Bristol is a quintessential New England waterfront town. Part of the East Bay communities along with Warren and Barrington, it is on a peninsula in Rhode Island surrounded by Narragensett and Mount Hope Bays. This coastal community has a rich 325-year history and hosts the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration in the United States. The town has plentiful year-round recreational activities, and a spectacular waterfront that provides beautiful views and many water sports. The town has not lost its historic "Main Street America" feel with many stately homes, tree-lined streets and old-town store fronts.
Bristol is a small and historic Rhode Island town with a population of about 23,000. Approximately 20.6 sq mi (53 km2) including water, Bristol is a beautiful town right on the water that was founded by Roger Williams in 1636, and was named after Bristol, England. The town was eventually sold after 1685 to four Boston investors: Byfield, Wally, Oliver and Burton, three of whom went on to have schools named after them.
By the late 1700s, Bristol was a major nexus for the slave trade and was home to some of the richest men in the country. One famous family who participated in the slave trade were the DeWolf Colts, who lived in Bristol's Linden Place Mansion. As well, Colt School, next door to Linden Place and constructed largely from marble, was built and donated to the town as a memorial to Theodore DeWolf Colt by her son. Colt Farm and Colt State Park are two other donations that live on through the family.
Bristol also holds the first, longest and largest Independence Day parade in the country. Year round, the streets on the parade route are lined with a red, white and blue stripe down the middle, and there are concerts leading up to the holiday three weeks in advance. There is a carnival week where you can enjoy fireworks by the downtown waterfront, a performance by the Navy Band, and — of course — the parade.
From Providence, go east on I-195 to exit 7. Follow Route 114 into Bristol. Alternate route;travel east on I-195 to exit 2 in Massachusetts. Follow Route 136 into Bristol.
From Boston I-95 south to Rt. 24 south. Take exit for Mt. Hope Bridge. Follow signs for Bristol and Mt. Hope Bridge. Go over the bridge and follow Rt. 114 north into Bristol.
- T.F. Green Airport (PVD IATA) in Warwick offers many low cost and regular flights from many cities in the United States.
- Boston's Logan Airport (BOS IATA) is much larger and is generally used for most international flights.
- RIPTA, Phone: +1 401 781-9400. Services across all of Rhode Island. Bus #60 connects Providence to Newport. It passes through Bristol every hour with several stops along Route 114.
The town isn't too big, so walking or bike riding can be one of the easiest ways to get around. Most of the shops and restaurants are located in one general area making it easily accessible by foot.
- 1 Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, 101 Ferry Rd, ☏ . 10AM-5PM. An excellent piece of historic Bristol. An English-style mansion of 45 rooms, with 33 acres of lawns and vividly colorful gardens host to an impressive collection of flowers from around the world. However, it can be incredibly uncomfortable and hot walking around the gardens in the middle of the summer. $10, children under 15: free.
- 2 Herreshoff Marine Museum, 1 Burnside Street, ☏ , fax: . May-Oct 10AM-5PM. Yachting museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame. Dockage space is available at the Museum pier, reservations are recommended. $18 adult, $15 senior, $15 student, free under 10.
- 3 Mt. Hope Bridge. Mt. Hope Bridge was completed in 1920. It was built and owned by the Heffenreffer family. The family had plans to build and operate a horse race track across Mt. Hope Bay. The bridge was built in order for residents from Bristol to get to the racetrack, however they ran out of funds by the time the bridge was done being built.
Bristol is a great place to enjoy all the beauty of Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay. The town is on the East Bay Peninsula, making it a water lover's paradise. Boating, kayaking and other water sports are popular activities along the coast. The harbor hosts approximately 800 moorings and several docks, so travel to the area by water is an option. Rentals of equipment are available at a few locations in town (See "Buy").
- 1 Colt State Park, ☏ . Sunrise to sunset. 464 acres (188 hectares) park abutting Narragansett Bay. With attractions including trails for hikers and cyclists, picnic tables, fishing piers, and horseback riding, no two trips to the park are ever the same. No matter the season, there is always something to enjoy in this nature lover's paradise. Free.
- 2 Coggeshall Farm, Colt Dr, ☏ . This 1790s salt-marsh farm opened to the public in the 1960s as a state park. Today, the park's staff recreate and depict the lives of 18th century New England farmers. Starting in 2020, this family-oriented farm is partnered with another living museum- Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Open Spring to Fall. Adults: $10, Children (4-17): $5, Children under 3: Free.
- 3 East Bay Bike Path (Parking available in Independence Park). This 14.5 mi (23.3 km) asphalt path begins at Bristol's Independence Park and extends to Providence, following the serene shoreline of Narragansett Bay. The path provides spectacular waterfront views and access to state parks, coastal marshes, and downtown shops and restaurants. It is 10 ft (3.0 m) wide and well-maintained, suitable for bikers, walkers, and in-line skaters. No motor vehicles.
