Treat the Fam to a Rhode Island Staycation Over February Break

Get the kids out of the house during school vacation with these fun-filled day trips.

Skating image courtesy of Kiel James Patrick

Unless you’re a family that 1) loves to ski or 2) is lucky enough to escape to warmer climes each winter, the annual February school vacation can be a little, well, dull. There never seem to be enough indoor crafts, kiddo play dates, cooking projects or day trips to fill up the entire week. Plus, it’s cold. Real cold.

Why not banish the winter doldrums this year by exploring the sites and attractions right here in Rhode Island? In addition to saving loads of money on lift tickets, gas money and airline fares, you’ll be sure to uncover some new treasures in your home state.



When you’ve got kids in tow, a hotel’s amenities and location take center stage. The Omni Providence has both in spades: There’s an indoor pool on the eighth floor, it’s in the center of downtown and just so happens to be connected via skybridge to Providence Place, where all manner of shops, restaurants and attractions await. 1 West Exchange St., Providence, 598-8000,


Courtesy of Omni Providence Hotel


Take to the ice on skates — or bumper cars — at the BankNewport City Center, just steps away from the hotel. You can also take learn-to-skate classes on certain days. Check the website for rink availability, prices and tickets. 2 Kennedy Plaza, Providence, 680-7390,


Courtesy of BankNewport City Center

Drive over to Roger Williams Park to discover one of the state’s best-kept secrets: the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium. Kids will love the taxidermy animals, rocks and minerals, plus exhibits on the International Space Station, urban wildlife and planetarium shows. Planetarium tickets must be purchased online; check the website for hours and availability. 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, 680-7221,


If you’re ready to brave the elements, head over to the Roger Williams Park Zoo (1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, 785-3510, ext. 316,, which hosts special events during school vacation week. If you’d rather take in some soothing warmth and beauty, tuck into the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center (1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, 680-7263, to gaze at towering palm trees, cactuses, a koi pond and more. Don’t forget to say hi to the three friendly goats — Jean Ralphio, Salvador and Vincent Van Goat (ha!) — in their shelters outside. 

Feeling nostalgic? Introduce your progeny to the good-old days of video games, when Mario and Link ruled the screens, at Free Play Arcade during Family Days, Feb. 12 and 26, from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Make sure to buy some consolation pizza after trouncing them at Pac-Man. 182 Pine St., Providence,


Fuel up with hot chocolate at Bolt Coffee (61 Washington St., Providence, and carbtastic treats with all the fixins at Friskie Fries (100 Washington St., Providence, 228-2660, Amp up your cool factor with a trip to Thayer Street for fun and cheap eats: a falafel wrap at East Side Pockets (278 Thayer St., Providence, 453-1100, or pizza by the slice at Antonio’s (256 Thayer St., Providence, 455-3600,, washed down with a refreshing bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea (110 Waterman St., Providence, 861-1888,   



A getaway at Weekapaug Inn will appeal to both parents and kiddos, with its gorgeous location overlooking Quonochontaug Pond, luxurious rooms, gourmet dining and plenty of free family activities for guests, including wildlife preserve outings with in-house naturalist Capt. Teddy, as well as beach walks, nature crafts, s’mores by the fire pit and special stargazing nights. 25 Spray Rock Rd., Westerly, 855-679-2995,


The Biomes Marine Biology Center is home to more than 120 varieties of animals, making this hidden gem in North Kingstown a must-visit for any animal lover. In addition to its rare blue lobster, octopus, color-changing cuttlefish, dogfish sharks, crabs, skates and more, the center also houses a giant tortoise, a bearded dragon named Drogon (!!) and Yoshi the ferret. It will host feedings and demonstrations every day during the February break; check the website for times. 6640 Post Rd., North Kingstown, 885-4690,


Courtesy of the Biomes Center

Need a few laughs? Head over to the Warwick Center for the Arts, which hosts family-friendly Bring Your Own Improv nights Fridays at 8 p.m. Kids can hoot and holler, yell out suggestions and even take part in skits if they’d like. 3259 Post Rd., Warwick, 737-0010,

Full disclosure: As a novice skier who specializes in yard-sale-style falls, I love the gentle hills of Yawgoo Valley. The spot is great for families with littles who may not be up to the longer drives (and higher costs) of the bigger ski areas up north. You can ski, snowboard or tube at reasonable rates, and the fully stocked shop offers rentals. Ski lessons, a terrain park and a snack bar round out the offerings. Check the website for days, times and prices. 160 Yawgoo
Valley Rd., Exeter, 294-3802,

Learn more about local Indigenous culture at the Tomaquag Museum, the state’s only Native American museum. It’s open for drop-in visitors on Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Join them for a children’s storytime on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 9:30–10 a.m., for a reading of Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer by Traci Sorell and an activity afterward. Email to register. 390A Summit Rd., Exeter, 491-9063,


Courtesy of the Tomaquag Museum.


