When I was planning a trip to Providence, Rhode Island, the Roger Williams Zoo was at the top of my list of places to explore. My family recently enjoyed a few days exploring downtown Providence and you can read about our adventures here.
When we arrived at the Park, I realized the property encompasses way more than “just a zoo.” There are over 400 acres to explore and plenty of year round activities to stay active both indoors and outside. Check out the full map here and the updated calendar here.
Traveling with Kids:
Restrooms are located inside the zoo, botanical center, and natural history museum.
Park in the zoo lot for the zoo, and near Carousel Village for most other locations. Carousel Village is located in the middle of the park and is easy walking distance to most places on this list.
Bring the stroller and wear sneakers.
Stay on designated paths when traveling throughout the park.
Check online for closures; many places listed on this list are seasonal.
Our Top 10 Things to Do at Roger Williams Park:
1. Explore the zoo- It’s home to over 150 animals! There are several indoor facilities which are home to tortoises, otters, toucans, Komodo dragons, giraffes, and elephants and tons of outdoor attractions. Kids will surely love Our Big Backyard with water features, a massive treehouse (check out the massive kaleidoscope!) and a variety of scavenger hunts. During the summer, there are also camel rides and opportunities to interact and feed several different animals. Note: admission fees apply- the zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, so if you belong to your local zoo or aquarium, you may receive discounted admissions.
2. Take a ride on a swan, pirate, or electric boats at the boat house. All three boat types, plus kayaks, are available for rental. If you prefer to have someone else take the helm, consider a narrated, guided tour aboard the “Miss Betsey”, an amphibious duck boat that take guests throughout the entire park with great views of most of the places on this list. More info here.
3. Smell the almost 40 types of roses at the Rose Gardens that have been growing since the 1880s and now covers two acres. The best time for blooming roses is June. The grounds also include a rose “maze” that children will enjoy.
4. Learn about over 150 different species of plants (and fish!) at the Botanical Center, the largest public indoor garden of its kind in New England. There are tons of programs, and Family Fun Crafts, offered once a month, seems especially popular. Note: the garden is closed on Monday and an admission fee is charged.
5. Explore the Betsey Williams Cottage, built in 1773, home to the great great great granddaughter of Roger Williams. While the home is not regularly open to visitors (check here for hours), visitors can see a mini exhibition of photos detailing the history of the cottage.
6. Catch a show at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium. It’s the only public planetarium in the state. Kids will especially enjoy completing one of four museum scavenger hunts- grab a clipboard and pencil at the entrance- and younger guests could earn a prize. There’s also a different monthly craft to complete. Note: there is a nominal admission fee.
7. Purchase a Carousel Village day pass and enjoy a ride on a carousel, pony, AND train. Plus, bounce off excess energy in the bounce house!! Note: The Village is closed in January and only open on weekends November, December, February, and March and pony rides are seasonal in spring and summer. Food Truck Fridays will be a huge hit with adults and kids! Note: Guests can also purchase individual tickets for single rides on the carousel, ponies, and train.
8. Get your steps in for the day walking through one (or many) of five designated walking trails throughout the park. Download the maps ahead of time here and consider whether you’re up for the three mile hike around the lake or just want a brief half mile trail. The maps will also give you highlights of what you’ll see and what to avoid (like poison ivy!)
9. Climb the jungle gym at the Hasbro Boundless Playground, located in Carousel Village, which is fully accessible and has tons of swings, monkey bars and slides.
10. Take a selfie in some of the 17 statues and monuments inside the park. With tributes to people like Abraham Lincoln and The Pancratiast, visitors will learn about the history of everything from the founding father of the Dominican Republic to Indian poets to The Sentinel. Download the guide here first.
If you’re looking for more family fun in Providence, check out our post here.
Disclaimer: My family was given a media pass to explore the zoo. All opinions expressed are my own.