Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, home to about 1,095,610 people. It’s tiny, but the Ocean State is popular for tourists due to the beautiful beaches, delicious North Atlantic fresh seafood, and historical architecture.
How popular is it? In 2019 alone, the New England state had 26.2 million visitors! Little Rhody, as many of the New Englanders nickname the state, only has five counties in its 1,214 square miles of land, and each one has plenty to offer tourists.
From the gorgeous historic mansions in Newport County to the bustling city life in Providence County, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The best part about Rhode Island is that you can visit all five counties in one day if you want to!
It only takes about an hour to drive from one end of the state to the other without traffic. Let’s take a look at the best time to visit Rhode Island and determine why it should be at the top of your traveling bucket list.
Why You Should Visit Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a part of the original 13 colonies and officially became a state on May 29, 1790. The state has quite a bit of history to learn about at local museums that you can find throughout the state.
There are also some great art museums to check out as well if that’s more your style. The Rhode Island School of Design museum is worth a trip!
Start your day off in Providence, where you can take a stroll through the beautiful and historical Brown University campus, then head to a local coffee shop to grab a coffee and a pastry.
As you walk through the city with your coffee, stop in to buy products from local businesses or examine the Providence Performing Arts Center schedule to catch a show!
If the city doesn’t interest you, take a trip to places such as Narragansett and Charlestown to see some stunning beaches away from the hubbub and traffic.
Then take a drive over to Newport, where you can tour beautiful Gilded Age mansions and learn about the people who once walked the halls. You can also take a scenic Newport tour on a trolley!
Head farther south and take a ferry over to Block Island, where you can get a taste of island life. Rent a bike, do some local shopping, visit the island’s two historic lighthouses, and take the long staircase down the Mohegan Bluffs for some mesmerizing views of the ocean.
You can even participate in a relaxing horse riding experience by the ocean shore! These activities are just a taste of what Rhode Island has on the menu. You’ll love the range of experiences this tiny state has to offer.
Overall Best Time to Visit Rhode Island
The overall best time to visit Rhode Island is in the fall – specifically between September and the beginning of November.
This might come as a shock because Rhode Island is a truly beautiful place in the summer. However, the fall still holds plenty of beauty for you to enjoy, as well as comfortable weather and smaller crowds of tourists.
When you take a trip to Rhode Island in the fall, you’ll experience some great weather, as the temperatures typically range from the 70s to the 50s.
These temperatures, along with generally sunny to partly cloudy conditions, make the perfect walking weather. The rainy season is typically in the spring, so you won’t have to worry about raincoats or umbrellas.
Enjoy sightseeing comfortably outdoors with a sweatshirt or light jacket while admiring the stunning red, orange, and yellow hues of falling leaves. These colors look stunning with the rolling blue waves of the northern Atlantic Ocean.
You might also get a glimpse at some leftover summer blooms, as most flowers are still around at the beginning of the fall.
The fall is also the perfect time to visit because the summer tourists are back at home and everyone is back to school and work. Due to this, you’ll find it much easier to get into restaurants and stores because the crowds will be much smaller.
Cheapest Time to Visit Rhode Island
The cheapest time to visit Rhode Island is during January, February, and the beginning of March. The winter months after Christmas are generally Rhode Island’s off-season.
The low season typically has to do with the cold temperatures, the fact that it’s the middle of the school year, and there aren’t any outdoor activities to do.
In the winter, Rhode Island’s temperatures hover in the 30s and 40s during the day, while the nighttime temperatures can get down into the 20s and sometimes the teens. The forecast is often cloudy in the winter and you can expect snow showers a few days out of the week.
There’s also the chance for some accumulating snow storms. Most families tend to travel during school vacations. That’s why you won’t find many tourists traveling to Rhode Island in the winter after Christmas due to school, work, and the cold.
Fewer crowds and cold weather also means fewer outdoor activities. The beach and other strictly-outdoor activities won’t be available because of the cold, scaring off many tourists.
However, if you travel to Rhode Island in the winter, there are plenty of indoor activities such as shopping, restaurants, museums, and performances.
While the temperatures are much colder than the overall best time to visit Rhode Island, you can save tons of money on travel expenses by visiting from January to March.
Lower demand for the state means lower prices on hotel rooms, airfare, and tickets to activities. That’s a win if you’re planning your Rhode Island trip on a budget!
Least Busy Time to Visit Rhode Island
The least busy time to visit Rhode Island is in January. This is when the bitter cold temperatures set in as the state moves further into the winter season.
Tourists generally don’t like the cold, so they stay away from Rhode Island during this time. Most people also don’t have time off after Christmas passes, so they’ll be back at work. January tends to be the coldest month of the year in Rhode Island.
