Renaissance of a Small Town – The Transformation of Bristol, Rhode Island

Bristol, Rhode Island located on a peninsula located between Mount Hope and Narragansett bays is home to nearly 23,000 residents. A town rich in history, and as picturesque as can be found in these United States. A town I’ve called home for nearly 48 years except for my four years in the Air Force, and a short stint in nearby Warren, before returning to my roots and settling back in Bristol in 1992.In recent years Bristol has begun a transformation of its downtown waterfront district from an old mill town to a thriving tourist spot. Bristol’s people and leaders have recognized the need to improve the downtown area and rekindle the downtown business district while still maintaining the charm of the quintessential seaside village. Mills have been replaced with upscale condominiums, old rundown buildings have been remodeled when possible and existing structures have been incorporated into an attractive shopping district. Much planning is done and every effort is made to maintain the architectural integrity of the downtown landscape.While across this country many towns are experiencing abandonment of their small mom and pop type businesses in favor of the giant shopping malls, new unique shops are opening and thriving in downtown Bristol. Where once stood empty rundown buildings, we have day spas, dress boutiques, gift shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, pubs, hotels, antique shops and more. More importantly almost all are owned and run by small independent business people with ties to Bristol and the community.Bristol has always been a great place to live and a wonderful place to visit, and visiting is even easier now. There are several B&B’s available and a new harbor side hotel for lodging. Once here, there is no need to leave as Bristol is home to many dining establishments from diners to white tablecloth fine dining. Depending on your mood, you can choose the authentic Irish pub Aidan’s, tea and scones at Basically British, fine continental cuisine at Roberto’s, or traditional American fare and seafood at the S.S. Dion. The SS Dion is my favorite for enjoying a great meal at reasonable prices and great service with the most breathtaking sunsets. For breakfast enjoy the freshest bagels at the Bristol Bagel Works or pastries at Café LaFrance. Enjoy lunch on the waterfront at Quito’s Seafood or JG Goff’s Pub. There are more fine establishments and part of the fun is exploring the area and happening upon something special or just seeing what strikes your fancy.For the athletically inclined there are many water sports to be found in our bays. You can rent a kayak to paddle around the bay. If you own your own boat, Bristol is a great place to dock for a meal or the day. You could also use your boat for waterskiing in the waters around Bristol. Or you could join in one of the many Regattas’ if your choice of boating includes sails. Colt State Park is a wonderful place to ride a bicycle or walk on the many miles of paved paths that connect to a trail that leads to East Providence. You may also choose to just unwind and relax by the water or at the many picnic areas spread throughout this treasure that Bristol calls its own.Bristol is not a complete secret to the world, it is well known for having the oldest, continuous 4th of July celebration in the United States. Crowds of over 200,000 people have flocked to witness our parade and see firsthand what arguably the most patriotic town in America, has to offer. The town has even been granted a special permit to paint the parade route roads with a red, white and blue center stripe instead of the standard double yellow line, year round. The 4th of July celebration actually begins three weeks before with events nearly every night, culminating with the parade and a spectacular fireworks display over the harbor. To illustrate just how important the 4th of July is to Bristol people, most real estate listings will use a parade route location as a major selling feature for a home.Bristol is also home to numerous museums. Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology featuring over 100,000 artifacts from the native peoples of the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. The Herreshoff Marine Museum showcases the history of Bristol as a leader in the yacht building industry. The Blithewold mansion, originally the summer house of Pennsylvania coal baron, Augustus Van Wickle, is open for tours of the 45-room mansion and lush 33 acres of landscaped grounds and gardens. The mansion is decorated for the holidays and “Christmas at Blithewold” during the entire month of December is a great time to visit this historic site.Bristol has something to offer everyone, no matter what your taste, you’ll find it here. It can be a quaint seaside village or a sophisticated cultural treasure chest, a quiet relaxing stroll by the water or high energy activity on land or sea. If you have never been to Bristol, you need to add it to your list of must sees. If it has been a while since your last visit you need to come back and enjoy the renaissance of Bristol

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