Think museums are just for field trips? Think again. Check out these cultural attractions around the state and remind yourself about how fun learning can be. Arrrrrrr you willing to swashbuckle your way into Newport’s past? The Rogues and Scoundrels History Walking Tour delves into Newport’s colorful history as a pirate’s haven, and why the colony was known as “Rogue’s Island.” The Newport History Tours offer several different walks through the City by the Sea’s past, including From Golden to Gilded, about Newport’s Gilded Age exploits; Rum and Revolution, about the colonial rum trade and its effects on the city; and Road to Independence, about Newport’s role in the American Revolution.
Housed in the mansion once home to Rhode Island governor William Sprague, the South County Museum is devoted to preserving the state’s history and culture. Explore a one-room schoolhouse, carriage barn and print shop. Watch blacksmiths work in a sithing shop. Explore the walking trails that go through the property’s salt marshes and gardens. Make friends with Rhode Island Red chickens, the state bird, and other farm animals. The museum is open Fridays and Saturdays in September, and by appointment in October. September 12-14 is their annual Folk Art Quilt Show. 115 Strathmore Street, Narragansett. 783-5400.
The most memorable of the Newport Mansions isn’t a mansion at all – it’s Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth. The summer house of a Fall River cotton magnate, Green Animals is America’s oldest and northernmost topiary garden, where teddy bears and dinosaurs hold court over sculptured gardens overlooking Narragansett Bay. Over 80 pieces of topiary adorn the property, as well as live animals and the home itself, maintained by the Preservation Soceity of Newport County. 380 Corys Lane, Portsmouth. 847-1000.
The Providence Art Club has been a gathering spot for the city’s artistic community since 1880. While the club has a membership, all exhibitions they host in their galleries are free and open to the public, furthering their mission of promoting arts in the city. Renowned local painter Anthony Tomaselli, known especially for his WaterFire paintings but also for his New England landscapes and seascapes, has his studio inside the PAC. When you go to check out their fall exhibits, make sure to stop by Tomaselli’s studio – visible through large windows facing the street – to see the artist at work. 11 Thomas Street, Providence. 331-1114.
While the RISD Museum is affiliated with the venerable Rhode Island School of Design, the space is very much an artistic resource for the community. It recently finished seven years of renovations, and is now fully open, showcasing innovative galleries of Renaissance and Medieval Art, Ancient Greek and Roman Art, Costumes and Textiles, Modern and Contemporary works and many more. The RISD Museum is currently showing a special exhibition of circus-themed art. Lectures, talks, readings, courses and workshops round out the offerings there. Sundays, admission is free to the museum. 20 North Main Street, Providence. 454-6500.
Who says Providence has the corner on great art in this state? The Newport Art Museum is a series of galleries filled with world-class art. Fall exhibitions at the museum include Palate to Plate, Prints and Recipes from Members of the Boston Printmakers; Claudia Flynn: Solemnities; and NetWorks 2013-2014, a showcase of Rhode Island artists. The Newport Art Museum also offers regular programming, like Murder at the Museum, an interactive murder mystery performance, and Music in the Galleries. 76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport. 848-8200.
Linden Place has been around since 1810. Originally home to the enormously wealthy DeWolf family, the house has been converted into a house museum and event space. On September 13 or October 18, the museum hosts a “Tales of the Slave Trade” walking tour of the Linden Place Mansion downtown Bristol. Guests can also join the museum guides for a daytrip to Hartford, CT, on September 11. The daytrip focuses on the life and home of Samuel P. Colt, as narrated by Katrina White, a former member of the Rhode Island Department of Tourism. Tours of Linden Place Mansion are available through Columbus Day. 500 Hope Street, Bristol. 253-0390.
The historic Doran Building in Providence’s Jewelry district has been given a new life – and new art. ArtProv Gallery opened this year in one of the building’s converted loft spaces. The gallery exhibits contemporary art by artists from Providence and around the world. Through September 6, the Patterns and Perspectives exhibit showcases the work of four painters ranging from the abstract to cityscapes. Further fall exhibits will be announced on the Gallery’s website. 150 Chestnut Street, Providence. 641-5182.
One of New England’s finest garden estates is open to the public right here in Rhode Island: the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol. Formerly the vacation home of the Van Wickle family, the mansion, garden and grounds are now open to the public, hosting events and classes for any and all to attend. Guided tours of Blithewold run through October 8, and the gardens will host plant walks guided by in-house horticulturalists on September 7 and October 5. 101 Ferry Road, Bristol. 253-2707.