Temperatures are often in the low 30s and 20s during the day and in the teens and sometimes the single digits at night. Due to this persistent cold, any precipitation that travels through Rhode Island typically turns to ice, freezing rain, or snow.
You can expect plenty of black ice in January. While the cold is part of the reason that people shy away from Rhode Island in January, a lot of it has to do with time off.
Many working people save up their vacation time for Christmas. By the time January hits, they need to go back to work to accumulate more time. Children are back in school at this time as well since their Christmas break is over.
Cold and snowy January weather might scare most people away, but it can be advantageous to you if you’re looking to travel to the Ocean State.
Since Rhode Island isn’t in high demand during this time, you can expect hotel and plane ticket prices to be significantly lower compared to other times of the year. You might be able to find extra discounts on hotels and plane tickets at this time.
Worst Time to Visit Rhode Island
The worst time to visit Rhode Island is from the end of June through August. These months are the state’s peak tourist season.
While it’s nice to see the sun out during this time, the crowds are massive, everything is expensive, and it can be bothersome walking around in high temperatures.
Most people travel in the summertime and like to go to the beach. Rhode Island has plenty of those, so most people swarm to the beach all summer long, often closing down the beach parking lots by 10 AM.
You’d need to arrive to wait in line at about 6 AM to get a chance at getting onto the beach. Restaurants fill up quickly in the summer as well, especially if they are near the water. So you need to make sure you have reservations ahead of time.
High demand means higher parking, hotel room, and airfare prices. You might be able to find a slight discount on a travel website, but a trip to Rhode Island in the summer will leave a large dent in your wallet.
The heat can also be an issue for some people at this time. Rhode Island summers have temperatures ranging from the 70s to the 90s during the day. Heat waves are not uncommon.
The nights are slightly cooler but still rather humid. If you choose to visit Rhode Island in the summer, ensure you have patience, sunscreen, and any discounts you can find.
Things to Consider
If you’re thinking of visiting Rhode Island, you should consider the following pointers to have the best time on your trip:
- Pack according to the weather. If you plan on visiting in the fall, you’ll need a light jacket or sweatshirt and pants. In the winter, you’ll need multiple layers and a winter coat. For the summer, you’ll need shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, and sunscreen.
- Plan your mealtimes wisely in summer. Visit between the lunch and dinner rush to get into popular seafood restaurants easily. That time is usually between 1:30 and 3:30 PM. You can also make reservations ahead of time.
- Rhode Island is very humid in the summer. If you visit in the summer and have asthma or other breathing conditions, you should stay inside. High humidity levels can exacerbate asthma by 112% after four minutes of exposure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still wondering about the best time to visit Rhode Island and what you should check out while you’re here? Here are some frequently asked questions people have when thinking about traveling to Rhode Island.
What's the number one attraction in Rhode Island?
The Newport mansions are the number one attraction in Rhode Island. The Breakers mansion seems to attract the most visitors. It's the fanciest of the Gilded Age Newport mansions.
How many days do you need in Rhode Island?
Typically, 3-5 days should be enough to fully explore Rhode Island. You can explore parts of the state within a day or two for a shorter trip.
What food is Rhode Island famous for?
Rhode Island is renowned for its fresh, tasty seafood and seafood restaurants are everywhere in this coastal state! Clam cakes and chowder are the most famous foods in Rhode Island.
What is Rhode Island known for?
Rhode Island is famous for its lighthouses, mansions, and jewelry and silverware manufacturing. Gorham Silver was a pioneer in the industry, starting in 1831 in Providence.
What is the official drink of Rhode Island?
Coffee milk (or "coffee cabinet") is the official drink of Rhode Island. It is a mixture of ice cream, coffee syrup, and milk!
The Rhode Island Red is a famous cocktail in the state. It features ginger beer, tequila, agave nectar, fresh raspberries, and citrus.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Rhode Island?
The overall best time to visit Rhode Island is from September to November, which is the state’s fall season. During this time, crowds are smaller, travel expenses are cheaper, and the weather is enjoyable.
If budget is your main concern, try visiting Rhode Island during the winter from January through early March. Chilly temperatures and post-holiday lulls leave the state much cheaper to visit!
To avoid the biggest crowds, come during the slowest month – January. You’ll feel like you’ve got the state to yourself and won’t deal with crowded hotels, restaurants, or long wait times.
Try to avoid visiting during the summer months from June through August if you want to avoid the highest prices and biggest crowds. The weather is great and the state looks beautiful in summer, but it can be a headache at this time of year.
Keep the above information in mind when planning a trip to the gorgeous Ocean State! You’re sure to have an awesome trip and take some great photos while you’re there.