50 Interesting & Fun Facts About Rhode Island State to Know

19 min read

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Body of water flanked by walkways connected by a bridge, and buildings in background
Providence is the capital of Road Island state

As the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island is often overlooked in favor of other states in New England. However, it's one of the most interesting and historical places in the USA!

It's where the first Revolutionary War conflicts were fought, and it's also one of the most Italian states in the US. It's where coffee milk was invented as well.

Whether you like history or are just trying to brush up on your fun trivia facts, there's sure to be something about the Ocean State that will grab your attention. Continue reading for 50 interesting and fun facts about Rhode Island state!

  • 50 Rhode Island facts

50 Rhode Island State Facts

  1. Rhode Island Fun Facts
    1. It had the longest state name
    2. Central Falls is tiny
    3. Rhode Islanders invented coffee milk
    4. It's nicknamed the "Ocean State"
    5. Block Island Wind Farm was revolutionary
    6. Aquidneck Island is the state's largest land mass
    7. You can find sharks in Narragansett Bay
    8. Green Animals Topiary Garden has been open for years
    9. Acceptance is important at Brown University
    10. It has a one-word motto
    11. The National Lawn Tennis Championship is historic
    12. The USA's first polo field was in Rhode Island
    13. Rhode Islanders voted for some state symbols
    14. It's the second-most Italian state
  2. Interesting Facts About Rhode Island
    1. It's a densely populated state
    2. The highest point isn't that tall
    3. Newport has a historic tavern
    4. Violets are a Rhode Island symbol
    5. There are multiple lagoons
    6. There are protected beaches
    7. It's the sailing capital
    8. Rhode Island was an original colony
    9. It took years for the maple to become a symbol
    10. It's tinier than you might think
    11. President Kennedy got married in Newport
  3. Historical Facts About Rhode Island
    1. British troops landed in Newport
    2. Providence Plantations was the first settlement
    3. The first African-American regiment fought here
    4. Roger Williams founded the territory
    5. Providence is home to the first Baptist church in America
    6. The state contributed to World War II
    7. Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European
  4. Cool Facts About Rhode Island
    1. The flag was designed in the 1800s
    2. A statue tops the capitol
    3. An architectural marvel is in Providence
    4. It has the longest-running Independence Day celebration
    5. The Industrial Revolution began in Rhode Island
  5. Unique Facts About Rhode Island
    1. The first diner opened in Rhode Island
    2. A Rhode Island governor popularized sideburns
    3. A Rhode Islander made the modern sprinkler system
    4. The first traffic violation was sentenced in Rhode Island
    5. There's a schoolhouse from 1716
  6. Weird Facts About Rhode Island
    1. The Rhode Island Red was bred here
    2. It only borders two states
    3. The first golf tournament was held here
    4. No one knows why it's named Rhode Island
  7. Important Facts About Rhode Island
    1. The USA's oldest library is here
    2. It was the first colony to declare Independence
    3. The Bill of Rights was added because of Rhode Island
    4. The state almost lost its mammals

Show all

Rhode Island Fun Facts

demerzel21/Depositphotos.com
Body of water surrounding land with homes, buildings, trees, and a clear blue sky
Aquidneck Island is often called Newport and Portsmouth or Rhode Island

It had the longest state name

While it's most commonly just called "Rhode Island" the state's name is much longer. For years, its official name was actually "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

With 42 letters, it was the longest official state name until recently when Rhode Island underwent a name change. Now it's officially known as the "State of Rhode Island," which is in line with the character lengths of other states.

Central Falls is tiny

Central Falls is the smallest of the small, spanning a little over one square mile. The locals claim it's the tiniest town in the smallest state in the New England upland.

This city holds a population of over 22,500. But, being so tiny, it averages almost 19,000 people per square mile.

Rhode Islanders invented coffee milk

If you visit Rhode Island, you have to try the official state drink. Coffee milk has been a popular beverage since it was invented in the late-1800s by the state's Italian immigrants. It's often compared to chocolate milk because the preparation is similar.