- 4 Juniper Hill Cemetery, 24 Sherry Avenue. Looking for an offbeat location for a romantic sunset walk, or a spooky nighttime stroll? The monuments in this cemetery may provide the ideal venue. Nearby, another cemetery on Woodlawn Avenue houses the remains of the Dewolf family, a group of 19th century slave traders and Bristol natives who were at one time among the wealthiest people in the United States.
- 5 Mt. Hope Farm, 250 Metacom Avenue (Route 136), ☏ . Sunrise to sunset. This open farmland is perfect for a peaceful walk, bike ride, or hiking trip with the family or by yourself. The trails are lined with forests and wild flowers and a beautiful view of the Mt. Hope Bay. Wedding ceremonies can draw large crowds here- be wary in summertime. There is plenty of history that comes with the land as well, but you have to do a little exploring in order to find it.
- 6 Prudence Island (25 minutes by ferry). 85% of this Narragansett Bay island is an uninhabited, undeveloped nature reserve fit for explorers. In the colder months, you can take a seal tour here (register beforehand with the Audubon Society in Bristol). These tours, run by the NBNERR research center, bring you around the island to see harbor seals and other wildlife. Just don't miss the last ferry- there's no overnight accommodation! Ferry roundtrip: Adults: $10.80, Children: $3.80.
Fourth of July
Dating to 1785, Bristol's proud Fourth of July parade is the oldest in the United States. Bristol is enthusiastically patriotic. In early summer, many Bristolians decorate their houses in red, white, and blue in preparation for the big day- especially if their house is on the parade route!
The parade goes by in several divisions, filled with music, motion, and color. There is an abundance of sound; diverse bugle and drum corps from all over the US, including Bristol’s own Mt. Hope High School marching band, march and play in the parade, wearing their colors and twirling flags. Performers dressed in reverence to the American Revolutionary War's servicemen and women are spread throughout the route. Various floats, Rhode Island political figures, and characters like Elmo make appearances.
The parade begins on July 4 at 10:30AM, starting the corner of Chestnut and Hope Street, and runs down Hope Street (whose traffic lines are painted red, white, and blue) until High Street. Bring your own seating. Set up early, but not before 5AM, or your items might be confiscated. Parking is plentiful outside of Hope Street and bordering roads. You can bring your own food and drink or purchase refreshments from vendors along the parade route, but alcohol is strictly prohibited. Vendors along the parade route also sell a variety of knick-knacks and souvenirs.
Fireworks occur either one day prior to the parade or one day after. You can catch a glimpse anywhere from the Bristol waterfront or downtown. Street parking is free, but it will fill up fast- arrive at least an hour before the show if you want a spot. After the fireworks, stay patient; traffic congestion might make it tough to leave.
- Just Ducky, 201 Gooding Ave, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Popular children's consignment store. Carries only top quality, gently worn children's clothing for all occasions.
- Jackie's Loft, 448 Thames Street, ☏ . Retail, women's clothing and accessories
- Bristol Bikes, Thames Street Landing, ☏ . Bristol Bikes is a gear shop for cycling. Clothing, equipment and rentals are available.
- Green River Silver Co., 297 Hope St, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. This small yet elegant jewelry store carries all real silver jewelry, so the items can be a little pricey. They have a wide variety of accessories that can be worn by any age group and a staff that is always willing to assist you.
- The Beehive Cafe, 10 Franklin Street, ☏ . W-Sa 7AM-4PM, Su-Tu 7AM-9PM. The Beehive Café is by far the cutest little coffee shop in Bristol. Located by the water and about four feet away from Independence Park, the Beehive Café serves all sorts of organic teas, coffees, smoothies, and other caffeinated and un-caffeinated drinks. Also serving dinner now, you can attend the café for any meal of the day, or just stop by for a casual sit in alone or with company. The beehive café provides a few board games, free wifi and can also be family oriented.
- Bristol Bagel Works, 420 Hope St, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-2:30PM, Sa Su 7AM-2PM. Typical bagel shop that serves a number of delicious bagels made fresh daily, and a large beverage list. Small seating area, but has big windows that look onto the parade route, so it’s great for people watching.
- Green Eggs, 576 Metacom Ave, ☏ . M-Sa 6AM-1PM, Su 7AM-1PM. Tucked in the back corner of the Bell Tower Plaza, this is the place to go for breakfast. Although it only serves breakfast, the options are plentiful as are the portion sizes. And to top it off it’s very inexpensive! The staff members are outgoing and the atmosphere has a very homey feel. Can get crowded over the weekend though, especially after masses are over on Sunday’s. They also only accept cash, but there are plenty of ATMs around to service you.
- Hope Diner, 742 Hope St, ☏ . Hope Diner is an original, old school diner that actually resides in a parked and remodeled trailer home. A small location located down town on the 4th of July Parade route and bike path, it can be easily overlooked if not familiar with the downtown area. The diner gets stuffy with about twelve tables and bar seats but is good for small parties. The diner is almost always crowded and if seated on its right side you will often to hear bickering and even swearing coming from the cooks in the back kitchen. A good “diner experience” but not always family oriented. Look for the little white trailer near the gas station. Serves good food despite its awkward location. expensive.
