Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

How to choose the right hotel for YOU in downtown Providence

Tracy Lee Karner
Downtown Providence Skyline, aka “downcity”

When you travel to Providence, bring your expectations to the hotel or inn that’s right for you. Because after you discover that the place you just checked into simply does not provide what you were looking for, you might experience enough heartbreaking frustration to ruin your trip.

So before you book a room, consider your personality and needs, then match yourself to suitable accommodations. It’s rather like dating: it could be disastrous to go out with a beer-drinking guy who loves fire-hot buffalo wings and Mötley Crüe, when you’re the kind of girl who prefers Darjeeling tea, cucumber sandwiches and Debussey’s Claire de Lune.

I’ve visited all the hotels and B&B’s within 1 mile of the heart of Providence, and I recommend:

Renaissance Providence Hotel(No Smoking, No Pets). Thank your lucky stars you won’t have to pay NY CITY prices to enjoy being pampered. Located next  to Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium (Providence’s cultural center), this full-service, luxury hotel caters to discriminating business and leisure travelers who seek to experience the special identity and character of Renaissance and Providence.

  • Renaissance Providence Bonuses:
  1. Their Local Navigator Experts are at your service to custom tailor your stay–providing recommendations to help you discover what you ought to eat, drink, see and do in downtown Providence;
  2. The on-site Public Kitchen and Bar isn’t merely convenient, it’s special;
  3. The fitness center is spacious and attractive (instead of squeezed into a mirrored closet);
  4. The attentive service lives up to a traveler’s top-of-the-line-hotel expectations;
  5. And you’re short walking distance away from Providence Place Mall and the Amtrak Station, in a historic building located in the shadow of one of the most stunning capital buildings in the country (best viewed against a blue sky in autumn!)
  • Be aware that at Renaissance Providence there is:
  1. No free parking;
  2. No complimentary in-room internet;
  3. No complimentary breakfast;
  4. No pool or spa.

If finding the cheapest room in the area is your top priority

  • don’t stay in Providence. Book 10 miles away in Warwick. Check out Kayak.com to compare rates.

But there are advantages to staying IN Providence, if you want to experience Providence. Therefore you’ll want to consider all your options:

 Annie Brownell House (No Pets, No Smoking; limited accommodations for children–call to discuss your situation) offers one of the best cost-conscious values in Providence. This Victorian-styled, 5-room B&B on College Hill (slightly less than 1 mile from downtown) is beloved by Brown and RISD parents, European travelers, those with relatives and friends living in the neighborhood, and people looking for a homey B&B experience.

  • Annie Brownell House Bonuses: 
  1. Private baths in every room (not all B&B’s offer this);
  2. Complimentary parking (but cannot accommodate large SUV’s, vans or trucks);
  3. Complimentary, delicious, full, homemade breakfast;
  4. An inviting, secluded garden patio for gentile reading and relaxing;
  5. Genuine, old-fashioned, B&B hospitality;
  6. And you’re only a short walk away from cool Wayland Square restaurants and shops.
  • Be aware that at Annie Brownell House there is: 
  1. No valet staff or burly guys to schlepp your bags;
  2. Limited last-minute availability–it could happen, but don’t expect it. Book early-early for your preferred dates.
  3. A well-mannered, often-sleepy retriever who lives in the house.

 Hotel Dolce Villa  (No Pets; No Smoking) is a sweet Boutique Hotel from which to experience Federal Hill, overlooking the square in the heart of Italian Federal Hill and less than a mile from downtown Providence.

  • Hotel Dolce Villa Bonuses:
  1. Cool-sleek, european-suite accommodations;
  2. Friendly front-desk help;
  3. The best place in the city for people who love to cook, with complete kitchens (long-term stays available);
  4. 20% discounts at affiliated Federal Hill restaurants;
  5. Free hi-speed internet, complimentary popcorn, hot chocolate, and biscotti;
  6. Surrounded by great restaurants! (and there’s room service from next-door Caffe Dolce Vita, ask for details).
  • Be aware that Hotel Dolce Villa: 
  1. Is not your typical brand-hotel look (expect a trendy Italian apartment ambience);
  2. Has no expansive staff or huge lobby to hang around in;
  3. Has no free parking.
  4. Has no pool, no spa.

Providence Biltmore, (Pet-Friendly, No Smoking) is a  charming Historic Hotel. The central location and gracious, personalized full-service appeal to long-stay business travelers (kitchenettes available), history-lovers, architecture geeks, ghost-story seekers, and those who want an on-site full spa experience.

  • Providence Biltmore Bonuses:
  1. Complimentary WiFi;
  2. On-site Starbucks and McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood and Steaks restaurant,
  3. Rooms with views;
  4. Great venue for meetings and events.
  • Be aware Providence Biltmore has:
  1. No free parking;
  2. No complimentary breakfast (there is no actual breakfast to be found anywhere on the hotel property);
  3. No pool.

Hampton Inn and Suites Providence Downtown  (No Pets; Smoking available.offers loyalty rewards and value in the heart of the financial district. Many of their highly-satisfied, repeat guests have business with CVS, Brown, RISD and other companies headquartered in Rhode Island.