It's not simply milk poured into coffee or vice versa. Concentrated coffee syrup is mixed into the milk. Since you don't use actual coffee, the result is a sweeter and more evenly blended beverage.

Green road sign that reads "Welcome to Rhode Island, The Ocean State"
The state's nickname, the "Ocean State," is a Rhode Island fact

It's nicknamed the "Ocean State"

Nicknames are fun and this state is no exception. Rhode Island's state nickname is the "Ocean State."

The moniker makes a lot of sense when you consider that there are 400 miles of coastline along Rhode Island. That makes it the longest coastline in the country with the largest ratio of coastline to land area.

Three large wind turbines rising above the sea against a cloudy, light blue sky
Over 17 thousand homes are powered by the Block Island Wind Farm

Block Island Wind Farm was revolutionary

As the first offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind Farm led the way for renewable energy around the country. Since it was commissioned in 2016, it's provided the bulk of the state's electrical power.

Over 17,000 homes are fully powered by the farm. Currently, there are five turbines at the wind farm, with the capacity for more.

Aquidneck Island is the state's largest land mass

Rhode Island isn't made up of just one land mass. The state has multiple islands within its territory as well. Aquidneck Island is the largest of the state's non-continental land masses.

However, many people don't call it by that name. Newport and Portsmouth are the two major cities on the island, so most people refer to them and not the island. It's even more commonly referred to as simply "Rhode Island."

A beach with white and grey rocks and trees in the distance
Small sharks, like dog sharks, venture into Narragansett Bay

You can find sharks in Narragansett Bay

People who have seen the movie "Jaws" may not think this fact about Rhode Island is so fun. Sharks can sometimes be spotted in Narragansett Bay's waters.

Due to its geography, Narragansett Bay is a fairly closed body of water that protects boats in Rhode Island from the open ocean. That usually dissuades larger sea creatures from encroaching since there are more shallow waters.

You don't have to worry about large sharks getting close to the shore. Typically small species like dog sharks are more likely to venture close to Rhode Island. Since they're small, they're also less likely to attack.

A well-manicured lawn with a green bush shaped like a rabbit
A bush rabbit, among others, can be found at the Green Animals Topiary Garden

Green Animals Topiary Garden has been open for years

Green Animals Topiary Gardens isn't just one of the most unique attractions in the state, it's also one of the oldest. The Newport mansion where you can find the gardens has been known for its topiaries since the early-1900s.

With its growing popularity, the gardens have grown in size and area over the years. Thousands of flowers are planted every year to create a colorful place for visitors to explore.

Acceptance is important at Brown University

Brown University is known for being one the few colleges in the country to reach the prestigious "ivy league" status. It's also one of the oldest higher education institutions in the country. When it was opened to students in 1764, Brown was the seventh university in the colonies.

However, these prestigious universities were often selective in choosing their student body. Often, a student's religious beliefs were also considered before accepting them. Brown was the first school to welcome aspiring academics from all religious backgrounds.

It has a one-word motto

Like every other state in the country, there's an official Rhode Island state motto. Most states have phrases, often in other languages, that are meant to represent their governing values.

Rhode Island's motto is just one English word: Hope. No one knows where the inspiration for the saying came from. The most accepted theory is that it's a shortened version of the quote "Hope we have as an anchor of the soul."

Stone walkway surrounded by grass, lamp posts with a church in the distance
Newport holding the first tennis open is one of the facts about Rhode Island State

The National Lawn Tennis Championship is historic

As a sport, tennis can be traced back to 1873 in France. But it would be nearly a decade before it gained enough popularity to hold competitions. By 1881, tennis had become a pastime for many New England residents.

That year, one of the first tennis championships began. The National Lawn Tennis Championship was held in Newport, Rhode Island, making it the first Tennis Open held outside of Europe.

