds and streams host black-crowned night herons, mallards, and mute swans, while the woodland areas are home to downy woodpeckers, gray catbirds, chickadees, and hawks. And as nature lovers walk in the fields, they find an abundance of northern harriers, bobolinks, and blackbirds.
9 Roger Williams Park Zoo
A camel at Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, Rhode Island
Founded in 1872, the Roger Williams Park Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the USA and is an inexpensive destination for vacationing families. There’s a lot to see on a leisurely walk around the park, which features themed exhibits where wildlife lovers see animals in their natural environments. One of the intriguing exhibits is the Fabric of Africa, where visitors observe elephants bathing in a waterhole or having a training session.
Besides watching animals, adventurers participate in educational programs and exciting seasonal events. Children also get to ride an exhilarating train ride through the woodlands.
8 The Stephen Hopkins House
History-filled books to check out at The Stephen Hopkins House, Rhode Island
History buffs travel back to the 1700s in the unique and historic Stephen Hopkins House with a parterre garden designed by Hopkin’s descendant, Alden Hopkins. The house was a former home to the Declaration of Independence signatory Stephen Hopkins.
Friendly and knowledgeable guides take visitors around the house to see Governor Hopkin’s original heirlooms. Adventurers also discover fireplaces, a study room, bedrooms, and a parlor, all furnished with period antiques. Although admission is free, visitors can offer donations to the house museum.
7 Fort Adams State Park
A view of a Newport harbor with shops and boats at sunset
Set at the Newport Harbor is the picturesque Fort Adams State Park, covering about 200 acres with historical monuments and natural landscapes. And visiting the park is one of the most affordable things to do in Newport, Rhode Island. It preserves the Fort Adams Army Post, which was a coastal defense area from the 19th century until 1950.
Today, the park is a hub for outdoor adventures such as hiking, birding, jogging, and cycling. Soccer and rugby players also utilize the available fields. And water sports enthusiasts enjoy watching or competing in sailing events and races.
6 Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
Woman walking near body of water with a lighthouse in the background
Constructed in 1856, the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum is one of the oldest lighthouses in the US, found within the Beavertail State Park at the end of Beavertail Road. The lighthouse stands 20 meters tall and offers views of other lighthouses, such as Castle Hill Lighthouse.
Visitors explore the lighthouse by climbing a 49-step spiral staircase and a 7-foot ladder to reach the observation catwalk and admire the breathtaking bay views. Additionally, history buffs learn about Rhode Island’s nautical history from interactive displays at the keepers’ houses.
5 Colt State Park
Park with green and brown trees and wooden benches
Colt State Park is a serene gem with verdant lawns, paved pathways, scenic hiking trails, and awe-inspiring shoreline views. The park is minutes away from Bristol and adjacent to Bristol Town Beach. Parkgoers enjoy riding bikes along the paved pathways or relaxing on the picnic benches as they revel in the gorgeous ocean views.
The park’s western border is a favorite for photographers and artists looking for inspiration from nature. There’s a boat ramp offering fascinating photo ops and an open field ideal for kite flying.
4 The Elms
A historic mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
The Elms estate features a glorious mansion, a lush garden, stables, and a coach house. This stately home belonged to industrialist Edward Julius Berwind and his wife. Architecture buffs admire its resemblance to the majestic 18th-century Château d’Asnières in France. Art lovers marvel at the spectacular paintings and tapestries on a 2-hour-long self-guided audio tour of the mansion. To visit this Gilded Age house, tourists snag an affordable deal on the Newport Mansion website, allowing them to tour two more estates on one ticket.
3 Goddard Memorial State Park
Warwick coastline, Rhode Island
Goddard Memorial State Park is one of Rhode Island’s most visited metropolitan parks for its natural beauty featuring deciduous and evergreen trees from around the world. The park’s focal point is the expansive beach with enough room for everyone to sunbathe and calm waters to swim in. Beachgoers access washrooms, picnic tables, and a nearby grassy area where children can run around.
But travelers who want to stretch their legs take advantage of the over 18 miles of hiking trails meandering through trees or by the waters.
2 Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
A Weish harlequin duck, a bird found in Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
The free-to-visit Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge exposes travelers to New England’s beautiful scenery. It transformed from a farming and grazing area to a Naval communication site and is now a sanctuary for more than 200 bird species. Between November and March, the refuge hosts the second-largest wintering population of the strikingly patterned harlequin ducks. In addition to the harlequin ducks, birdwatchers spot gannets, loons, peregrine falcons, and short-eared owls.
Adventurers also enjoy catching striped bass, tautog, and bluefish in the designated areas during specified months.
1 Lincoln Woods State Park
Trout fishing, a fun and affordable activity to enjoy at Lincoln Woods State Park, Rhode Island
The Lincoln Woods State Park is a hidden gem covering 627 acres, offering fun recreational activities outdoor lovers can engage in during different seasons. Adventurers take refreshing dips in the idyllic freshwater as keen lifeguards look out for them, while water sports enthusiasts enjoy kayaking and boating in summer.
In winter, the park transforms into a wonderland and a playground for ice skaters and snowmobilers. Alternatively, anglers try their hand at ice fishing as they catch rainbow trout and salmon.