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How to Visit Bristol, RI, Without Spending a Dime

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Photo of Bristol RI
Beautiful Bristol RI (photo by Eric)

Bristol, RI, often gets lost in the New England travel shuffle.

Located halfway between Providence, R.I. and Newport, R.I., travelers tend to either stay in those two cities or drive directly from one to another. While there’s no doubt that Providence and Newport are fabulous travel destinations, it’s a shame that visitors to this area often pass through Bristol.

Bristol, to us, is one of the most appealing towns in New England. With spectacular views of the Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays, Bristol also has a beautiful downtown with tree-lined streets, beautiful residential homes and municipal buildings, a good diversity of charming little local shops and surprisingly, a great “foodie” scene with more than 40 area restaurants (some waterfront).

A Bristol vacation can get pricey if, say, you dine by the water, stay at a B&B and shop to your heart’s content. If you have the money, we say  “Go for it!” as Bristol embodies so many of the qualities and endearing one-of-a-kind nuances that we love about small town New England.  If, however, you are on a budget and within proximity for a day trip, we have found ways to visit Bristol without spending a dime. Just fill the gas tank, bring food and drinks for your picnic and you are pretty much set!. Without further ado, here are some free destinations to enjoy in Bristol:

Colt State Park, Bristol RI (photo by Eric)

Colt State Park is located on a beautiful stretch of the Narragansett Bay. It features 464 acres of scenic bliss — the perfect place to have a picnic, go walking or boating, fly a kite, enjoy bike and wooded hiking trails, game fields, horseback riding and an idyllic, immaculate landscape. There’s also a small town beach, public boat ramp, an observation tower as well as a chapel by the sea if you are so inclined to get married (there is a charge for that)! Colt State Park is without a doubt, the nicest state parks we have visited, to date, in New England! More on Colt State Park…

East Bay Bike Trail, Bristol RIThe East Bay Bike Trail Part of the the East Bay Bike Trail goes through Colt State Park, but don’t just stop there. This 14-mile paved bike trail meanders all the way up to Providence with some amazing views of the Narragansett Bay. I have talked with several bicycling enthusiasts through the years and the East Bay Bike Path never fails to come up in conversation as one of the premier bike trails in southern New England! More on the East Bay Bike Trail…

Historic Bristol RIDowntown Bristol walking tour The Discover Bristol web site recommends a one-mile walking tour that gives the visitor a true flavor the the town’s remarkable architecture and general historical preservation. You won’t be disappointed. On a personal level, we feel Bristol is right up there with Kennebunkport, Maine, Portsmouth, N.H., Burlington, Vt., and Cooperstown, N.Y., as great walking towns of the Northeast. Yes, it is a little more low-key, but shares the “feel good” aura of these beautiful communities. More on a Bristol walking tour…

Bristol 4th of July Parade This is the oldest and one of the best 4th of July Parade in the United States (228 consecutive years!). Wonderful parade, amazing music and fireworks display!  More on the Bristol 4th of July parade…


Independence Park, Bristol RIIndependence Park Located near the head of the East Bay Bike Path, Independence Park is a nice place to watch a sunset and walk the bay side concrete paths and boardwalk.  Nothing fancy, mind you, but the admission is free and the coastal vistas are priceless!

Picture of Colt State Park, Bristol RI
Colt State Park, Bristol RI (photo by Eric)

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Travel tips on how to enjoy beautiful coastal Bristol RI on a budget.

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