The USA's first polo field was in Rhode Island

Polo may have never become a sensation among the general population, but it's always been considered a "gentleman's sport." As such, it's not surprising that America's upper class would bring the sport to the country.

New York businessmen are credited with funding the first polo field in the US. In 1876, they chose Newport for the location as it was a popular vacation destination for people who lived in the city.

Rhode Islanders voted for some state symbols

To decide on the state's symbols, Rhode Island legislation has often turned to its citizens. For example, residents of Rhode Island elected the designer of the state seal when the territory was still a colony in 1664.

As a small state with a low population, it was considered important to let residents have a voice in legislative decisions. Nearly all of Rhode Island's symbols were decided on by native Rhode Islanders.

It's the second-most Italian state

Another fun fact about Rhode Island is it's a very "Italian" state. Roughly 18% of the state's population is of Italian descent.

Many Rhode Island residents can trace their family tree to the late 1800s and early 1900s when many Italians immigrated to the state. Rhode Island's neighbor, New York, has the largest overall Italian population at three million.

Interesting Facts About Rhode Island

jiawangkun/Depositphotos.com
A brown brick 3-story barn-like building with a black flag at the entrance
The Whitehorse Tavern is considered the oldest tavern in the country, opened in 1673

It's a densely populated state

One of the puzzling state facts about Rhode Island is the density of the population of this very small state. Rhode Island has a population of just over a million, making it the eighth least-populated US territory. However, its population density is second only to New Jersey with over 1000 people per square mile.

The highest point isn't that tall

To many, Jerimoth Hill is just a small, natural elevation in Foster, Rhode Island. What you might not know is that it's also the state's highest point.

Measuring 812 feet high, it's not as impressively tall as other high points in the country. However, it is a little more prominent when you realize Rhode Island's lowest point is zero where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Newport has a historic tavern

The White Horse Tavern in Newport is largely considered to be the oldest and longest-running tavern in the country. It first opened in 1673 and it's been serving patrons ever since.

When it was first constructed, it was even used as a town hall due to its popularity and central location. It was later used as a boarding house before being renovated into a bar and eatery, which it is today.

Violets are a Rhode Island symbol

In 1897, the local governments tasked schoolchildren with the responsibility of choosing the Rhode Island state flower. After a long voting process, the common blue violet was selected.

Despite its popularity among voters, legislation to make the violet a state symbol didn't pass right away. It took over 70 years before the decision was made official in 1968.

There are multiple lagoons

Though Rhode Island has access to the Atlantic Ocean, it's surrounded by shallow coastal waters thanks to Narragansett Bay. Since the water isn't very deep in the area immediately surrounding the state, lagoons have formed.

There are multiple major lagoons, also called salt ponds, that fall under Rhode Island's territory.

There are protected beaches

As a coastal state, it shouldn't be surprising that many Rhode Island state parks include beaches. These areas are protected from pollution and overdevelopment to help maintain the area's natural resources and landscape.

Eight of the state's beaches require a guest pass to visit. This helps the park rangers keep crowd levels under control while ensuring the safety and security of both guests and local wildlife.

Sailboat on a body of water under a bright, cloudy sky with a bridge in the distance
Newport, Rhode Island is considered the sailing capital of the world

It's the sailing capital

Newport, Rhode Island has a longstanding history of sailing. Since the 1700s, it's been a top location for leisure and commercial activities related to all things nautical.

You can see evidence of Newport's claim to be the "sailing capital of the world" all over the city. However, perhaps the best example is America's Cup. It's a prestigious and historic sailing competition that's been hosted in Newport for the last 50 years.

Rhode Island was an original colony

Surprisingly, one of the least-known facts about Rhode Island is that it was one of the original 13 colonies. it was the third British colony in North America.

The state initially only had 39 settlers living in its territory. It soon grew as millions of colonists began to cross the Atlantic. Most of the settlers were British, but colonists from the Netherlands, France, and elsewhere in Europe also called it home.