Drive down to Galilee for some of the state’s best fresh seafood — and views — at Champlin’s Seafood (256 Great Island Rd., Narragansett, 783-3152, Bonus: You won’t have to endure summer-size crowds, and the kids can have fun waving at the Block Island Ferry as it sails by. Head up to Crazy Burger (144 Boon St., Narragansett, 783-1810, for fresh vegetarian fare, creative smoothies and burgers of all varieties, from beef to salmon and quinoa to mahi mahi. Dig into pizza, bowls, low and slow barbecue, Mexican fare and more at Mews Tavern (456 Main St., Wakefield, 783-9370, 




Guests of the Newport Harbor Island Resort on Goat Island (the former Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina) during February vacation will find no shortage of fun, from the ice-skating rink that opens at 10 a.m. daily to the outdoor heated igloos where you can nosh and sip on food and drink specials. You’ll also be in the middle of several Newport Winter Festival events, like the Polar Pineapples ice bar (Feb. 17-18), a chili cook-off (Feb. 18) and juggling and mad science shows (Feb. 20). 1 Goat Island, Newport, 844-807-5857,


Courtesy of Newport Harbor Island Resort


After two years of pandemic-related closures, the Newport Winter Festival is back for its thirty-fifth year. Family-friendly events include beach polo, concerts, magic shows, a teddy bear story time, ice-carving demonstrations and more. You can buy discounted bracelets at local shops for free and discounted admission. Locations throughout Newport, Feb. 17-26, 547-7666,

Bundle up and learn more about the harbor seal, the state’s official (and adorable) sea mammal, during a Save the Bay Newport seal tour. An educational vessel will take you around Newport Harbor and Citing Rock, where the seals love to bask during the winter months. The tours leave Bowen’s Ferry Landing daily during February vacation and on weekends as well. Bowen’s Ferry Landing, 30 Market Sq., Newport, 203-7325,


Courtesy of Save the Bay.

Head to Audubon’s Nature Center and Aquarium for indoor — and outdoor — exploration. Kiddos can gaze into a tidepool tank, walk alongside a thirty-three -foot-tall replica of a North Atlantic right whale and check out all sorts of marine animals that call Narragansett Bay home. Audubon will also hold special vacation week programs at its refuges in Smithfield and Seekonk, Mass. 1401 Hope St., Bristol, 949-5454,


Audubon Center in Bristol. Courtesy of Hope Foley.


Enjoy a local brew (for you) with a stunning view at the Guild (99 Water St., Suite 2, Warren, 252-4275, The kids will love the river views and the many flatbread and slider selections. Spice things up at Brick Pizza Co. (500 Wood St., Bristol, 396-5200, with creative pies like the Buffalo, with Buffalo-spiced DaSilva Farm chicken and a buttermilk-blue cheese sauce, and the Bristol, topped with local chouriço and linguica, fra diavolo sauce and cherry pepper rings. The festive atmosphere and killer Mexican fare at Diego’s (11 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, 619-2640, is sure to end any family outing on a high note.



Culture Club

Gain some knowledge or learn a new skill (yes, even during February vacation!) at these cultural hot spots.


Gather Glass. Photo courtesy of Emily Rietzel.

Come play at the Providence Children’s Museum, which has extended hours for February vacation, daily from 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m. Children can get their hands wet — literally — in the Water Ways space, crawl through a wooden ship, use real tools in an Innovation Lab and send objects whizzing through air-powered tubes in the museum’s hands-on exhibits. 100 South St., Providence, 273-5437,

Make something beautiful while learning a new skill during a glassblowing class. Children ages eight and older are welcome at a one-hour Gather Glass event, where you can craft your own ornament, paperweight, drinking glass, vase and more. 521 Atwells Ave., Providence,

The RISD Museum kicks off February vacation week Feb. 19 with Super Art Sunday, featuring hands-on art, gallery diversions and fabric creations focusing on reuse and climate awareness. (See the “Take Care” exhibit afterward for a look at items from the museum’s collection that focus on sustainability, biodiversity, deforestation and other topics.) Oh, and did we mention admission is free every Sunday? 20 N. Main St., Providence, 454-6500,

One giant whale skeleton would be enough to interest most kiddos in a visit to a museum; the New Bedford Whaling Museum has five, along with the largest ship model in the world and exhibits on whales, polar bears, scrimshaw and objects from the Pacific Islands whalers brought back from their travels. The museum kicks off February vacation with an arctic tale movie and craft activity on Feb. 18. 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 508-997-0046,

Treat the youngsters (ages ten and older) to an exhilarating hour of sleuthing and riddles at Escape Rhode Island. See if you can work together to crack the clues and escape from one of the four themed rooms like the Speakeasy, the Space Station Andromeda or the Bunker. Visit website for times and prices. 385 S. Main St., Floor 2, Providence, 326-2222,

Coming Soon…

A little further afield, Newport Contemporary Ballet (formerly Island Moving Co.) dips into a world of riotous colors and aggrieved art materials March 24–26 with its production of “Are the Crayons Quitting?,” based on the best-selling book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. The show takes place at the Keats Theatre at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington; visit the website for tickets and times. 847-4470, 

It may be closed for the winter, but the Herreshoff Marine Museum will kick off its 2023 season with a free Open Day on April 30, where you can see more than sixty vessels in its Hall of Boats and hundreds of boat models and tools used to build the legacy vessels of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. Can’t wait until April? Off-season visits can be scheduled one week in advance by emailing 1 Burnside St., Bristol, 253-5000,