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Providence Is the Complete Package for Meetings

JWU campus aerial in Providence, Rhode Island

This February, Rhode Island Commerce, the Ocean State’s economic development organization, revealed its new “All That” tourism slogan.  

Showcasing Rhode Island's vast offerings and diversity for travelers, the national marketing campaign was announced as, "Rhode Island is a state of firsts; a state of game changers, inventors, icons, rebels; Rhode Island is historic, scenic, delectable; Rhode Island is 'All That.'"  

In the accompanying release, Rhode Island Commerce’s Chief Marketing Officer Anika Kimble-Huntley stated that “it's time we let people know that our state is ‘All That’ and today we can say this with confidence. Visit us for an epicurean journey, a historic rendezvous, an outdoor adventure or a relaxing retreat; we have ‘All That.’"

Integrated in the messaging, naturally, is the state capital of Providence. With the Providence Warwick CVB (PWCVB) unveiling an inspiring new meetings-focused campaign soon, this compact, walkable historic center is the proverbial small package loaded with good offerings for leisure and business visitors alike.  

Setting the Stage for Success

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee called the “All That” campaign “a testament to our community that refuses to be anything but extraordinary." One such prominent local face is PWCVB President and CEO Kristen Adamo, who has championed the city from the heart since joining the bureau in 2005.

“Providence is a diverse and vibrant destination, and the meetings and event spaces in the region really reflect that,” said Adamo, who celebrated five years as the PWCVB’s president and CEO last month. “Gone are the days of traveling for business or for pleasure—you can do both here. We’re seeing several new venues offering meeting opportunities centered around some type of interactive, fun activity, and that has been a breath of fresh air for meeting planners looking to engage their attendees.”

Launched this March ahead of the forthcoming meetings campaign, the CVB’s energetic new destination video was produced by Rhode Island production company Animus Studios and features local band Deer Tick.

“Providence is the Creative Capital, after all,” Adamo continued. “We are a city of creative people who like to think outside the box. Our new destination video reflects that spirit and vibrancy, and the PWCVB was proud to draw upon local creative talent to capture that.”

[Related: How to Experience the Arts and Culture of Rhode Island at Meetings]

Group Activities and Networking Wins in Rhode Island

WaterFire river boat
WaterFire river boat. Credit: N. Millard

There’s nothing like mixing pleasure with business, and Providence has plenty in store with an eclectic roster of options for teambuilding exercises, private events and fun networking opportunities.  

New venues serving as both attractions and meeting spaces include Topgolf Rhode Island, the national chain’s first facility in the state. Located in nearby Cranston, the multi-level facility features private rooms and dozens of high-tech hitting bays for groups of all sizes.  

Connected by skywalk to the Rhode Island Convention Center and Omni Providence Hotel, the Providence Place Mall features the new Level99 attraction. One of only two locations in the country, this “social gaming playground” features interactive team-based gameplay along with meeting and banquet space, and crafted food and beverage offerings.

With four Northeast locations, Far Shot USA is a knife- and axe-throwing bar in downtown Providence. Groups can give soft-tipped combat archery a go at Archery Games Providence. Corporate event and teambuilding programs include 15 minutes of training followed by an hour of action-packed gameplay, with extra time available for BYOB and food.  

Creative pursuits include memorable glassblowing classes at Gather Glass on Federal Hill, Providence’s historic Little Italy.  

Other evocative neighborhoods include the East Side, where Providence Ghost Tour offers public and private haunted history tours. New walking tours include “Parasols and Pocket Watches,” a step back in time along Benefit Street, “The Mile of History.”

Forming a flowing focal point through downtown, the confluent Providence, Woonasquatucket, and Moshassuck Rivers are the canvas for artist Barnaby Evans’ annual WaterFire Providence art installation.  

Celebrating 30 years in 2024, this free spectacle of fire, water and music, which runs from May through November, was cited by the Providence Journal in 1997 as “the most popular work of art created in the capital city’s 371-year history.” Regarded also as the lasting symbol of Providence’s renaissance from less illustrious times, WaterFire is a must-experience Providence ritual.  

Delegates can also cruise the downtown riverways with Providence River Boat Company or ride the rivers in an authentic Venetian gondola steered by a personal gondolier from La Gondola.

[Related: 9 Food Experiences in Newport, Rhode Island That Meeting Groups Will Love]

Exceptional Rhode Island Food Experiences  

 Fleur Providence Salade at Fleur
Fleur Providence Salade at Fleur. Credit: Angel Tucker,

Providence is equally a culinary capital. Established in 1914 by “founding mothers” Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales as a business school, Johnson & Wales University (JWU) added the College of Culinary Arts in 1973. Evolving into the College of Food Innovation & Technology in 2020, this nationally acclaimed school keeps the Providence culinary scene hot, with many top-class chefs and front-of-house talent staying in town following graduation.

Groups can book JWU’s three-hour “Chef’s Choice” classes along with customized corporate experiences and competitive challenges.  

Nearly 19% of Rhode Islanders claim Italian ancestry, making the Ocean State the most Italian state in the country. Providence reflects this legacy with some of the most authentic and delicious Italian food in the nation.

Federal Hill is home to Old World restaurants including Angelo’s, which celebrated 100 years this April. Providence has my vote for the best pizza in the U.S. Hands-down favorites include Figidini and Pizza Marvin, the latter’s owner Robert Andreozzi reaching the James Beard Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist round in 2023.

Ten Rhode Island-based chefs and restaurants made the 2024 Beard semifinalists list. Providence honorees include first-time nominee Sky Haneul Kim of Gift Horse in the Emerging Chef category; Courtland Club for Outstanding Bar; and Subat Dilmurat of Uyghur-driven Jahunger for Best Chef: Northeast.  

Of the 10, Maria Meza made the finalist round, in the Best Chef: Northeast category for her contemporary Oaxacan fare at Dolores.  

Aiming for a late summer 2024 opening, Track 15 is the transformation of historic Union Station into a chef-driven food hall. Built in 1898, the station supported Rhode Island’s machinery, textile, and jewelry industries with 14 intercity rail lines before closing in 1986 in favor of the nearby Amtrak station.

The plan calls for seven restaurants. Confirmed tenants include a second Dolores from Meza and her family, and two Italian concepts from Kevin O’Donnell, chef-owner of Giusto and Mother Pizzeria in Newport.

New restaurants include Fleur Providence, the long-anticipated all-day concept inside the Omni Providence Hotel. The Mediterranean- and Parisian-inspired menu features a raw bar, pasta, seafood, steaks and more. Group options include a 30-capacity private dining room and buyouts for up to 200 people.  

Opening soon inside the Providence Public Library, the Culinary Hub of Providence (CHOP) is a restaurant/cafe staffed by students from the Genesis Center, an organization that provides adult education and training to immigrants and first-generation Americans who may lack a high school or college degree.  

Featuring library-inspired decor, CHOP complements JWU and Hope & Main in nearby Warren, the state’s premier culinary incubator for entrepreneurs kickstarting their food business since 2004, in rounding out Providence’s prominence as a culinary hub.  

With expanding airlift into nearby T.F. Green International Airport including new direct Southwest routes from Dallas and Denver commencing this summer, and multiple Breeze Airways directs including Los Angeles, more groups can experience the city’s “All That” appeal.


Providence Warwick CVB

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.