5 Reasons to Go to Providence Right Now

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, R.I.
This year’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular has an alphabet theme. Find out what that means. –GLOBE

There are plenty of reasons to head to Providence, Rhode Island’s capital and the second largest city in New England. Situated just 50 miles from Boston, the city is full of historic buildings, green parks, museums, restaurants, and more. This month, ogle 5,000 glowing jack-o-lanterns, take in a Broadway musical, attend a horror film festival, and more.

Visit the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

Each year, more than 100,000 guests swarm Providence’s Roger Williams Park Zoo see the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular : 5,000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns, 125 of them carved by artists. And when we say carved, we don’t just mean happy and sad faces. We mean Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela faces, which you’ll see during this year’s display of inspirational figures.

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Also new this year is an alphabet theme. Think “D’’ for dinosaur and “T’’ for famous thinkers. Wait, wouldn’t that be “F’’? Nope, turns out “F’’ is for fantasy. Well, anyway, it’s called “Jack-O-Lanterns from A to Z’’ and will represent our history and pop culture via pumpkin. Can “P’’ just be one giant untouched pumpkin, since our country is obsessed with the things? But we digress.

Don’t forget to catch the show’s Laughing Tree Finale, a returning favorite. It involves glowing pumpkins, carved giants, music, fog, and laughter. What more do you need to know?

Catch the display now through Nov. 2 from 6 to 11 p.m. Mon. through Thurs. admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors, $9 kids age 3 to 12. Friday through Sunday admission is $16 adults, $14 seniors, $13 kids age 3 to 12.

Step Back in Time

Do you love history? You are in the right place. Providence, founded in 1636, is one of the oldest cities in America. Here are five buildings worth checking out.

No matter what religion you are, you’ll find the First Baptist Church in America, founded by Roger Williams in 1638, a beauty. The building’s gorgeous 185-foot white steeple was built in 1775. Take a tour of the church, which TripAdvisor travelers have called “breathtaking.’’ A grand chandelier from Ireland has been hanging in the church since 1792. Guided tours are offered every Sunday following the worship service. Self-guided tours are available year round. The cost is $2.

You’ll find The First Baptist Church in America at 75 North Main St. —TripAdvisor
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Art lovers, head over to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art (RISD), founded in 1877. It is among the oldest colleges of art and design in the country and rated the top Providence attraction by TripAdvisor. It showcases more than 80,000 works of art, from Paul Revere’s silver to a 12th century Japanese Buddha (housed in a room with benches so guests can meditate). It costs $12 for adults and $3 for kids age 5 to 18. Immerse yourself in Victorian life at the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum, an American National Historic Landmark. Henry Lippitt (1818-1891) was governor of Rhode Island from 1875 to 1877. If mansions are your thing, check out the John Brown House Museum, the first mansion built in Providence. Tours cost $10 for adults and $6 for kids age 7 to 17. Are you a book lover? You absolutely must walk The Providence Athenaeum, one of America’s oldest lending libraries, established in 1753.

With all those hours spent in the past, it makes you feel kinda weird Instagramming and tweeting, doesn’t it? Or maybe not.

Catch a Broadway Show

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella’’ is what’s on tap at the Providence Performing Arts Center this month. The show, which won a 2013 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical, opens Oct. 10 and runs through Oct. 18.

The glass slippers, the pumpkin, the gorgeous ball — it’s all there. But this classic story has been updated with 21st century sub plots. What could those be? Maybe Cinderella slams her wicked step-sisters on Facebook. Or she finds out the prince is still cruising match.com after falling in love with her at the ball. You’ll have to attend the show to find out.

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Is it suitable for children? Absolutely. The show is recommended for kids age 4 and up. Tickets cost $53 to $80.

If you want to bring your kids and save some money, mark your calendar for October 15 at 7 p.m. for the Royal Family Night Out special. On this night only, buy one full-priced adult ticket and receive a free ticket of equal value for a child 18 years or younger. Please take note, you must order the half-off tickets for this special night in person or over the phone — they are not available online.

To add to the magic, local chefs will cook a special Cinderella-themed pre-fixe menu at six Providence restaurants on Royal Family Night Out only. So make a night of it and dine out before the show at Blake’s Tavern, Bravo, Fire + Ice, Aspire, Davenport’s, or Parkside.

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

Experience WaterFire Providence

If you haven’t had a chance to check out WaterFire Providence, an award-winning art installation consisting of more than 80 bonfires burning along a half-mile of downtown Providence’s three rivers, you’re in luck. There are four lightings left. Three of them take place this month on October 11, 21, and 25. The show begins at sunset. If your October is impossibly booked (whose isn’t?), the final show of the season is November 29.

The attraction was created by artist Barnaby Evans in 1994 for the city’s First Night celebration and was so popular it grew and turned into a yearly event.

SmarterTravel.com has named it one of the “Top Ten Great Destinations After Dark.’’ And, if you didn’t already do the math, the fire has been burning for 20 years this year. Along with the obvious fire and water, live music, dancing, and other riverside attractions take place during the show. Yup, it’s a big ol’ party. Even your pooch is invited (well behaved and on a leash, of course).

Lauren Audette from Pawtucket was at the Sept. 27 lighting and posted this pic to Instagram:

There is no admission fee, but guests are encouraged to make a $5 donation to the nonprofit organization WaterFire Providence at an official guest station located throughout area. Add your own light to the festivities — $3 will get you a luminous blue “Ribbon of Light;’’ $5 will snag you a liminaria candle lantern.

Get Scared at the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival

Find out how horror films are made in the Ocean State, walk to Rhode Island horror author Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s home, watch movies that scare the crap out of you, and more at this year’s Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival , running Oct. 20-26.

Horror geeks can rejoice — the festival, in its 15th year, is expanding from four to seven days this year. The events will take place at Bell Street Chapel Theatre in Providence, Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Jamestown Arts Center in Jamestown, Paff Theatre in Providence, Providence Public Library, and Roger Williams University in Bristol.

A H.P. Lovecraft bust at the Providence Athenaeum. —J.W. Ocker/OddThingsIveSeen.com

The popular H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour takes place Oct. 25 and 26. During the 90-minute tour, you will learn the life and work of Providence’s best-known fantasy and horror author, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. You’ll see his former home, as well as the sights he mentioned in “the Case of Charles Dexter Ward,’’ “The Haunter of the Dark,’’ “The Shunned House,’’ and “The Call of Cthulhu.’’ The tour costs $18 per person and includes a ticket to the horror festival. General admission to the screenings cost $10 per person. One film isn’t enough for you? Buy five tickets at a time for $40.

That should set you straight until next October.

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