They say opposites attract and in Providence, Rhode Island, they’ve perfected the art of blending two very different elements (fire and water) into one unbelievably cool attraction: Waterfire.
Back in 1994, residents of Providence were looking for a way to shake up the city and attract more tourists to America’s smallest state. After artist Barnaby Evans created a dazzling sculpture in the middle of the waterway, they decided it deserved it’s own festival. It was a simple enough idea that turned an annual event into one of the top 20 events in all of North America, pulling in over 10 million visitors in the process.
The secret? A little fire and water can go a long way.
Using the three rivers that converge on Providence as his canvas, Evans created a living piece of art with over 80 bonfires as inspiration. As the festival grew in notoriety, the bonfires grew to over 200 with torchbearers slowly weaving down the river to light them, timed to music to crowds of curious onlookers.
With lightings lasting an entire season between May and October, here are three reasons you need to see Waterfire right now:
It’s more than just a bonfire
Sure, over 80 braziers are lit after sunset to create a stunning nighttime display, but it’s the events surrounding the festival that make it even more fun. With multiple packages available, an ordinary date night or family outing can become extraordinary with candlelight dining next to the river or a walk amongst the stars in the Starry, Starry Night exhibition, earning major brownie points with your significant other. If you’re traveling with children, plan to book a few seats on the guided boat ride down the river.
You’ll get to know another side of the city
Waterfire Providence is like a giant street fair that stretches from Waterplace Park to South Main. Street vendors and performers line the walkways and local restaurants and cafes will often have special offers for visitors. With the processional lasting until midnight — and sometimes even later — the chance to get to know Providence after dark is too good to pass up.
It’s community driven
Waterfire is so successful thanks to the donations from the visitors and community members who literally help fuel the fire. With donation options starting as low as $25 online or in-person, you can help ensure the legacy of one of the most popular events on the planet.