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Moving to Rhode Island? Here’s What You Need to Know

The smallest state in the United States is a great place to live, whether it’s near the creativity and innovation in Providence or on the coast near Narragansett.

Here’s what you need to know about moving to the Ocean State.

Quick facts about Rhode Island

  • Don’t let its tiny size fool you: there’s plenty to do in Rhode Island. Better yet, you can access it all in a short drive! You’ll find sunny, pleasant beaches (although they do get packed in the summer), hikes through gorgeous New England forests, and access to the state’s local breweries and restaurants. 
     
  • Rhode Island is also in a great location for traveling to other states: it’s close to ski slopes in Connecticut and Vermont, a short drive to the bustling city of Boston, and only a quick plane or train ride from New York City. You’ll have quick access to East Coast vacation spots like Cape Cod, Nantucket, and the Hamptons as well. 

What to Know About Rhode Island

Population & History

The first settlement in Rhode Island was founded in 1636 by a group of settlers who were banned from Massachusetts for religious reasons.

The area grew in prominence and societal importance during the American Gilded Age during 1860s, and affluent families from the New England area built sprawling, opulent summer homes along the Rhode Island coastline that are still standing and habitable today.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States. It is the seventh-least populated state but is the second-most densely populated state after New Jersey.

The state covers a little over 1,200 square miles and is home to just over 1 million residents.

Weather in Rhode Island

Rhode Island experiences cold winters and warm summers. The average summer temperatures come close to 83℉, and temperatures in the winter average at 20℉.

Winters also bring quite a bit of snow that averages 35 inches a year.

Rhode Island experiences extreme weather and precipitation from tropical storms and hurricanes, which often bring damage and flooding to cities. 

A wave hits the shore during a coastal storm in Narragansett
A wave hits the shore during a coastal storm in Narragansett

Top Attractions in Rhode Island

This state may be small, but there’s no shortage of things to do.

In the single hour that it takes to drive across the state (and that’s diagonally!), you’ll find more than enough to do no matter what you’re interested in. 

Charming Beach Towns

Don’t worry if the Hamptons are a little too pricey for your summer vacation: Rhode Island’s charming beach communities are the perfect place to stretch out on the sand and get some sun. You might have to fight for your spot in the crowds, but some would say that it’s just a part of the experience. 

Narragansett is probably Rhode Island’s most well-known beach town. Referred to by locals as gansett, this town has a long history of summer-long vacations, legendary poker games, and decadent parties thrown by the elite upper class in 1800s.

Today, it’s a little more affordable and low-key. Grab a patch of sand at Narragansett Town Beach or rent a boat to get out on the water, whether to cruise or to fish for the squid, cod, and sea bass that frequent the local waters.

The South East lighthouse on Block Island
The South East Lighthouse on Block Island

Another popular choice for locals is the town of Westerly, which is located at the southeastern end of the state right on the border with Connecticut.

You will find quaint restaurants, bookstores and bars off of High Street and a nearby drive-in theater for late-night movies under the stars.

There are several separate beach communities in Westerly. Misquamicut is perhaps one of the most popular and has a long public beach with beachside bars and hotels.

To get a glimpse of ages past, head to Watch Hill, where luxurious summer “cottages” look more like mansions and overlook the Atlantic (one of them is owned by Taylor Swift). 

Located across the water at the southern end of Narragansett Bay is Newport, a town of harbors, oceanside views, and historic colonial homes. Newport hosts the annual America’s Cup, a world-renowned sailing regata.

Along Bellevue Avenue, you’ll find sprawling mansions from the Gilded Age (The Breakers is one of the most famous). Across the water from Newport is Jamestown, a charming beach town perfect for a calm vacation or day on the beach.

In Jamestown you’ll find historic lighthouses and two state parks, Beavertail State Park and Fort Wetherill State Park, where you can hike, picnic, or even scuba dive.

The Marble House, a historic mansion in Newport
The Marble House, a historic mansion in Newport

Good Food in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has a long list of “iconic” foods that you’ll either love or hate, including snail salad, coffee milk, hot weiners,

Del’s frozen lemonade, and anything with clams in it. Rhode Islanders also make their clam chowder without cream like the rest of New England does and definitely without tomatoes (which is a common addition to the recipe in Manhattan).

Out of all of these culinary quirks, here are some of the tried and true highlights of Rhode Island eating:

For the very best seafood, head to the iconic Hemenway’s Restaurant, located suitably overlooking the river in downtown Providence. The bill may not be cheap, but the menu offers classic dishes made with fresh seafood and paired perfectly with selections from the wine list.

Outside of Providence, you’ll find fabulous seaside spots like Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown or at Monahan’s Restaurant, a Narragansett classic with a menu full of creative clam-based dishes. 

Let’s be honest: most Rhode Island restaurants have seafood on the menu but also have so much more.East Side Pocket is probably one of the most well-loved spots for to-go food in Providence, and chances are you won’t disagree when you’ve tried their perfectly-spiced falafel or hummus made in-house.

If you’re looking for a place to dine in, try Gracie’s (also in Providence), a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant with a carefully-crafted menu and a beautifully extensive wine, beer, and spirits list.

Opened in 1969, Nick’s on Broadway is another Rhode Island staple for a locally-sourced, farm-to-table restaurant. It’s also open for brunch; need we say more?

Living in Rhode Island

Top employers in Rhode Island

The leading industries in Rhode Island include advanced business services, manufacturing, bioscience, and healthcare.