It took years for the maple to become a symbol

In the late-1800s, voting for the Rhode Island state tree began. The red maple was eventually chosen to represent the state due to its abundance in Rhode Island's forests.

Surprisingly, no legislation was passed to formalize the choice until much later. In 1964, the red maple was officially declared a Rhode Island symbol.

edb3_16/Depositphotos.com
One of the facts about Rhode Island state is that it is only 37 miles wide
Downtown Providence in Rhode Island, Providence is the capital city of the state

It's tinier than you might think

Everyone knows that Rhode Island is a small state. It's even been joked about in movies and shows. Yet, it might be even smaller than you think.

If you traveled from northern Rhode Island to southern Rhode Island, you'd only need enough fuel to go 48 miles. You only need to travel 37 miles to go from east to west. That's only considering the continental part of the state, however, and not its islands.

President Kennedy got married in Newport

In 1953, John F. Kennedy's marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier made national and international headlines. At the time, the future president was a rising star in politics.

The wedding was held at the oldest Roman Catholic church in Rhode Island, St. Mary's in Newport. An astonishing 800 guests attended, many of whom were celebrities and other politicians who knew the Kennedy family.

Historical Facts About Rhode Island

A large white church and steeple with two green doors
The country's first baptist church was built in Providence, Rhode Island

British troops landed in Newport

If you're a history lover searching for interesting Rhode Island facts, keep reading. You'll learn the combat phase of the Revolutionary War kicked off in this state.

Many people cite the battle at Lexington and Concord as the first battle. But a year later, in 1776, things took a more serious turn. British troops landed in Rhode Island and had the state under siege for three years.

Providence Plantations was the first settlement

When explorers and colonists came to America, Rhodes Island remained uninhabited by Europeans. That changed in the late-1600s.

Some colonists from Massachusetts felt their religious beliefs were being stifled. They left to start their own colony to win more freedom. These colonists traveled to present-day Rhode Island and called their settlement Providence Plantations.

The first African-American regiment fought here

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is historically regarded as the first troop made up of only African-American soldiers. They're also one of the only battalions to fight in the entire Revolutionary War.

The troop was formed in 1777 after Washington began to struggle to fight off British forces. Proving themselves as formidable soldiers, they fought until 1783.

Roger Williams founded the territory

Without Roger Williams, you likely wouldn't be reading this list of Rhode Island facts and history. In 1636, he founded the first colony in the future state.

Williams was also heavily involved with the Baptist church and helped it put down roots in the "New World". Despite being a devout Christian, he was one of the first advocates for the separation of church and state.

Providence is home to the first Baptist church in America

The Baptist Christian religion can be traced back to Holland in the early 1600s. English speakers in the country followed Martin Luther's example and decided to interpret religious texts their own way.

When Europeans began traveling to the new world, they brought their culture and their religious beliefs with them. The first Dutch and English settlers in America brought the Baptist religion and built the country's first Baptist church in modern-day Providence.

A large gray brick building with many small square windows on a grassy field
Fort Adams in Newport is where naval testing took place during World War II

The state contributed to World War II

When the US joined World War II, it was expected that every state would contribute to the war efforts. Rhode Island far exceeded expectations.

Newport was the location of the country's most important naval testing facilities. State-of-the-art torpedos and naval air crafts were built and tested for use in battle. Many enlisted soldiers also called the state home while they were stationed at Rhode Island's camps.

Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European

Before colonists came to America, explorers traveled across the sea to investigate the "New World". The first European explorer to set foot in Rhode Island was Giovanni da Verrazano.

Da Verrazano was an Italian explorer who was sent to North America by the French monarchy. Rhode Island was just one of the many stops along the country's east coast that he and his team mapped out.

