What’s the Story Behind the Cumberland Monastery?

The Northern Rhode Island town has a rural character and spiritual roots.
Photography by Chris Vaccaro

Great Places for Foodies

Churrascaria Marques Grill and Restaurant
As far as exteriors go, this one’s pretty standard. But step inside, and you’re greeted with a charming, colorful interior. The menu covers classic Portuguese dishes, from steak topped with fried egg to grilled shrimp. And what’s a Portuguese meal without wine? Peruse the extensive wine list, which includes a variety of red, white and sparkling varieties. 88 Broad St., Cumberland, 725-1400.

The Ice Cream Machine
Chill at one of the most popular dessert spots in northern Rhode Island. With a variety of homemade ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt, you’ll find just the right frozen treat. Are you a sundae fan? Try one of seven different specialty varieties, like the Diamond Hill sundae that includes four different flavors and heaping toppings. 4288 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland, 333-5053, icecreampie.com.

A Short Drive Away
Beef Barn
The specialty here is simple, affordable food — and beef, of course. Choose from a number of classic sandwiches, but make sure to try one of the bovine-derived dishes such as the pastrami or roast beef sandwiches. The beef is slow-cooked for eight hours and hand-sliced. Up for dessert? Choose from five different types of pies or a variety of other sweet treats. 1 Greenville Rd., North Smithfield, 762-9880, thebeefbarn.com.

Toyo Steakhouse
This is a must-visit for all things Japanese, whether it is hibachi or sushi. The hibachi grill has a sizable selection, from filet mignon and shrimp to lobster and scallops. For sushi fans, there are a number of creative and complex rolls to choose from. Oh, and don’t forget the cocktails — try a Tiki classic like the Mai Tai, or order a serving of sake. 401 Clinton St., Woonsocket, 762-0800, toyosteakhouseri.com.

Great Places to Shop

With Heart and Soul
This boutique is renowned for its jewelry: It has everything from Alex and Ani bangles to Pandora rings. But it also has an impressive selection of other gifts. Shop for luxury soaps and scrubs for your hygiene-crazed friend. Looking for the latest fashionable accessories? It has everything from Vera Bradley bags to Kiel James Patrick bracelets. 3751 Mendon Ave., 658-3470, withheartandsoul.net.

Blackstone Bicycles
The Blackstone Bikeway, one of the most scenic trails in the state, runs along the edge of Cumberland, so it makes sense that the town is home to one of the state’s best bicycle shops. The staff is made up of dedicated cyclists, so they understand the needs of bikes and their riders. 391 Mendon Rd., 335-3163, blackstonebicycles.com.

A Short Drive Away
The Ski Shop Plus
The Ski Shop has served skiers and snowboarders for more than thirty-five years. This family business provides equipment, winter clothing and apparel, adjustments and repairs. The staff is also happy to help with advice and tips on winter sports or hardware. For those just looking to rent, choose from a large variety of custom-fitted skis and snowboards available. 859 Eddie Dowling Hwy., North Smithfield, 766-2003, theskishopplus.com.

Great Places to Explore

Providence Zen Center
Tucked away in Cumberland’s lush woodlands, the Zen Center is an oasis of meditative calm. It offers a number of services,
including free meditation classes. There are also rigorous retreats and a guest stay program, which allows visitors to live at the center for a short time and observe and participate in a number of rituals and experiences. 99 Pound Rd., Cumberland, 658-1464, providencezen.org.

The Monastery/Cumberland Public Library
At the town library, some of the original architecture, including a hallway with vaulted ceilings, is still visible. The grounds of the former monastery are host to a number of hiking paths for outdoors enthusiasts and gardens for budding botanists. Don’t forget to browse the stacks and check out the library bookstore. 1464 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland, 335-9996, cumberlandlibrary.org.

A Short Drive Away
Blackstone River Cruises
The Blackstone Valley gave birth to the nation’s first factory, Slater Mill, and it’s been home to some of the Northeast’s most vigorous industry. Learn about the manufacturing history of the region on a leisurely river cruise. Are you more of a nature enthusiast? A number of tours explore the regenerating flora and fauna of the river. 175 Main St., Pawtucket, 724-2200, rivertourblackstone.com.


visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-see/historic-sites/886/nine-mens-misery; city-data.com/city/Cumberland-Rhode-Island.html; citytowninfo.com/places/rhode-island/cumberland

Take a Hike

Diamond Hill Trail
Considering Rhode Island’s lackluster elevation, many locals would be surprised to learn that the state was once home to several ski resorts, including Diamond Hill. Although its days as a ski bum’s dream are over, Diamond Hill still offers nature lovers a chance to wander Cumberland’s hilly woods. This trail is more than five miles long and is moderately difficult. But adventurous hikers will be able to admire its beautiful wildflowers during the summer and spring. Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland.

Blackstone River Greenway
This paved path might be more of a walk than a hike, but it offers charming views of the Blackstone River and the surrounding countryside. This eleven-mile path winds through the towns of Woonsocket, Lincoln and Cumberland and follows old transportation routes: The trail was the site of both the Blackstone Canal and the Providence and Worcester Railroad. Today, you can find hoards of joggers, walkers, bicyclists and roller bladers using the trail during the warmer months. In the fall, admire the spectacular foliage of the Blackstone Valley. School Street, Cumberland.

Monastery Trails
In addition to housing the town library, the Monastery’s grounds are full of hiking trails and historic paths. Most of the trails are less than a mile long and offer flat terrain, so hikers of every age and skill level should find something to do. History buffs can take a walk to Nine Men’s Misery, the oldest veterans’ monument in the country; it commemorates the death of colonists during King Phillip’s War in the seventeenth century. Monastery Drive, Cumberland.

Lime Rock Preserve
With more than 130 acres of forest and hills to explore, the Lime Rock Preserve is host to a number of hiking paths. Be sure to keep your eyes open for wildlife; deer, rabbits and turkeys have been known to roam the area. The preserve is also home to more than thirty rare plant species, more than any other individual site in the state. Wilbur Road, Lincoln.

Categories: Your Town
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