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10 Rhode Island Museums 🖼️ | Best Museums in Newport, Providence & Beyond

Last Updated on: 19th May 2023, 06:54 pm

Whether you’re just visiting Rhode Island or relocating to the state, you’ll love the rich history and beautiful architecture around every corner. The Ocean State is a great place for history buffs and art lovers with amazing Rhode Island museums, historic homes turned museums, and Gilded Age mansions you can tour. Here are just some of the best museums in Rhode Island you’ll want to see for yourself.

Table of Contents

Best Providence Museums

With nearly 400 years of history, it’s no surprise that there are dozens of museums in Providence, from small, historic homes to one of America’s largest art museums. Here are three Providence RI museums that should be at the top of your to-do list.

Buddha Mahavairocana, the largest wooden Japanese sculpture in America. Photo by Jon Seidman, CC BY 2.0

Rhode Island School of Design Museum (RISD) – Historic Providence Art Museum with Over 100,000 Works

The Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, better known as the RISD Museum, was founded in 1877 along with the school. The 20th largest art museum in the country, the Providence art museum features a collection of more than 100,000 works spanning the ancient and modern world and covering art from Rome, Greece, Europe, Egypt, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. About 2,000 pieces are on display at any one time.

The RISD museum boasts many unique and rare items, such as a Hellenistic bronze statue of Aphrodite, Greek vases by significant Attic painters, the largest wooden Japanese sculpture in the country, and 47 Japanese Noh robes documenting almost every costume type used in the Noh drama in the 18th and 19th centuries.

RISD Museum Location, Hours & Admission

RSID admission is $17 for adults, $12 for seniors 62+, free for youth under 18, $8 for college students, and free for faculty and RISD students. There is free RISD admission on Sundays and 5 – 7 pm on Thursdays & Fridays. Discounted admission for select guests.

Providence Children’s Museum (PCM) – One of the Best Rhode Island Museums for Children & Families

One of the best museums in Providence for families, the Providence Children’s Museum, or PCM, was founded in 1977 as a modest 5,000 SQ FT facility modeled on the children’s museums in Brooklyn and Boston. It’s grown to 5x that size with tons of hands-on workshops, daily programs, and interactive exhibits that help children learn and connect with the world around them.

The Creativity Initiative is the latest addition to the Providence Children’s Museum. This three-year project connects kids with the creative community of Rhode Island through workshops and rotating exhibits created in collaboration with local artists. Kids can enjoy hands-on learning with the new Innovation Lab and Maker Studio.

The museum also offers several permanent exhibits designed for kids 1 to 11, like Water Ways, the outdoor Children’s Garden, Thinkspace with challenges and puzzles, Little Woods for toddlers, Play Power, and Coming to Rhode Island.

Providence Children’s Museum Hours, Location & Admission

PCM admission is $14 for adults and children. Free admission is available for Neighborhood Health Plan of RI health insurance cardholders and $2 admission for active military members and family and EBT cardholders. Members enjoy free admission with PCM membership starting at $125 yearly (or $12/month).

Museum of Natural History and Planetarium – The Only Natural History Museum in Rhode Island

This small Providence museum at Roger Williams Park is the “People’s University” and was founded in 1896. The Providence natural history museum is the only natural history museum in the state and Rhode Island’s only public planetarium. There are five exhibit halls to explore with current exhibits, including Flight of the Dinosaurs, Circle of the Sea, and Urban Wildlife. The star of the museum is, of course, the planetarium, a dome theater equipped with a Zeiss projector. The museum shows 13 different planetarium shows including many full-dome shows.

Museum of Natural History & Planetarium Hours, Location & Admission

Best Museums in Newport RI

Along with Providence, Newport is one of the best cities in Rhode Island to visit for cultural attractions and museums. You’ll find everything from traditional art museums to Gilded Age Newport mansions turned museums to explore. Here are just a few of the best museums in Newport to visit.

 

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The Breakers – One of the Most Magnificent Newport Rhode Island Mansions

Newport is home to more than one dozen Gilded Age mansions that have been carefully preserved. The Breakers tours allow you to step back in time and see what life was like for the wealthy at the turn of the 19th century.

The Breakers mansion was built in 1895 as the summer “cottage” of the Vanderbilt family. It’s the grandest of the Newport mansions, with 70 rooms, intricate panels, platinum- and gold-covered walls, and 13 acres of manicured grounds.

