Downtown Bristol draws visitors today just as it drew shipbuilders and sailors in centuries past. While you're there, be sure to see the Herreshoff Marine Museum, which is home to more than 60 classic and modern yachts, a collection of seafaring memorabilia and the America's Cup Hall of Fame. Also worth a visit are the Blithewold Mansion and Gardens, a 45-room mansion built in 1908 with more than 33 acres/13 hectares of handsomely landscaped grounds that offer panoramic views of Bristol Harbor. The gardens contain the largest giant redwood tree east of the Rockies—83 ft/25 m tall. Although the grounds are at their best in the spring, we also enjoyed the Christmas decorations during a December visit.

Linden Place is a three-story Federal-style mansion that is surrounded by rose gardens and historic outbuildings—most notably, the ballroom building dating from 1906. More history is on display at Coggleshall Farm Museum, a working farm from the 1700s—complete with oxen—that hosts a popular harvest fair each September. The farm is located near Colt State Park, where you can take in views of Narragansett Bay and cycle down bike trails.

Bristol's annual Fourth of July parade is one of the nation's largest and oldest (200+ years). We think you'll find it worth seeing, even if you have to get up extremely early to get a good viewing spot—some local residents stake their spots as early as the day before the festivities. 15 mi/25 km southeast of Providence.

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