You probably know that Rhode Island (whose full name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) is the smallest state in the United States, with an area of a mere 1,214 square miles.
Locals often joke that you can go from one side to another in 30 minutes. But you’ve heard all that before—what about some facts about Rhode Island that you might have never realized?
Twenty years ago, the only thing I knew about Rhode Island was that it was on the US’s east coast. Then I moved here and learned how much this little state has to offer. Enjoy these 47 Interesting facts about Rhode Island.
Also, read 30 Amazing Facts About Weather
Facts about Rhode Island
- Rhode Island is the smallest US state.
- Until 2020 it had the longest state name. That award now goes to Massachusetts.
- Despite its diminutive size, Newport has over 400 miles of coastline.
- Rhode Island is one of the original US colonies. It was the last colony to become a state.
- Rhode Island is surrounded by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The border with New York is a water border.
- The US Open began in Newport, Rhode Island, at what is now The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Although that tournament has moved to New York, Newport still holds a tournament in July where you can see tennis greats play on grass from very close for a much smaller cost than the Open.
- The oldest synagogue in the United States, Tuoro Synagogue, is in Newport. Roger Williams founded Rhode Island when he was expelled from Massachusetts because of his religious beliefs. He started the state to provide religious freedom for all.
- He established the first Baptist church in the US in Providence in 1638.
- We were the first state to abolish slavery!
- The Rhode Island state bird is a Rhode Island Red Chicken.
- Rhode Island is known as the sailing capital of the world. Many of our children spend summer in sailing camp.
- Newport, Rhode Island, is often a sailings America’s Cup stop.
- The White Horse Tavern in Newport is the oldest operating restaurant in the United States and the 10th oldest in the world.
- The US’ oldest carousel sits beachside in Watch Hill. It opened in 1876.
- Although Rhode Island never ratified the 18th amendment, which brought about prohibition, you cannot buy alcohol in our supermarkets.
- The Blackstone Valley in northern Rhode Island was important at the dawn of America’s industrial age. Slater Mill, one of the first mills in the 1790s, sits on the Blackstone River.
- Rhode Island has a least one haunted house. The house that inspired the movie “The Conjuring” is in Harrisville, Rhode Island. We also have a vampire buried here. You can still visit Mercy Brown’s grave behind the baptist church at 467 Ten Rod Road in Exeter.
- One of Rhode Island’s most recognized icons is a 58-foot-long Eastern Subterranean Termite called The Big Blue Bug, or “Nibbles Woodway”, which looms over 95 south. He welcomes people into the capital city of Providence, often dressed in seasonal garb. Right now, he is wearing a mask.
- Roger William named Providence for the blessing of escaping the religious persecution of Massachusetts.
- Rhode Island’s capital building has the fourth-largest self-supported marble dome in the world. Ours is gold coated and supports a statue of “The Independent Man.”
- The state shell is a Quahog, a hard-shelled clam native to the east coast. When you drive by Rhode Island’s shallow coastal waters, you will likely see people clamming for them.
- One of the foods that you should try when you are in Rhode Island is the stuffed Quahog, called a stuffie. It is often stuffed with Portuguese sausage, Chourico.
- There is even a fictional town on The Family Guy named Quahog.
- Although I have never heard of a six-year-old being charged, cap guns are illegal in Rhode Island.
- In Rhode Island, you cannot race a horse down a highway.
- Speaking of horses, Newport was the location of the first polo field in the US, The Westchester Polo Club. You can still catch matches of the Newport International Polo Series in Portsmouth. Grabbing friends and a grill and watching the ponies is great fun.
- Jackie and John F. Kennedy got married in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in the colonial city of Newport. Jackie’s childhood was spent summering in Newport.
- Her wedding reception took place at Hammersmith Farm, which you can ride by on a bike ride along Ocean Drive in Newport.
- Fort Adams in Newport is the largest fort on the US east coast.
- Apropo to its name, Rhode Island has a few islands. The largest island is Aquidneck Island, which is covered by the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, and Middletown. It is the “island” in Rhode Island and lies in Narragansett Bay.
- We also have an offshore island, Block Island. Block Island has the US’ first offshore wind farm.
- The official state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk. Autocrat has made syrup since the 1930s, which is added to milk to make coffee milk. Its origins are unclear but may be a nod to home from our large Italian immigrant population.
- 18.9 per cent of Rhode Islanders have Italian heritage, making it the most Italian state. Most are concentrated in the north of the state in Johnston, Cranston, and Providence.
- Our main Italian section is called “The Hill” on Federal Hill. Along with a plethora of Italian dining choices, there is outdoor dining and a plaza, DePasquale Square, where you can sing along with crooners around an Italian-style fountain.
- Since we are a coastal state, we have lighthouses- 21 of them!
- The only US lighthouse named after a person is the Ida Lewis Lighthouse in Newport. It is named after the courageous woman who took over lighthouse duties when her father suffered a stroke and saved at least 18 people from the bay.
Also, read 7 FUN FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO
10 Fun Facts about Rhode Island
- The headquarters of Hasbro Toys is in Providence. That is why you may see Mr Potato Head on some of our license plates.
- Many industry magnets from the early 20th century, such as the Asters and Vanderbilts, had “summer cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island. These huge mansions can still be toured or seen from a walk along the Cliff Walk.
- One such person was the owner of Rough Point, Doris Duke, whose money may have helped her get away with murder. She was the richest woman in the world when she “accidentally” ran over Eduardo Tirella, who was in town to sever ties with Duke. No inquiry was even made into the death, although she suddenly made many monetary donations around town. She had also stabbed a previous lover with a butcher’s knife.
- Providence has the most number of doughnut shops per person in the US. I know my family enjoyed its Rhode Island Donut Road Trip.
- Some might say former mayor Buddy Cianci is why Providence is the vibrant town it is now. He cleaned up the waterfront, beautified the city, brought in a hockey team and the wonderful moving art installation, Waterfire. He also served prison time for running a corrupt enterprise and racketeering conspiracy between his first and second terms. That means that the people of Rhode Island voted a convicted felon back into office. I should mention that I am vaguely related to Buddy, but most Italians in this small state are.
- A few famous people that are from Rhode Island are Viola Davis, James Woods, Meredith Viera, Debra Messing, and HP Lovecraft.
- There is an HP Lovecraft museum in Providence.
- Central Falls is the smallest, most densely populated city in the smallest state. Maybe because of this, 100 per cent of its population lives within 10-minutes of a park or green space.
- Speaking of green space, 59% of Rhode Island is covered in forest. That is pretty impressive for Ocean State.
- By the way, The Ocean State is our nickname.
- But the Rhode Island motto is “Hope.”