Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the country but it’s one of the largest in terms of scenic outdoor settings.
Rivers runs through Providence, the sea embraces Newport, and there are manmade sights that are easy on the eyes as well, from gorgeous historic mansions to attractive college campuses.
During a meeting itinerary in one of these classic New England destinations, groups that venture outside for a fun add-on activity or gathering will feel like they’re in the middle of a postcard picture.
Following are some great outdoors ideas, courtesy of local experts from Discover Newport and the Providence Warwick CVB.
Gracing many a postcard from Newport is a beautiful image showing the “Sailing Capital of the World” in all its glory. Lucky for groups, they can jump right into this experience.
Groups convening in the place that’s synonymous with the America’s Cup, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious trophy in international yachting, can experience a memorable waterborne excursion.
According to Tim Walsh, vice president of sales at Discover Newport, America’s Cup Charters will facilitate an outing aboard an authentic 12-meter yacht that once raced with a regatta in the celebrated competition.
“Channel your inner Dennis Conner (aka “Mr. America’s Cup”) to grind the winches and raise the sails in a friendly competition with your colleagues,” he said. “There’s nothing like the thrill of sailing on captivating Narragansett Bay. Moreover, sailing a 12-meter takes teamwork. It can help you see your colleagues and industry partners in a whole new light, all surrounded by the natural beauty of Newport’s iconic New England coastline.”
This past spring, Newport welcomed another option for groups interested in a mobile outdoor experience.
Rail Explorers, operating out of Portsmouth, are pedal-powered bicycle/vehicle hybrids that seat two and four people and ride on the railroad tracks along the edge of Narragansett Bay.
There is no need to steer, as riding is hands-free, and groups are flanked by tour guides in the lead and last positions.
“All explorers leave at the same time and each group enjoys the freedom of the outdoors and the magic of the railroad at their own pace and in their own space,” Walsh said. “The explorers are easy to ride and have been a huge success with groups, as the experience can accommodate all ages and fitness levels.”
Similar to its renowned status as a yachting mecca, Newport ranks among the country’s most foodie-friendly destinations. For groups, it’s prime territory to include a delicious outing at some point during a meeting here.
Rhode Island Red Food Tours offers walking tours that highlight popular eats while also filling attendees in on stories and fun facts about the local history and culture.
“As Newport pre-dates America itself, you can’t help but be surrounded by our rich history and captivating architecture, which guides talk about along the way,” Walsh said. “The local foods that people enjoy at the participating restaurants, all locally owned and operated eateries, offer a reflection of our past while simultaneously showcasing the contemporary cuisine crafted by our talented chefs.”
If the group would prefer a seated meal, there are many possibilities for al fresco dining in Newport as well.
At The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar, where specialties include everything from a lobster croissant sandwich and native scallop chowder to a “bag of doughnuts”—aka lobster, crab and shrimp fritters served with chipotle-maple aioli—groups can dine on the expansive mahogany deck that runs the entire length of the restaurant and floats over the waters of Newport Harbor.
And at the seasonal Lobster Bar, perched on a wharf that jets out into Newport Harbor, groups can enjoy a laid-back dining experience.
At the entrance is the Aquidneck Lobster Co., where freshly caught lobster can be found in holding tanks alongside other catch fresh off the boat, according to Walsh.
“The restaurant is decidedly casual with most meals typically served in baskets,” he said. “As one might expect from its name, the lobster roll and whole lobsters are some of the most popular menu items. With its surrounding sliding doors open throughout the warmer months, along with a covered deck at the rear, patrons have a front row seat to harbor activity.”
Providence’s nationally recognized and acclaimed culinary scene is simply “red hot,” according to Thomas Riel, vice president of sales and services for the Providence Warwick CVB.
Groups meeting here may also call on Rhode Island Red Food Tours to lead the group on an exploration of the city’s dining scene.
“They take you into the kitchens of some of Providence’s best-loved restaurants,” Riel said. “And al fresco dining in Providence allows attendees to dine amid beautiful cityscape and riverfront settings, sometimes simultaneously.”
Attendees visiting the Ocean State typically crave seafood, which is served up fresh by Hemenway’s Restaurant.
“An outdoor courtyard offers views of the park next door and South Main Street, Providence’s oldest street,” Riel said. “Indoor diners get a front row seat to life along the Providence River.”
Both Cafe Nuovo and the Capital Grille, he added, offer, “elegant fine dining with outdoor seating that has sweeping views of the Waterplace Park river basin.”
Located just 30 minutes outside Providence in Wyoming, R.I., is the Preserve at Boulder Hills, where groups can choose from an exhaustive list of outdoor activities in all seasons, including golfing, cross-country skiing, skeet shooting, snowmobiling, snow shoeing and mountain biking.
There are also a few options that are particularly team-bonding, including scavenger hunts and rock-climbing ranges.
Outdoor teambuilding is also available at Roger Williams Park and the Roger Williams Park Zoo.
“The park offers 430 acres of green space, a botanical center, kayaks, swan boats and electric boats, while the zoo offers opportunities to feed giraffes and seals,” Riel said.
Also in Providence, which is built on three rivers that wind through downtown, is Providence Riverboat Co., offering tours that include history and information about the city’s relationship to the water as groups cruise through downtown.
A more active waterborne pursuit is available via Providence Kayak.
“Groups can ‘paddle Providence’ within a short walk from the Rhode Island Convention Center,” Riel said. “Paddle through the heart of downtown and get a new perspective on Providence’s stunning architecture.”