Today’s walk found me in unfamiliar territory - not because I’m on Providence’s East Side rediscovering the trendy Wayland Square neighborhood, but because I’m on this journey solo. My wife usually joins me on these walks, but she had a full calendar today. Now I’m no stranger to Wayland Square; in fact, I used to count myself among its many residents a long time ago. In the years since, the neighborhood hasn’t changed much except for the occasional new business. It has seen its fair share of growth and decline, but has always maintained its swagger, and continues to be a popular destination for those looking to explore the East Side.
My starting point was literally at a crossroad of three streets intersecting in a triangular pattern, bordered by shops and residences. One such retailer, shining like a beacon, is Rhode Island’s own nationally renowned jewelers, Alex and Ani. I’m certain that most Rhode Islanders are familiar with Alex and Ani and their line of eco-friendly, American-made wares.
It was a cool afternoon, so I went next door to Teas and Javas for a cup of tea to warm up. This is a relatively new shop but it feels like it’s been part of the culture of Wayland Square forever - maybe because the location has previously housed other coffee shops. The atmosphere is stylish, and I found the quality and friendliness of the staff to be top notch. With the reigning king of coffee, Starbucks, just around the corner, I would suspect that in order for Teas and Javas to make their mark they would need to deliver in those areas. They offer a varied menu of bagels, breads, sandwiches, pastries, parfaits and gluten-free confections, along with a long list of coffees and teas. All typical coffee house fare, except for one thing - Teas and Javas has a liquor license, making them a popular after-work destination.
Walking the Wayland Square area is incredibly convenient, and with better than normal parking options, it’s easier to navigate than other East Side hot spots. There’s a large parking lot located on Medway Avenue that is free with a validated ticket from a participating local shop. There is also ample on-street parking if you don’t mind walking a block or so.
Wayland Ave is home to the lion’s share of the shops and boutiques, and I continued down, making sure to stop in each for a look and to say hello to the locals. Two such favorites are the Runcible Spoon and Pow! Science. They’re located on opposite diagonals of Wayland Ave and Medway Street, and couldn’t be further apart in style. The Runcible Spoon offers sophisticated housewares and has become a standard stop during our area visits. Pow! Science, on the other hand, is an amazing children's store focused on making learning fun! I admit, I get caught up in playing with everything when I manage to talk Melissa in to stopping in. Luckily we have 5 nephews, and they’re all the excuse I need.
Wayland Square has it all - if you want a fantastic meal, you can’t beat Red Stripe, but L’Artisan Cafe & Bakery is amazing as well. Those are just two of the 14 dining establishments all within a short walk of each other. Mix in hair salons, fitness studios, bookstores, food markets, learning centers, clothing retailers, and residential living areas, and you have one of the best neighborhoods in all of Rhode Island.