  • Hampton Inn and Suites Bonuses:
  1. Complimentary hot breakfast;
  2. free high-speed internet access;
  3. free shuttle to local transportation hubs;
  4. fitness center use.
  • Be aware Hampton Inn and Suites has:
  1. No pool, no spa;
  2. No free parking;
  3. Almost no last-minute availability (they’re often sold out)

Courtyard Providence Downtown(No Pets; No Smoking.) Also offers loyalty rewards and value, plus easy walking to Providence Place Mall and WaterFire. Families and business travelers appreciate the price and the location. 

  • Courtyard Providence Bonuses:
  1. Complimentary WiFi;
  2. 5-foot deep pool;
  3. Small fitness center;
  4. Bistro off the lobby serves breakfast, dinner, and Starbucks coffee;
  5. A choice of reasonably-priced restaurants adjacent.
  • Be aware Courtyard Providence has: 
  1. No complimentary breakfast;
  2. No free parking.

 Wyndham Garden Providence: (Pets allowed; No Smoking), Loyalty rewards, and often offers the lowest brand-hotel rates in the city. Located 1 mile from the city and on top of the East Bay Bike Path, value-conscious business travelers, and families (especially those visiting Providence colleges) are happy here.

  • Wyndham Garden Bonuses:
  1. Free parking;
  2. Some nice harbor views;
  3. A small exercise facility;
  4. Convenient onsite restaurant/lounge;
  5. You can walk to hip Wickenden Street;
  6. There’s a shuttle, but a fee is charged for each use.
  • Be aware Wyndham Garden: 
  1. Has no pool; no spa;
  2. Offers no lunch (the restaurant only serves breakfast and dinner);
  3. Is not in easy walking distance to downtown unless you’re really looking for a walk (a mile to get there).

The Hilton Providence (No Smoking; No Pets) is an upscale, full-service hotel, which sometimes offers prices comparable to the limited-service brands, and it’s located right on top of the Duncan Donuts Center (sporting events, concerts, trade shows & conventions):

  • Hilton Providence Bonuses: 
  1. It’s the nearest national-brand hotel to Federal Hill, and you can also walk to WaterFire;
  2. Calling their service friendly is not just a marketing ploy, they actually are;
  3. City views;
  4. Indoor pool;
  5. Valet parking is only 3 bucks more than self-parking (but please, do tip for this convenience!)
  6. And yeah, there’s fun Shula’s 347 and Starbucks on site, but, hey, you’re merely a short walk (and an even shorter cab-ride) away from the plethora of restaurants on Federal Hill.
  • Be aware Hilton Providence has: 
  1. No free parking;
  2. No complimentary breakfast or complimentary WiFi;
  3. No spa.

Providence Marriott Downtown (Pet-Friendly, No Smoking) has a groovy indoor-outdoor pool (the best in town!) and the only free parking at a full-service downtown hotel.  

  • Marriott Providence Bonuses: 
  1. Complimentary WiFi in lobby and common areas;
  2. Free Parking!
  3. Refrigerators in every room and microwave on request.
  • Be aware Marriott Providence has: 
  1. No complimentary breakfast;
  2. No complimentary WiFi in your room;
  3. No spa.

Please Remember:  rates fluctuate seasonally and according to scheduled events. And expect to pay $20-$30 per vehicle per night for parking (added to your hotel account), unless otherwise noted.  

Please note–every article on my blog is a reflection of MY personal opinion. My policy is that if I can’t honestly put my stamp of personal approval on certain places, I’m not going to say anything about them at all. Some of the properties I inspect are deficient in cleanliness or friendliness, and sometimes they can’t spare 5 minutes to answer my questions. Their names and locations will always remain politely unmentioned.

What’s your style? Which hotel/inn would you be likely to choose for your Providence experience, and why?

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49 thoughts on “How to choose the right hotel for YOU in downtown Providence”

  1. A pool and breakfast, and I’m happy. I loved reading all these and mentally selecting *my* hotel, even though I am not going there! Thanks for the fantasy holiday, quite refreshing on a dark evening approaching autumn/winter.

    Most places in the UK are way behind on internet access in your room. But the reality of it is always a shock.

    1. But it sure would be fun if you could get over here, Denise. Until then, we’ll just have to imagine each other’s worlds and armchair-travel back and forth.

      I wonder whether you all are less addicted to wifi than most people over here are?

      1. When I had to go without wifi on holiday, it took me back to another time. It was very hard at first! But I saw the benefits. Providence looks so lovely (all all those wonderful hotels!) that I doubt I would miss it too much.

  2. Boy, you really are a jack of all trades, Tracy! What a good write up: informative, concise, with the right bits of info to fill the imagination. Well done!!

    What’s my style? It varies, pretty much day by day. Sometimes I want slick steel and concrete, sometimes homely B&B. According to Nina I tend to prefer the ultra-modern hotels, preferably no chains…but our true travel style is staying with friends for the ultimate experience…

    1. Thanks, Oliver. I really did want this to fill in the gaps — I searched online for concise information, but didn’t find it.

