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COLUMNS

When it comes to summer, there's no better place to embrace it than Rhode Island

Mark Patinkin
Providence Journal

It is the most enchanted of seasons, summer is, and with apologies to the other 49 states, I am taking a stand on it.

There is no better place to embrace it than Rhode Island.

How do you not love the season of Del’s, cabanas and fiery braziers mixed with Gregorian chant?

Or clambakes, Bowen’s Wharf and the parade.

If you know, you know.

It is almost as if this lovely state was created for summer.

Swimmers take the plunge at Narragansett Town Beach, one of many places to enjoy sand and surf in the Ocean State.

Let them say what they will on Cape Cod – but ours are New England’s most perfect beaches.

And sailing waters.

And show me a better al fresco dining scene than on Federal Hill in the warm months, with Atwells Avenue closed to cars and DePasquale Square evocative of a lively Italian piazza.

This is not to say that Rhode Island lacks appeal in other seasons.

We know how to “do” winter, with bracing walks on uncrowded shores and high school hockey as the state’s unofficial religion.

Similarly, you don’t have to go to Vermont for fall foliage; we have it here.

DePasquale Square, on Providence's Federal Hill, has the feel of an Italian piazza, with its cobblestones and fountain.

And as I type this, the state is alive with spring cherry trees and splashes of daffodils bright enough to require eclipse glasses.

But one can’t help but think that such perennials are harbingers of our main event – summer itself – the time the state’s best is showcased.

Whoever designed Rhode Island picked the perfect spot for the warm months.

It strikes me that our East Coast latitude of 41.7 degrees north is the sweet spot of summer – more temperate than Bangor’s 44.8 parallel and less steamy than, say, Charleston’s 32.7.

I discovered summer’s charms early in my long journey here, when The Providence Journal assigned me to its Newport office.

Sunbathers stake out their spot on the sand at Narragansett Town Beach.

I found an apartment in a grand Victorian on Rhode Island Avenue, and as June turned to July, I learned something known to those who live in so many of the state’s seaside spots.

You become real popular with friends.

In the years before that, my first newspaper job was in Utica, New York, and God bless upstate New York, but few people were lobbying to visit me there.

It was different in Newport. I became an early version of Airbnb.

But why should I have been surprised, since historically, that seaside city was the choice of the wealthiest of tycoons, who sought to escape places like Pittsburgh and New York City to build their summer cottages on and off Bellevue.

As Manhattan denizens can attest, there are many places where you escape from summer; Rhode Island is where you escape to it.

Much of the draw, of course, springs from those two words on our license plates. If any place is meant to be a summer playground, it’s the Ocean State.

A swimmer heads out of the surf at Narragansett Town Beach.

Newport is, of course, a global tourist center, with some of the country’s best sailing waters, public mansions, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and, and, and …

But Rhode Island’s summer magic is spread throughout the lay of our land.

There is an entire county known for summer pursuits, South County they call it, cartographically inaccurate but spot on as to what it evokes.

The truth is, God did not create all summer beaches equally, but the best ones down South County way, with their rolling waves and non-rocky sand, are among the elite of the category – right up there with others like Goosewing in Little Compton.

Plus, no need to schlep to the Jersey Shore when Misquamicut is within our borders.

Of course, there are other summer waters here, and I highly recommend paddling down the Wood River, as well as the Pettaquamscutt to the Narrow, and Wickford Harbor, too.

Sunlight filters through a canopy of trees shading the Wood River as it flows through Hope Valley. It's a prime spot for kayaking and canoeing.

A bit further north, I’ve filled some summer afternoons kayaking on the Providence River through the heart of the city, and on more classy days, one can cruise the same by gondola. Last I looked, Providence has more of those than just about any place besides Venice.

Which, of course, brings us to one of the state’s premier summer events, WaterFire, a thing other places have attempted but never duplicated well.

Rhode Island being a jewel of summer, there isn’t room here to list its myriad offerings, but that is part of the point, that the state is rich in warm-weather options.

But to name a random few:

Of course, Bristol’s oldest-in-the-nation Fourth of July parade.

And, of course again, bike paths through Cumberland, along the Blackstone River and down the East Bay.

Plus, who needs the Vineyard when you have Block Island, another biking center and summer mecca.

There are diehards who surf here in winter, but the warm months are of course the truest season for that, from Narragansett to Middletown’s Second Beach, where surfers bob below St. George’s stunning gothic revival chapel, a tableau worthy of an impressionist’s brush.

Let me put it this way – it is part of a running joke that half of Rhode Island escapes to Florida in the winter, either for a few months as snowbirds or for weekend respites.

But in summer, it goes the other way. For a while, my daughter lived in Florida, where, come June, it got too hot. Like so many others, she couldn’t wait to return for the summer.

Because there happens to be a place that has just the right latitudes, attitudes and interludes for embracing warm-weather pursuits.

It’s right here.

mpatinki@providencejournal.com