Here's my article for the February issue of East Side Monthly.
Looking for something to do with the kids this winter? Here’s a list of over 20 things to do in and around Providence. Whether your children enjoy staring at the stars, talking to the animals, making stuff, hiking or watching movies — you will find plenty of ideas not only to keep them busy all winter long, but possibly inspire them to explore and discover new things!
Have anything to add to the list? Please share in the comments below.
Plan a Scavenger Hunt or Adventure Challenge. Get to know Providence by creating an adventure scavenger hunt based on a theme or a group of quirky landmarks.
Park Challenge: Visit five parks or playgrounds. Providence has over 93 parks in 26 neighborhoods, each with its own unique offerings. The Partnership for Providence Parks established in the spring of 2012 has put together an awesome map and guide of all the parks including special features, play equipment, fenced-in, open space and bathrooms.
Take the Underdog tour. Disney’s Underdog movie about a crime-fighting canine with super powers was filmed in Providence in 2007. Kidoinfo created a list of Providence landmarks used in the movie. Get a new perspective on our fine city as you look around — things are not what they seem in the movie. Take the tour before seeing the movie, and then have fun identifying and counting the Providence locations. If you tour after watching Underdog, try to remember which scene each landmark appeared in.
Take a hike. Bundle up and head out on a winter hike. Explore a wildlife refuge. Choose from over a dozen Audubon wildlife refuge trails in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. Or take a guided tour: join Rhode Island Families in Nature for a monthly nature hike planned in a different location each month.
Hop on a bus or a trolley just for the fun of going through the Thayer Street tunnel or with a destination in mind such as the Providence Public Library or to see the Big Nazo Lab window display, both located near Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence.
NOTE: Big Nazo Lab (at 60 Eddy Street, across from Providence City Hall) is home to the amazing international performance group of visual artists, puppet performers and masked musicians. If you’re lucky, you may get a sneak peek inside their studio. Caution: The puppets may be scary for some kids.
Travel the world through film. The Providence Children’s Film Festival (pictured above) brings high quality films for children, youth and families from around the world to Rhode Island The annual festival — screening international features and shorts, including live-action, animation and documentary — takes place during the extended President’s Day weekend, February 14-19. In addition to the fun of watching film as a group, PCFF provides opportunities to learn about the history of film and its critical contexts, as well as the craft of filmmaking through workshops, film talks and presentations during the festival.
Experience art. Turn a trip to the RISD Museum of Art into an opportunity to connect with some of your family’s favorite things, searching the galleries for “art with animals” or “art with food,” and notice what other themes emerge as you look at multiple artworks. Workshops scheduled year-round are designed for kids (toddler to teen); The Artist’s Lab, Open Studio and Family See + Sketch — all free with museum admission. Special programming is planned during February Vacation Week: Enjoy a wide variety of classes and programs for all ages - from special workshops and studios, to demonstrations with RISD students and experiments with contemporary artists.
Art Inspiration Bonus: Visit the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab, located around the corner from the RISD museum. See an amazing variety of specimens on display, including birds, bears and bones.
Plan a literary expedition. With so many libraries to choose from — each with its own charm and character and an array of free activities for families — plan to visit a new one each week. Discover more than just books — free events include storytimes, movie nights, performers and special classes.
Curl up for story hour. Books on the Square has story hours almost every day of the week for babies, toddlers or mixed ages. The super friendly staff is always on hand to recommend fabulous reads for kids of any age and their adults.
Learn to sew: If your child (and you) have a passion for textiles, visit Kreatelier (pictured at right). This unique design studio and shop provides useful and environmentally conscious fabric creations for life and home, and teaches creative sewing workshops. This winter, Kreatelier offers a flexible workshop schedule for children (ages 5 and up) and adults. A variety of sewing workshops are available. Students can simply pick a project and book a day and time at their convenience. Students will embrace their creativity, hone their skills and learn how to turn fabric into a marvelous something. All workshops can be modified to longer or shorter sessions.
Crafty Bonus: Can’t get enough DIY fun? Host your own craft party: Invite friends to bring a shoebox filled with supplies including glue sticks, scissors, ribbons, markers or recycled materials to make castles, paper bead necklaces, collage bookmarks or little dolls.