Cool Facts About Rhode Island

A white flag with a yellow anchor in the center surrounded by yellow stars
The Rhode Island flag with a gold anchor outside the state capitol building

The flag was designed in the 1800s

The Rhode Island state flag might have a simple design, but it's also memorable and has remained unchanged for years. Since it was adopted in 1897, no alterations have been made to the flag, which shows the state's seal.

The flag has a white background with a gold anchor to represent the flourishing sailing and fishing industries. The anchor is surrounded by 13 stars to represent the 13 colonies. The state's motto "hope" is written underneath the anchor.

Large white domed building with lamposts, US flag and a statue on top of building
On top of the capital building in Providence sits a statue of the "Independent Man"

A statue tops the capitol

Sitting atop the Rhode Island state capitol, you'll see the statue of a man. Though many say that the statue is meant to depict Roger Williams, an early settler, that's not the case.

The statue has been called the "Independent Man." Rhode Island's history is full of moments that depict how important freedom is to the residents of the state. It was important to represent this when building the capitol building.

An architectural marvel is in Providence

A list of cool facts about Rhode Island wouldn't be complete without mentioning the capitol building in Providence. It has the fourth-largest self-supported marble dome in the world.

Architectural enthusiasts flock to the capital to admire the center dome of the building. Its diameter is 50 feet and it's supported entirely by its structure without any support beams or columns.

It has the longest-running Independence Day celebration

Independence Day is arguably the most important holiday in the USA. All over the country, people celebrate the country's freedom from Britain.

Though the holiday has been continuously celebrated since the Revolutionary War, many events have changed or been replaced over time. Today, the longest-running Independence Day celebration is the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Rhode Island. It's been hosted every year since 1785.

The Industrial Revolution began in Rhode Island

The Industrial Revolution changed the way people were able to work. It sped up the textile creation process and allowed more work to be done in shorter amounts of time.

Rhode Island was at the center of the American Industrial Revolution. The state was prominent in manufacturing fabric and yarn. As such, it was the perfect location to test new machinery to make the industry more efficient.

Unique Facts About Rhode Island

A green and white "Rhode Island" road sign with a blue sky and white clouds behind
Rhode Island is the first state to place someone in jail for a speed limit infraction

The first diner opened in Rhode Island

Diners are found all over the country. New Jersey is even famous for having more diners than any other US state.

Many people don't know that the very first diner opened in Rhode Island in 1872. A Providence man, Walter Scott, started a business selling food out of a wagon. Not only is this the first diner, but it could be considered the first food truck as well.

A Rhode Island governor popularized sideburns

Sideburns wouldn't have become the popular facial hair trend they were in the 70s and 80s without General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was a Civil War veteran and a governor of Rhode Island, but his most famous legacy is his facial hair.

Burnside kept the hair on the sides of his face long, which set him apart from other men at that time. With his success as a soldier and as a politician, he started a trend among men who wanted to emulate him. They even named the style, "sideburns," after him.

A Rhode Islander made the modern sprinkler system

Fire sprinklers revolutionized the way flames were extinguished by helping keep them under control while firefighters were on their way. Frederick Grinnell can be thanked for their widespread implementation.

In 1882, Grinnell invented the first modern sprinkler in Providence. Before then, the Parmalee sprinkler model was widely used, but it was less efficient and less successful at extinguishing fires.

The first traffic violation was sentenced in Rhode Island

In 1904, traffic history was made. In Newport, Rhode Island, a man was sentenced to five days in jail for exceeding the speed limit.

Cars were still a relatively new concept, the first models having been invented in 1886. As such, rules on driving were still in their infancy. The first traffic law was passed in 1901, but no one had ever been sentenced to jail for infractions before.

There's a schoolhouse from 1716

If you're into Rhode Island history facts, you'll be interested to know that the oldest schoolhouse in the country is in this state. The Southermost School House in Portsmouth was built in 1716, 60 years before the US declared independence.

