Once you've settled into life on College Hill (RISD's home on the East Side), you'll enjoy getting to know the other neighborhoods of Providence. Be sure to make time to explore—you'll gain a better sense of your surroundings and appreciation for your new home.
Across the Providence River from the main part of campus, downtown (aka “Downcity”) Providence is home to the Fleet Library and the CIT/Fletcher Building. Beyond being walkable and bikeable, two transportation hubs are in the area: the Kennedy Plaza bus station and the Providence rail station. There are also many restaurants, hotels, bars and venues, including The Strand and The Dean. During the warmer months, Waterfire draws crowds and in the winter you can catch hockey and basketball games at “the Dunk” next to the Providence Place Mall. Johnson & Wales, Roger Williams, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island all have locations downtown as well.
The East Side of town (not to be confused with East Providence, which is across the Seekonk River) is made up of a number of small neighborhoods. College Hill is home to both RISD and Brown University, and its main commercial strip, Thayer Street, has a range of dining, shopping and entertainment options (the well-loved East Side Pockets and Avon Cinema among them). To the south of College Hill is the Fox Point neighborhood, with Wickenden Street and India Point Park at its base. You'll find great restaurants and shops on Wickenden as well. India Point Park hosts festivals and concerts and is the entrance to the East Bay Bike Path which runs 14.5 miles along the Narragansett Bay to Bristol, RI. The Wayland Square neighborhood lies to the east of College Hill, where you'll also find a variety of shops and restaurants. The Blackstone neighborhood lies a bit further to the east and its Lippitt Park is home to the Hope Street Farmers Market during the warmer months. Mount Hope is located in the northeast of Providence, north of College Hill. Hope Street runs through it and is another great area for food and shopping. In general, the East Side is fairly walkable and bikeable and serviced by the RIPTA bus system (students ride for free with a RISD ID).
Interstate 95 runs to the west of downtown Providence and the West Side (or West End) lies just beyond it. This area is defined by two neighborhoods: the Broadway/Armory district and Federal Hill. A well known Italian-American community, Federal Hill's many restaurants, bars and markets line its main street, Atwells Avenue. Broadway, a commercial street south of Federal Hill, has a number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants. It is also home to the historic Columbus Theatre. The Dexter Parade Grounds adjacent to the Armory hosts a farmers market every Thursday in the warmer months.
To the west of the Armory district is Olneyville, a neighborhood known for its mill buildings and impact on art and music as the home base of the Fort Thunder arts collective in the '90s. You'll find some great restaurants including Olneyville New York System (the go-to for the city's famous hot wieners). There's a lot for artists and designers to get involved in in this part of town too—be sure to check out The Steel Yard, The Wurks and others. If you're an intrepid cyclist, Olneyville is a bike ride away from campus and RIPTA buses also serve the neighborhood.
Just north of Providence, Pawtucket was a major textile industry hub in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, many of its mill buildings have been converted to studio space or living accommodations. There are good restaurants, the McCoy Stadium (home of the Triple-A baseball team, the Paw Sox) and venues like Machines with Magnets and Hope Artiste Village.