      If you make it to Providence, you belong at the Dolce Villa — we could all hang out there cooking, and there’s a great Italian wine store, just a 5-minute walk away. Of course, if you’re really laid back, you could camp out on the floor at our place, or wait until we figure out where we’re going to set down roots (that’s when we’ll have a guest room).

  3. This is such a beneficial post for anyone who plans to visit the Providence area. My choice would be the Annie Brownell House. I love B&B’s, especially when they have a private bath. I enjoy the personal attention and I’m able to schlepp my own bags. 🙂 Great post, Tracy!

    1. Jill, when you get to Providence, do stay at the Annie Brownell House. I’m sure you’ll love the whole experience (and it won’t be anything like that PTSD-inducing 5-star vacation you just wrote about!)

  4. They all sound excellent, Tracy, but since the Annie Brownell House has no burly guys to schlepp the bags, I’ll go with my second choice, Dolce Villa. We actually like doing some of our own cooking!

    1. I think it’s important to know the details before you arrive–the owner/innkeeper at Annie Brownell is incredibly gracious, but because she is the solo star of the show, she can’t risk hurting her back, lifting heavy bags. Sometimes that’s a problem for certain travelers, who expect and need help.

      Dolce Villa has a distinctly boutique-hotel feel, very different from a Victorian B&B. I really like both of them–although they provide totally different experiences.

      And I too, always prefer to be able to do a little of my own cooking when I travel, if possible (unfortunately, it usually isn’t possible).

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. If you know anyone coming to Providence, please tell them about my post. (And I plan to do similar, highly-informative, insider-information posts for other places in New England–I think there’s a real need for this kind of honest comparison).

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. If you know anyone coming to Providence, please tell them about my post. (And I plan to do similar, highly-informative, insider-information posts for other places in New England–I think there’s a real need for this kind of honest comparison).

  5. Who needs Trip Advisor when we’ve got you, Tracy?! 🙂 Seriously, you should work for the tourist board. Very interesting and informative and truthful. I love these posts.

    1. I’m trying to fill a gap, Jenny, based on my own wants/needs for when I’m going somewhere new. Trip Advisor is useful, but also seems to be something of a popularity contest; and I can never be certain about whether the person doing the evaluating is someone whose experience/expertise/integrity I can trust. I’ve thought about doing some P.R. writing (for tourist boards, etc,) but I prefer to be able to just give my honest impression. That would be diminished if I was paid to be a promoter.

      I’m trying to figure out a new way to earn revenue for my work (the same problem all media & content providers are facing these days–people want free content; and the traditional advertising-supported model isn’t working for anyone, least of all the advertisers). I figure that faith and good will are going to provide me with an answer soon.

  6. B&Bs are definitely the way to go Tracy! I love your ‘travel guides’. Did I already mention that right at the top of mine and hubbie’s ‘to do’ list is to tour through New England doing the whole B&B thing? It WILL happen and I know just the person to come to for the perfect itinery 😉

  7. I like your review style especially the “be aware” section. Sometimes we get so caught up in what a hotel offers that it’s easy to miss what’s not available! If I ever go to Providence I’ll be referring back to this post!

    1. Thanks, Marlene. I asked the hotels each to tell me what they wanted guests to know about what they shouldn’t expect. None of them want people to show up expecting something that isn’t there. But marketing directors and p.r. people tend to think of what I did with my “be aware” notes, as negative advertising. I, however, think transparent honesty helps everyone avoid frustrating disappointments.

  8. Wonderful travel write-up Tracy! You’re a jack of all trades when it comes to blogging, I love it 🙂

    My style? I think the Providence Biltmore sounds lovely. Thee mix of historic hotel PLUS a kitchen is what won me over. I love places that have a little more character and are unique. Matt and I were in western Michigan this past weekend and we stayed at a little historic inn that was lovely.

    1. Supposedly (according to all the marketing & p.r. rules) my focus is too broad for an audience to “get.” But I like to think my audience is smart and broad-minded. It took me a while to figure out that I have the most fun blogging when I’m reflecting whatever makes me happy, and “eating, traveling and living in New England” definitely does that.

  9. This is a great article on the accommodation provided in the area. I wish I had you travelling ahead of me wherever I go. Can we arrange that? 🙂
    Of course my needs differ at various time. Sometimes a little pampering, sometimes maybe a kitchenette included so as to save having to eat out when i don’t feel like it.

    1. That would be fun to arrange, Elizabeth.

      I could, however, “travel ahead” of you and give you insider knowledge for the best trip to suit you if you want to visit New England, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces of Canada, or upstate New York….

      (My needs vary, too. Every trip is different and I like to experience lots of different styles/places).

    1. We stayed there on our very first visit to Providence didn’t see a lot of Providence because it was unseasonably sweltering-hot (by Rhode Island standards, but completely normal weather if you’re in middle Tennessee). We were therefore doubly impressed by the pool.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that–but of course. It really adds up when you have to feed a group of people at every meal.

      I always start my day with breakfast, so the quality of the breakfast offered is important to me. I want something healthy and fresh, and that’s not always available…

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