At any good party, no man’s an island. Neither is Rhode Island!
Traveling to Providence, Rhode Island, from Baltimore is easy and very affordable. Several discount airlines fly to Boston, and from Boston’s airport the Silver Line (public bus that runs partly underground like a subway) goes to South Station, a train station, where Amtrak offers tickets to Providence for as little as $14. Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, the smallest state. Providence is geographically very compact because it was developed prior to the automobile. It is a densely populated city with a beautiful river walkway in the middle that separates part of the city from areas where higher education institutions are located. Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson and Wales University are located in Providence. Although there are many things to love about Providence, the three that standout are its history, its WaterPlace Park, and its LGBT progressive movements.
Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, who fled Massachusetts because of religious persecution. In the mid-1770s, the British government levied unpopular taxes on Providence’s industries, leading many residents to participate in the bloody American Revolution. Following the war, Providence’s economy expanded to manufacturing machinery, tools, jewelry, and textiles. However, Providence began to see a decline in its population around 1920 as industries shut down, notably textiles. The Great Depression, a devastating hurricane in 1938, construction of highways, and a national trend for suburbanization contributed to the city’s decline. Providence was resurrected around 1970 with investment and new construction, including numerous condo projects, hotels, and office buildings.
For decades, Providence had the world’s widest bridge and it obscured the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket rivers that snake through the city. In the 1990s, the bridge was redesigned to make it much smaller, so the two rivers could be exposed. Today, those two rivers are edged by beautiful walkways, park benches, trees, and a series of Venetian bridges. WaterPlace Park, as the area is called today, is the location where Rhode Island’s world-renowned WaterFire show takes place. The Providence River Boat Company offers great and affordable boat tours of the rivers (Providenceriverboat.com). The tour is highly recommended.
Providence’s first gay nightclub opened in 1972 by Bob Thibeault. Prior to that Thibeault owned another nightclub where he allowed same-sex dancing. On May 30th, 1980, Rhode Island grabbed the nation’s attention because Aaron Fricke, a Cumberland High School student, went to federal court and won the right to take Paul Guilbert to the high school prom. In 1983, the Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights was established and it started an organized push for anti-discrimination laws. In August 1985, Rhode Island Gov. Edward D. DiPrete issued an executive order banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in state government. In 1995, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln C. Almond signed an anti-discrimination bill making Rhode Island the ninth state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In November 2002, David N. Cicilline was elected as the first openly gay mayor of Providence. On March 21st, 2016, Cumberland became the first public school district in Rhode Island to have a formal policy protecting transgender students.
Providence has several places for the LGBT community. The Stable is a great community gay bar with friendly bartenders that offer several beers on tap. It has seating outside for people that want to socialize without background bar noise. It also has events almost every night, including theme events. Alley Cat, a great gay bar that is located in the middle of all the “hot spots,” offers a relaxing environment and is a great place to meet before going to the clubs. Providence Eagle (Providenceeagle.com), a popular gay bar in the New England area, is a great place to meet and socialize. Throughout the week, it offers several nightly events. Ego Providence (Egopvd.com) is an energetic gay bar that has a dance floor and regular events. The Dark Lady is a gay bar that has a spacious lounge with drag shows, retro dances, go-go dancers, and karaoke. It has theme nights and is a great place to meet before clubbing. The Mirabar (Mirabar.com) is a fun gay dance club and bar that has great music. It has a younger crowd, but that should not discourage anyone from going.
With Providence being a city that is close to Baltimore and easy to visit, a weekend trip there is the perfect mini vacation. For more information on LGBT activities in Providence, Rhode Island, contact the Rhode Island LGBTQ Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.