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A tank away

In Providence, a frothy mix of fun

Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood is lined with funky stores, like Diva’s Palace, a women’s clothing shop on Atwells Avenue. The trendy, Mediterranean-style Hotel Dolce Villa is an all-suite boutique hotel on nearby DePasquale Square. Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood is lined with funky stores, like Diva’s Palace, a women’s clothing shop on Atwells Avenue. The trendy, Mediterranean-style Hotel Dolce Villa is an all-suite boutique hotel on nearby DePasquale Square. (Photos By Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Kortney Stringer
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2009

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PROVIDENCE - Welcome to one of the most underrated cities in New England.

It has everything you would ever want in a travel destination: historic neighborhoods, funky shopping districts, great views, culture, and a bit of Old World charm to boot. And for singles and couples, fun and eclectic options after the sun sets.

Stay
If you want classy lodging with historic flair, check out the Providence Biltmore Hotel (11 Dorrance St., 401-421-0700, www.providencebiltmore.com), which offers big rooms with great views of downtown. The Hotel Providence (311 Westminster St., 401-861-8000, www.hotelprovidence.com) would be another good choice. The views aren’t as good and the rooms aren’t as big as the Biltmore’s, but the hotel boasts some cool, contemporary touches. Of course, staying in neighborhoods can give you a better sense of a city’s culture: Hotel Dolce Villa (63 DePasquale Square, 401-383-7031, www.dolcevillari.com) is a cute boutique hotel in the heart of Federal Hill. The Mediterranean-style, all-suite hotel features trendy, white-on-white decor, with modern lighting and stainless steel appliances.

Dine
For a uniquely local dining experience, Local 121 (121 Washington St., 401-274-2121, www.local121.com) is your spot. Here you’ll find local, organic, sustainable produce, fish, and meats. It also features the works of local artists, from butter dishes to wall paintings. On the east side of town, you can find Cafe Paragon (234 Thayer St., 401-331-6200, www.paragonandviva.com) in the College Hill Historic District, home to Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and plenty of picturesque homes. For lunch, this is a great place to grab a tasty Cuban sandwich or a turkey club. But even better than that, you can get a glimpse of the diverse blend of college students and scholars who live, work, and play in the area. If you crave Italian, Al Forno Restaurant (577 South Main St., 401-273-9760, www.alforno.com) specializes in pizza and an array of pastas that includes a yummy baked dish with tomato, cream, and five cheeses. The wait to get a table, particularly during peak dinner times, can be more than an hour, so you can have a drink at the restaurant’s upstairs or downstairs bars. Or, if you prefer, the host(ess) will take your cellphone number and call you when your table is ready, freeing you to scoot across the street to the Hot Club (575 South Water St., 401-861-9007), where you can sip strong, inexpensive drinks while hanging out on the long deck and watching the moon’s reflection off the marina.

During the day
This is a city of great neighborhoods. Take a short stroll west from downtown, and you arrive on Federal Hill, the city’s “Little Italy.’’ Best known for its restaurants, the neighborhood welcomes visitors with a gateway arch that bears a pine cone (la pigna) sculpture over Atwells Avenue - it’s an Italian symbol of hospitality that is sometimes mistaken for a pineapple. Wickenden Street on the east side is lined with cool stores and mom-and-pop restaurants. In addition to enjoying numerous coffee shops, art galleries, and a farmer’s market along the strip, passersby can admire the pastel-colored houses.

After dark
If you’re looking to shake your booty, Tazza Caffe (250 Westminster St., 401-421-3300, www.tazzacaffe.com) plays everything from old school funk to hip-hop and R&B. The legendary rock club Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel (79 Washington St., 401-331-5876, www.lupos.com) doesn’t exist as a stand-alone venue anymore, but it continues to operate out of the Roxy in the historic Strand Theater. It’s where you can catch big national acts touring or get your groove on to everything from hip-hop to top 40. Nearby, XXodus Cafe and Lounge (276 Westminster St., 401-351-0353, www.blackrep.org) at the Providence Black Repertory Company spins a mix of everything from American to Latin to Caribbean.

Kortney Stringer can be reached at kstringer@globe.com.