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Beautiful Small Towns in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut
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Article and photos by Eric H. (Mystic, Conn., photo by Joan H.)

Once off Route 95 and other busy roads, many small towns in Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut get nice in a hurry. Often, it's like going from one world into another within the blink of an eye. While New England states like Vermont and New Hampshire are generally more associated with classic, quintessential small towns, Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut have their share of these beautiful small communities that rival the best of the six-state region. Here are some true travel gems that we think will melt your heart, en route to falling in love with small-town New England:

Image of Jamestown, Rhode Island
Jamestown, R.I., is located by the sea, close to famous Newport. The best way to describe Jamestown is pleasant. The downtown is unassuming, but attractive with a few shops and restaurants. People stop to say "hello."  The tree-lined neighborhoods with well kept homes look like the prototype of what a neighborhood should look like -- sort of like "Leave it to Beaver" by the sea.  The real draw here, however, are the water views. How nice it is to stroll the quiet streets and end up sitting on a bench by the Narragansett Bay. For dining, eat at the Jamestown Oyster Bar at 22 Narragansett Ave. (pictured above) for some very good fresh seafood!

Image of Wickford Village RI
Coastal Wickford Village, R.I., is part of North Kingstown. Why more people don't know about this place, we'll never know. It's picture-perfect New England, has some nice downtown places to eat for seafood and offers a nice variety of locally-owned shops, including boutiques and galleries. For dining, I'd recommend the Wickford Diner at 64 Brown Ave. for a hearty breakfast, or for lunch a stuffed quahog or lobster roll. Don't forget to stroll Main St. to the waterfront where, along the way, you'll find many beautiful old homes -- some from the 1700s.  Why Wickford Village isn't a household-name town, we'll never know. Shhh, don't tell anyone about this hidden gem!

Image of downtown Bristol RI
Bristol, R.I., is a bit more of a popular destination than Jamestown and Wickford Village, but visitors to the area tend to stay in Providence 30 minutes north, or curiously bypass this beautiful small town completely, en route to Newport. That's OK, it gives us die hard New Englanders more of an opportunity to enjoy the stunning historic architecture of the old homes and municipal buildings, take a stroll to the scenic waterfront and enjoy the 40 or so restaurants in the area (it's definitely a bit of a "foodie" town). Bristol is also a very patriotic town, holding the oldest 4th of July parade in the country, dating back to 1885 -- the town goes all out on this particular day as the parade is considered one of the best in the United States. In the photo above, notice the red, white and blue median strip in the road! In addition, Colt State Park lends more appeal to this beautiful small town with 464 idyllic acres of parkland by the bay. The 14-mile Easy Bay Bike Path also starts in Bristol and goes all the way to Providence with some amazing water views along the way.

Image of downtown Little Compton RI
Little Compton, R.I., is a sleepy, little town on the "FarmCoast," a group of small towns in Rhode Island and Massachusetts where farms and the coast create some spectacular scenery. In downtown Little Compton, you can feast on some wonderful Johnnycakes at the Commons Lunch at 48 Commons Way, or shop next door at Wilbur's, an old-time general store. On the outskirts, Sakonnet Point affords beautiful views of the ocean. Little Compton is certainly a quiet town, seemingly many miles from the hustle and bustle -- that's a great thing!

Image of Tiverton RI

Tiverton, R.I. is another beautiful "FarmCoast" town, perhaps best representing this area with the amazingly appealing combination of farms and water views. Tiverton Four Corners is the center of this small town and features the landmark Gray's Ice Cream Stand for homemade ice cream, Provender Fine Foods for sandwiches and baked goods, and a delightful mix of small town shops -- most prominently galleries.

Image of Noank CT

Noank, Conn., is a picturesque coastal district located within Groton. A true hidden travel gem located not too far from Mystic, Noank is memorable for its historic tree-lined neighborhoods by the sea, a beautiful little harbor/marina, old-time stores like the Noank Community Market and Carson's General Store, and excellent seafood restaurants like The Fisherman and Abbott's Lobster in the Rough. Mystic can get crazy with traffic and tourists; Noank is a startling contrast, steeped in relative solitude.

Image of Thompson Connecticut town common

Thompson, Conn., is located in "The Quiet Corner" of northeast Connecticut. Perhaps best reflecting the unspoiled, rural and scenic splendor of the region, Thompson looks like the ultimate beautiful, small New England town. You have a lovely town common, surrounded by churches, old municipal buildings and historic colonial homes. You won't find much to do in Thompson, and that's the point. It's a wonderful place to breathe in the fresh air, take a stroll around the common, meet some of the friendly locals, and know that it is possible to return to the New England older generations once knew before rampant commercial and industrial development trumped charm and character in many of our communities.

Image of Mystic CT

Mystic, Conn., is definitely more of a tourist destination but the quaint New England coastal charm and character of this small town is undeniable and still prominently intact. Mystic has a well developed downtown with many locally-owned shops and restaurants, but this coastal town is best known for Mystic Seaport, a phenomenal living outdoor maritime museum. The Mystic Aquarium is one of New England's best within this genre, and Olde Mistick Village features 60-plus shops in a 1700s theme. For restaurants, we like The Riverwalk at 14 Holmes St. for steak, chicken and seafood, and Mystic Pizza at 56 West Main St. for pizza and pasta.

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