A mere 48 miles long by 37 miles wide, RHODE ISLAND is the smallest state in the Union, yet it had a disproportionately large influence on national life: in 1652 it enacted the first law against slavery in North America, and just over ten years later it was the first to guarantee religious freedom – in the eighteenth century it also saw the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America. Today, Rhode Island is a prime tourist destination, boasting nearly four dozen National Historic Landmarks and four hundred miles of spectacular coastline.

More than thirty tiny islands make up the state, including Hope, Despair and the bay’s largest, Rhode Island (also known by its Native American name “Aquidneck”), which gives the state its name. Narragansett Bay has long been a determining factor in Rhode Island’s economic development and strategic military importance, as the Ocean State developed through sea trade, whaling and smuggling before shifting to manufacturing in the nineteenth century. Today, the state’s principal destinations are its two original ports: the colonial college town of Providence, and well-heeled Newport, home to extravagant mansions that once belonged to America’s most prominent families, and still a major yachting centre.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

This year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south – a route…

10 Jan 2018 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

For dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York City is hard to beat. The city is a global leader in art, architecture, music and food, and is cramm…

10 Jan 2018 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Though it may be tempting to escape to the sunshine this winter, there's a lot to be said for revelling in the snow and ice, too. And there’s plenty of beau…

27 Dec 2017 • Michelle Bhatia insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right