The schoolhouse has been definitively declared the oldest schoolhouse in the state. But many historians also believe it's the oldest, still-surviving school building in the country. The school is a simple, two-room building, but its historic value has helped it survive over two centuries.

Weird Facts About Rhode Island

Sand trap surrounded by manicured lawn, trees and 2 ponds in the distance
The first US Open took place in Newport Rhode Island in 1895
A reddish-brown chicken with yellow feet and legs on a green grassy field
The Rhode Island red chicken was bred in the 1800s to produce meat and eggs

The Rhode Island Red was bred here

You might be surprised to find out that the Rhode Island state bird is a type of chicken. The Rhode Island Red was selectively bred during the 1800s to produce meat and eggs.

They aren't a natural breed, so they're on the conservation watch list. That's because they don't repopulate quickly enough to keep up with demand. The same can be said for the similarly named Rhode Island White breed.

It only borders two states

Since Rhode Island is a small state on the coast, it doesn't share many state lines. It only has land borders with two other states, and it has a water border with another.

Massachusetts is Rhode Island's neighbor to the north while Connecticut borders the state to the west. Part of the Atlantic Ocean inlet separates the state from New York.

The first golf tournament was held here

Winning the US Open is one of the most prestigious and sought-after titles golfers can aspire to during their careers.

Though the tournament has been held all over the country, the first event took place in Rhode Island. The United States Golf Association organized the first championship in 1895 in Newport.

No one knows why it's named Rhode Island

In most cases, you can find the name origins of most of the states in the USA. Rhode Island's name's history is a little less clear. There are two main theories, though.

Many people think the name comes from the Dutch explorer Adrian Block. He called the island "Roodt Eylandt" or "red island" because the shores were tinted red by clay. Others think Da Verrazzano named the territory and was comparing it to Rhodes in Greece.

Important Facts About Rhode Island

A lighthouse on grey and white rocks along a shoreline on a cloudy day
Castle Hill Lighthouse is a famous landmark in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island

The USA's oldest library is here

In the heart of historic Newport, Rhode Island, you'll find the picturesque Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Founded in 1747, it's one of the oldest libraries still standing in the United States.

The Darby Free Library in Pennsylvania is the oldest library in the country, but the Redwood Library is the oldest lending library. It's also the oldest continuously running book repository in the country.

It was the first colony to declare Independence

Another Rhode Island fact is that it was the first colony to declare independence from Britain. In May 1776, Rhode Islanders officially denounced King George III as their monarch.

This was, in part, due to the religious beliefs of the territory's colonists. It's commonly known that many of the first people to leave Europe were escaping religious persecution. Many of the most devout puritans to leave England were among Rhode Island's first settlers.

The Bill of Rights was added because of Rhode Island

Though Rhode Island was one of the first colonies in North America, it was the last of the original 13 British territories to join the United States. Though they fought in the revolutionary war, Rhode Islanders didn't join the Union until 1790.

The delay was due to the state leaders' reluctance to ratify the Constitution. They were unsure if citizens' rights would be protected by the document. As such, they insisted on the Bill of Rights being added before they'd consider statehood.

Beaver in shallow water gnawing on a branch
Fact about Rhode Island: the beaver is among the mammals nearly hunted to extinction

The state almost lost its mammals

Today, Rhode Island has a diverse population of animals both on land and underwater. However, it took years for that to be the case.

When settlers first arrived in Rhode Island, they had to resort to hunting and fishing for food. During that time, the mammal population in the area, which included beavers, foxes, and others, was nearly hunted to extinction.

In Summary

How many of these 50 facts about this tiny state surprised you? Hopefully, you had fun reading and learned a thing or two. You'll certainly be ready if you ever decide to take a trip to Rhode Island for yourself.

While you're at it, why don't you pick out your favorite fact from this list and plan around it? You can do it with group of friends. If you've got children, you can also plan all the best things you can do with kids in Rhode Island!

This article was edited by Henry Grahame.

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!


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