Known for: festivals, forests, beaches, small town charm
Good for: families, nature-lovers, families, kids, seafood lovers
Colloquially known as Chariho, these three, thinly populated towns encompass several villages that are themselves common reference points for locals, including Hope Valley, Carolina, Wyoming and Ashaway. Together they offer a taste of both South County’s lively tourism industry of today and its rural past.
Charlestown is the only one of the three on the water, and thus home to Chariho’s only beaches, with both a town and a state beach occupying the narrow strip of land that encircles the coastal lagoon Ninigret Pond. Ninigret Park is a 227-acre park that is sprawling in both its size and the range of activities offered, with a playground, ball fields, bicycle path, tennis and basketball courts, freshwater pond with beach, and picnic areas. It also hosts two of the signature events of the summer: the Charlestown Seafood Festival, August 3-5, and Labor Day weekend’s Rhythm and Roots Festival, a three-day celebration of blues, bluegrass, zydeco and the like.
Hopkinton and neighboring Richmond share the historic village of Hope Valley, the center of which is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Richmond, however, is perhaps best known as the home of the Washington County Fair. This five-day festival celebrates its 46th year on the Washington County Pomona Grange Recreational Area on Route 112. It is the state’s biggest agricultural event and draws visitors from far and wide for country music concerts, a huge midway, rides for the kids, horse and tractor pulls, and much more. This year’s fair runs August 15-19.
The tiny hamlet of Usquepaug, also in Richmond, is home to the oldest continuously operating manufacturing business in the state, Kenyon’s Grist Mill, which is open to visitors. Currently housed in a building that dates to 1886, it has been grinding corn meals and flours since 1696. Its products are key ingredients in johnnycakes, a cornmeal pancake that is one of the state’s signature foods.