- The Sunset Cafe, 499 Hope St, ☏ . A family-owned restaurant in downtown Bristol serving breakfast and lunch. They offer Portuguese specialties such as chourico. Friendly and quaint atmosphere.
- Bristol House of Pizza, 55 State St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, Sa noon-9PM, Su noon-9PM. Don't let the name fool you. This place doesn't just serve pizza. They have a variety of different foods as well. Appetizers are served which include selections such as Buffalo Wings, Onion Rings and Mozzarella sticks to name a few. They are also known for their grinders which include selections such as Chicken Parm, meatball, etc. This is a great spot that is an ideal place to go if you are in town. $4-15.
- Classic Pizza, 349 Metacom Ave, ☏ . Here is another place where the name of the restaurant can be misleading. Even though they serve fresh baked pizzas straight from the oven, they are also known for their gyro sandwiches. They deliver. $5-15.
- Pizzawave, 400 Metacom Av, ☏ . M-Sa 5-9PM. Pizza, pasta, steak, seafood.
- Ricotti’s, 11 Gooding Ave, ☏ . Sandwiches, pizza, broccoli pies. A small family owned sandwich shop that serves subs and other deli goods. Don't blink, because you might miss this small sandwich shop. Don't let its size fool you. This is a great sandwich shop for all ages. Have a big event coming up such as a graduation party or sports party? Ricotti's also provides catering. $5-10.
- Jacky's Galaxie, 383 Metacom Ave, ☏ . An array of different foods from Eastern Cuisine. Get your taste buds experiencing new flavors from different cultures such as Chinese, Japanese Tai, Cambodian, Vietnamese dishes. The atmosphere is contemporary and unique. Appetizers, lunch, dinners and deserts are available. If you aren't a huge sushi fan there are an array of different dinners. Great dining experience. $15-25. A family dish of sushi can be as much as $80.
- Lobster Pot, 119 Hope St, ☏ . Lunch, dinner. Casual. Reservations suggested. $12-20.
- Quito’s Restaurant and Bar, 411 Thames Street, ☏ . W-Sa 11:30-9PM ,Su 11:30AM-8PM. Only open seasonally, this restaurant is well known for serving some amazing seafood. There is indoor and outdoor dining with views of the Mt. Hope Bay. Plenty of options for children, so it can be a great place for the whole family.
- Cafe Central & Restaurant, 173 Bradford Street, ☏ . Tu-Th Su 11:30AM-9PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Small, quaint restaurant serving European style cuisine and specializing in Portuguese food. Great atmosphere with friendly knowledgeable waitstaff. Can get pricey.
- DeWolf Tavern, 259 Thames St, ☏ . Reservations suggested. Located on the beautiful waterfront in downtown Bristol, this restaurant is the ideal spot to have a romantic dinner or a formal outing. It may be pricy, but once you set foot inside the restaurant you will see why. The restaurant is renovated stone house which gives guests a sophisticated, rustic feel. Expensive.
- Roberto's, 450 Hope St, ☏ . Su-Th 5-9PM, F Sa 5-9:30PM. Italian. Reservations suggested.
- SS Dion Restaurant, 520 Thames St, ☏ . M-Sa 5-9PM. $12-20.
- Aidan's Pub, 5 John St, ☏ . Serves indoors and outdoors. Guests are welcome to park on the street, but the restaurant/bar also has parking. After drinks, why not enjoy a stroll down to the water? The scenic waterfront view makes an ideal spot for romantics.
- Judge Roy Bean, 1 State St, ☏ .
Bed and Breakfasts
- Bradford-Dimond-Norris House, 474 Hope Street, ☏ . 4 rooms. On the parade route.
- Bristol Harbor Inn at Thames Street Landing, 259 Thames Street, ☏ . Bristol Harbor Inn is on the waterfront in the heart of downtown Bristol at Thames Street Landing. The ideal spot to truly take in and be apart of all the festivities in historic downtown. Thames Street Landing's nine historic buildings now create a boardwalk of retail shops and pedestrian walkways. Nestled in heart of all the action of Bristol. Dewolf’s Tavern and restaurant are on the ground floor, with its exceptional dining experience shows at Harbor Point, nothing is too far. Amenities include a day spa, bike and kayak rentals.
- Mt Hope Farm, 250 Metacom Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . This elegant, old fashioned home has been around since the mid-1700s, and still holds its charm. It has housed a number of well-to-do members in its day, including former President George Washington. The home is situated on acres of open land and has views of the water. There are four rooms, each varying in price and setup depending on ones preference.
|Routes through Bristol|
|Providence ← Warren ←||N S||→ Portsmouth → Newport|