Some of the biggest companies in the state include CVS, which is headquartered in Woonsocket, Textron, Nortek, NTK Holdings, Rhode Island Hospital, and GTECH.

Top employers in Rhode Island include Brown University, Lifespan Finance, Rhode Island Hospital, and the United States Navy, which has a base in Newport.

The best cities for remote work in Rhode Island

If you’re relocating to Rhode Island with a remote job or just want an occasional change of pace from office life, the Ocean State has plenty of coworking spaces to choose from.

If you’re in Providence, check out Sprout, which has an art gallery and private lockers for memberships starting from $20/day.

The Wurks provides diverse spaces and studios for Providence-based artists and makers, including a print shop and woodshop.

Innovate Newport offers flexible prices to those local to (you guessed it) Newport. If you’re in the Cranston area, check out CoLab for flexible spaces and dedicated desks depending on your workspace needs.

Downtown Providence
Downtown Providence

Cost of Living

Rhode Island is slightly more expensive than other states when it comes to the cost of living, but it’s nowhere near the skyrocketing costs of living in areas like Northern California or near New York City.

Housing is the most expensive factor of living in the state: the median home price in the Providence metro is $266,270 for a two-bedroom home. Utilities and groceries also cost residents more than in other states. 

The sales tax in Rhode Island is 7%, which is a little lower than the national average. Income tax is based on income amount and ranges from 3.75% to 5.99%.

Rhode Island also has a property tax of about 1.53%, one of the highest percentages in the country. 

Transportation & Commute

While your drive might take you past quaint farms and beautiful coastal views, it will probably also take longer than average: Rhode Island is ranked as one of the worst states in the country for traffic and congestion.

The state has fewer roads in worse conditions than others, and you’ll hear complaints from residents about longer-than-average commute times. 

For those who would rather try their luck with public transit, Rhode Island is served by RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority), which runs primarily throughout Providence and between the cities surrounding Narragansett Bay (Newport, Narragansett, West Warwick).

There are also shuttle busses to beaches from the city during the summertime. Rhode Island also has three cities with Amtrak stations (Providence, Westerly, and West Kingston) that provide access by train throughout the New England area. 

Rhode Island’s primary airport is the T.F. Green International Airport (PVD), which is located 20 minutes south of Providence in the town of Warwick. T.F.

The airport provides primarily regional flights to and from other cities in New England, a few destinations in Canada, and several direct flights to other major cities in the United States, including Chicago, Miami, and St. Louis.

Boston Logan International Airport is 1.5 hours away from Providence but occasionally offers cheaper flights to destinations further away.

Best places to live in Rhode Island

Best neighborhoods for families with kids:

  • Barrington: Consistently listed as one of the best suburbs in Rhode Island is Barrington, a friendly town with plenty of green space that is only a 20-minute drive southeast of Providence. Barrington has easily accessible shopping and dining and a median home price of $499,601.
     
  • Jamestown: For scenic views of the bay and a charming downtown, consider Jamestown. You’ll see your fair share of tourists, but the good schools, historic homes, and local shops and restaurants might be worth it. Jamestown is right across the water from Newport and is only 40 minutes south of Providence. The median home price here is a little higher than in other Rhode Island cities at $679,626.
     
  • East Greenwich: East Greenwich is a friendly town with good schools located 25 minutes south of Providence. You’ll find a quaint downtown and spread-out homes for a median home price of $494,158. It’s also a short drive away from the airport and from Warwick and nearby Newport. 

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • Providence: For young professionals looking for a social lifestyle and quick commute times, Providence is a great option. Elmhurst, Fox Point, and Federal Hill are all good neighborhoods with historic homes and plenty to do. The median home price is also cheaper than in surrounding cities at $254,675.
     
  • Newport: Another option for an urban lifestyle is Newport. The median home price of $535,933 is higher than in other areas of Rhode Island, but the city is a blend of up-and-coming downtown areas with bars and restaurants and quaint, historic neighborhoods. You’ll also have access to the water for boating, fishing, and hiking along the coast. 
     
  • Middletown: Just north of Newport is Middletown. It’s a small town with spread-out residential areas, but it’s a great place for bars, restaurants, and breweries. Middletown is a 43-minute drive south of Providence and is only ten minutes from downtown Newport. The median home price is $467,736.

Higher Education

It’s a small state, but Rhode Island’s located nestled between other New England states means that it’s a great place for higher education.

Brown University in Providence is consistently ranked among the top 20 schools in the United States and is a founding member of the Ivy League.

The University of Rhode Island is a highly-regarded public school that offers lowered tuition to students in-state, with top programs in nursing, psychology, and communications.

Other notable schools include Providence College, operated by Dominican Friars, Bryant University, and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the top schools for fine arts and design in the country.

Crime in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of the safest states in the United States.

Cities and towns throughout the state, like Narragansett and Richmond, have consistently lower-than-average crime rates.

Providence ranks slightly higher when it comes to crime statistics, which can be due in part to a dense urban population: out of a scale where 100 represents the average national index of crime, it scores at 141 (higher than the average).

So long as you are aware of your surroundings and keep your personal belongings secure, you should feel perfectly safe around the city.

Are You Considering Rhode Island as Your Next Home?

Whether you’re looking for a home close to the quaint towns on the coast or near the excitement and innovation of a city, Rhode Island has something to offer. It’s a small state with big character, and it won’t take long touring the historic cities and scenic coastline to discover a community that works for you.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

 

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