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rhode trip: Six (+3) Things to Love About Bristol

By Katy Killilea

Thoughts of Bristol have been snowballing in my mind, giving me a harsh case of town envy. We don’t care much about its famous Fourth of July parade. Bristol hardly needs it–there’s enough great stuff going on there every day.img_0781img_0787

1. Rogers Free Library (525 Hope Street) website

Bristol’s library is newly renovated, so clean and sunny, and features a children’s room generously filled with toys, a big glass jar of magic markers, computers for all, bike locks for patrons, and just enough books. Since it’s so new, the shelves are not yet jammed with every Dora the Explorer and Scooby Doo publication to cross the librarians’ desks. This will make parents appreciate a well-edited collection, and it’s a pleasure to browse here. (And almost all of the books reviewed by Nancy King were right there for the taking!) Another noteworthy item:  the FREE in the library’s name means no fines are charged for overdue items. Mind boggling.

2. Daily Scoop (446 Thames Street) AND Gray’s Ice Cream (259 Thames Street)

What an embarrassment of riches–BOTH of these fantastic ice cream shops on one little Thames Street. You can get a Daily Scoop fix in Barrington, but the atmosphere on Thames Street is so much nicer than the back of Pepperoni’s. And for many of us, Gray’s at Tiverton Four Corners is that wicked combination of too far away and irresistibly good. piferryIn Bristol, a family can divide and conquer: get the black raspberry chip at both Daily Scoop and Gray’s, and then reconnoiter on the green across the street for taste-testing and boat watching.

3. Prudence Island Ferry (Church Street Wharf) website

Hanging out in Bristol, a family might start to feel boat deprived. That’s why my kids ride the Prudence Island Ferry. That’s our boat. The trip out and back is not long, and the ferry hasn’t got many seats, so everyone is free to let the ants in their pants move them. If there is some waiting time before embarkation, the dock abuts a fine playground, and is just a few steps away from the sunniest Dunkin’ Donuts frequented by friendly bachelor-retirees.

4 & 5: The Toy Shop and A Novel Idea (Both at 450 Hope Street)img_0779img_0798

The name of this independent toy store is as straightforward as its wares: the toys you want are here (especially if there are Playmobil enthusiasts in your group), it’s fun to browse, and kids are welcome to play. Open bins of assorted low-priced gee-gaws are near the cash register–a perfect place for learning to stretch a $2 allowance.

Browsing in A Novel Idea’s fiction section is heavenly, and if you are with kids, you’ll all appreciate the well-chosen children’s books. Excellent newsstand too.

6. The Mount Hope Bridge (Route 114, spanning Narragansett Bay) website

The view from this graceful bridge makes me so happy to live in Rhode Island. The Mount Hope Bridge links Bristol to Aquidneck Island, and the view is dramatic enough to silence even the whiniest passengers.


But wait, there’s more! Bristol also has: Colt State Park, the Audubon Environmental Education Center, and Coggeshall Farm Museum. What are your favorite things to do in Bristol? Please help us expand this list by posting your favorites.

Photo credits: Mount Hope Bridge, AS220; all others, Katy Killilea

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  • Went to Wrap Shack: yum. Giant pizza slices–they almost insist on slicing them in half for you. Then you see a Wrap Shack slice is actually two normal slices. Yum.

    Went to Beehive Cafe too. Wow! Beehive is Bristol’s Cafe Lila.

  • Beehive is great! So is the Bristol Family Diner…2 doors down from the Wrap Shack. Good food, inexpensive and fun service…ask for Jenny! She loves kids and will entertain to the fullest! For other good dining experiences check out…Pizza Wave on Metacom Ave (behind Blosckbuster), Classic Pizza (after CVS on Metacom), Bristol Pizza (in downtown) and Leo’s (on Hope St – more a sit down dinner place). I have had great luck with all. I have a very energetic 3 year old and am due in September with #2, but I usually head out with other moms so we are trucking along 2 – 3 toddlers.

  • My daughter and I checked out the “new” library and then headed to one of my favorite spots: the Beehive Cafe (www.thebeehivecafe.com) and enjoyed a delicious cup of New Harvest coffee and an even more yummy pastry filled with dark, bittersweet chocolate. “Bee” sure to check out the top patio and watch the boats sail by.

  • Racked up $80 in library fines and vowed to switch to Rogers Free–obviously I can not be trusted with returning my items by their due dates. Then found out East Providence collects a maximum of $10. Phew!

  • scrambling around on the big rocks at colt state park, or having a bike ride/picnic there, or both–such a good time. it’s all on the bike path. lovely.

  • The outdoor summer concert series is so much fun…bring a picnic dinner & make a night of it!

    They usually publish a schedule sometime in June (probably available online, EastBayRI.com).

  • i love spending the day in bristol. i think the view of the bay from colt state park is one of the prettiest places in the state. colt state park is a great place to explore tide pools, have a picnic and fly a kite. the town beach next door is also a great place to play.

    thanks, katy!

  • Taking Katy’s advice, my daughter and I hit the Bristol library on a rainy Saturday and thought if was FANTASTIC. Followed by pizza at the Wrap Shack, our favorite dive with crazy cheap slices and owners who love all things ET and ’80s heavy metal, it was an A-plus outing.

  • There is also Blithwold Mansion, Linden Place, Town Common park and playground, many baseball fields to enjoy a great game and let’s not forget all the great little shops around town. There is so much to do! I love living here!