The Breakers Tours, Location & Hours

There are a variety of self-guided and guided tours of The Breakers. The free audio tour can be done with the free Newport Mansions tour app and a headset.

Newport Art Museum – One of the Most Beautiful Museums in Newport RI

The Newport Art Museum is worth the visit before you even step inside. It’s housed in the gorgeous Tudor-style John N. A. Griswold House, one of the first American Stick-Style homes and a National Historic Landmark. The museum features many works from notable New England and Rhode Island artists like Gilbert Stuart and John La Farge.

Newport Art Museum Hours, Location & Admission

  • Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840
  • Phone: (401) 848-8200
  • Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday, 12 pm – 5 pm Sunday
  • Admission: $15 for adults, $10 for seniors 65+, free for youth 17 and under, and $8 for military and college students. Military families get free admission May 15 and September 6, and the museum participates in the Museums for All initiative with free admission for EBT cardholders and families. Museum members enjoy free admission, with membership starting at $50 for individuals and $75 for households.
The John N. A. Griswold House and part of the Newport Art Museum. Photo: ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0

Audrain Automobile Museum – Newport Museum with Regular Exhibits of Rare Autos, Motorcycles & Boats

Classic car fans will love the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Their collection of more than 400 antique, classic, and modern cars and motorcycles in a historic Italian Renaissance building with red brick and terra cotta trim. Their current exhibition, Wonders in Wood, features wood cars and boats dating back to 1892 with the Brewster Park Drag Coach and includes other rare examples like the 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and the 1925 Amilcar Petit Sport.

The museum displays 15 to 20 cars at a time to give you a unique experience every time you visit.

Audrain Automobile Museum Hours, Location & Admission

Other Great Rhode Island Museums

You don’t need to stick to the big cities to find museums in Rhode Island worth visiting. Here are some other great RI museums to check out and learn about local history.

Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark – Restored Mill and Museum of America’s First Water-Powered Cotton-Spinning Mill

Old Slater Mill is a Pawtucket Museum and National Historic Landmark that has renovated and restored the mill to its 1835 appearance. Now part of the U.S. National Park Service, the mill sits on the Blackstone River in the Downtown Pawtucket Historic District.

This amazingly preserved historic place produced the first cotton thread in 1793 and became North America’s first successful water-powered cotton-spinning mill. Its owner, Samuel Slater, later developed the “Rhode Island system” in which whole families, including children, were hired and usually lived in company housing and attended a company school. He’s considered the father of American industry.

Old Slater Mill Hours, Location & Admission

Electromagnetic Pinball Museum – Fun Pawtucket Museum for Kids & Teens

Looking for something to do that will entertain all the kids? Make a stop at the Electromagnetic Pinball Museum in Pawtucket! The museum’s mission is to foster a love of science, technology, history, math, art, and engineering with interactive pinball exhibits and educational programs. It’s definitely a must-see while you’re in the area!

Electromagnetic Pinball Museum Hours, Location & Admission

Museum of Work & Culture – Woonsocket Museum Telling the Story of Immigrants to Local Mill Towns

The Museum of Work & Culture is one of the most unique history museums in Rhode Island. Explore the stories of immigrants who settled in the Blackstone River mill towns through nine immersive exhibits that show what their lives were like at home, school, and work.

 

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Museum of Work & Culture Hours, Location & Admission

Coggeshall Farm Museum – 18th Century Farm Museum in Bristol RI, with Authentic Reenactments

Coggeshall Farm Museum is one of the best museums in Rhode Island for really experiencing history in person. Located on 48 acres of land, this 18th century tenant farm brings middle-class farming in the 1790s to life. The nonprofit museum recreates the life of tenant farmers on the salt marsh farm through live reenactments, heritage-bred farm animals, heirloom plants, and historic structures.

Coggeshall Farm Museum has partnered with Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, New England’s largest outdoor history museum. It’s definitely worth the visit, too, after checking out Coggeshall!

Coggeshall Farm Museum Hours, Location & Admission

Note that Coggeshall Farm Museum has seasonal operating hours. Make sure you check the museum’s opening dates and hours on their website!

Rhode Island Museums Map

Rhode Island is filled with history, culture, and art, with amazing museums, large and small, to discover in every city and town. Are you researching museums in Rhode Island ahead of moving to this beautiful New England state? Give the friendly Rhode Island movers at Correira Brothers’ Moving & Storage a call today for a free moving estimate and the 5-star customer service you deserve.

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