Explore Burnside Park. Situated in downtown Providence, adjacent to Kennedy Plaza, check out the statue of Ambrose Burnside, a general in the American Civil War from Rhode Island. Think like a pirate or explorer by climbing aboard the sunken ship installed in the park in September as part of the NEA “Our Town” Creative Placemaking Grant. If there is snow, build a snowman (or snowpirate).
Travel back in time. Built in 1910 and named for Abraham Lincoln’s secretary, the John Hay Library (known as the “Hay”) houses Brown University Library’s collections of rare books and manuscripts, the University Archives and special collections. Kids can peruse the Military Collection formed over a period of 40 years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985). This permanent display of approximately 6,000 miniature toy soldiers includes medieval Franks, Huns and soldiers from many other countries. Also housed in the library are two small rooms devoted to Abraham Lincoln filled with paintings, manuscripts and various artifacts.
Become a Junior Ranger. Learn about Roger Williams, the founding father of our state, and why we honor him. Visit the Roger Williams National Memorial — a small urban park located on a common lot of the original settlement of Providence, Rhode Island, by Roger Williams in 1636 — to pick up a Junior Ranger activity booklet or download a copy from their website. Filled with stories, activities and games plus a list of local additional historical sites to visit (Roger Williams statue on Congdon Street, First Baptist Church in America on North Main Street and Rhode Island State House on Smith Street.) Once kids have completed the booklet, return to the visitor center to receive a Junior Ranger Badge.
Take a trip to the Zoo. Spend time with the animals and see what they are doing the winter time. At Roger Williams Park Zoo (pictured at left), the elephants have their baths most mornings in their pavilion, usually beginning between 1030-11am. Watch how the largest land animal loves to get scrubbed! On Saturdays at noon, hear a keeper talk in the Tropical America building focused on the Saki monkeys or one of the other animals that live in the indoor “rainforest.” Play in Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard. Play partners are on duty every day to provide fun outdoor activities (they’ll move indoors if it’s too cold, or is raining or snowing).
Discover our roots. Ongoing and special exhibitions, workshops and presentations at the Museum of Natural History provide ways for children and families to learn about our world and its people. The natural collection includes fossils, mollusks, minerals, rocks, mounted flora and fauna and the cultural collection includes archaeological and ethnographic specimens primarily of African, Native American and Pacific origin. Take a trip through space — special planetarium shows for kids, ages four and up, take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm.
Science exploration. More than a store, Pow! Science! features toys, kits, games and special events designed to stimulate and intrigue an inquisitive child’s mind! Just for the little ones, KinderScience takes place at the Providence location every Friday at 1030am. This drop in class (with a $5 fee) is a chance for parents and children two and a half to five years of age to begin exploring the world of science with fun, appropriate hands on activities!
Play never ends. Providence Children’s Museum (pictured below) is the perfect spot for kids to play, all year-round. They can climb into a treehouse in Littlewoods, send objects soaring through air tubes and construct magnetic mazes, build fountains in Water Ways, tackle bridge-building challenges and plan a city in Iway, and experiment with shapes and spaces in the new dynamic new learning environment, ThinkSpace. Many special events and themed activities planned on the weekends and during school vacation.
Ice skating. This sport is a fabulous way to spend fun time outdoors dur- ing the winter. The Bank of America Skating Center located in downtown Providence is a 14,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink, twice the size of Rockefeller Plaza’s ice rink in New York City. Open seven days a week.
Sledding. If we’re lucky enough to have big snow this winter, take to the hills and sled. Favorite Providence spots include hills at Moses Brown School, India Point Park and Roger Williams Park. Pack a thermos of cocoa and snacks for the wintery expedition. Before cruising down the hill, brush up on sledding safety tips. Consider wearing a helmet to minimize the risk of head injury, make sure the hill is completely clear of obstacles (including trees and fences), take turns going down the hill to avoid collision with other sledders and once reaching the bottom of the hill, get out of the way of other sledders! Visit Kidoinfo for a complete list of sledding hills.
West Side Play Space (WSPS). Thanks to a group of local West Side parents and a little help from their neighborhood, a community-shared place where families and children can come together to play opens in early February. WSPS will work as a co-op system where participating families will all play a role in the operation of the space. The place will include gymnastic mats, soft climbing structures, book and activity areas. Note: If you’d like to help, please consider donating gently used ride-on toys, trains, trucks, Legos, wood blocks, child-sized tables and chairs and other play equipment.
Photo Credits: Frank Mullin (PCFF), Providence Children's Museum