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Atop the confluence of the Providence, Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket Rivers, Rhode Island's capital city offers some of the finest urban strolling in New England: around Brown University's historic campus on 18th-century College Hill, along the landscaped Riverwalk trail, and through downtown's handsome streets and lanes with their hip cafes, art-house theaters, fusion restaurants and trendsetting bars.

Once destined to become an industrial relic, Providence's fate was spared when Buddy Cianci, its then controversial two-time mayor, rolled out a plan to revitalize the downtown core by rerouting subterranean rivers, reclaiming land and restoring historic facades. It created a city where history's treasures are not simply memorialized but rather integrated into a creative present; three centuries of architectural styles are unified in colorful urban streetscapes that are at once bold, beautiful and cooler than cool.

Providence's large student population helps keep the city's social and arts scenes cutting edge. Play it cool.