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You're in for a Treat When Visiting Warren, Rhode Island

Updated on August 14, 2017
Creamsicle cabinet drink from Delekta's in Warren, Rhode Island
Orange cabinet drink from the soda fountain at Delekta's in Warren, R.I.

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Warren, the smallest town in the smallest county in the smallest state, offers big time travel fun.

Located between Providence and Newport, Warren shares very little in common with those two popular Rhode Island destinations. Unglamorous, short on square miles and more a working-class town than a world-class travel spot, Warren might take some getting used to as a travel destination but wonderful coastal memories can easily be made in the process of discovering this hidden gem. Bordering upscale Barrington and the classic, leafy New England seaside town of Bristol, Warren has remained more unassuming and varied in appearance -- sometimes with elements of blue collar urban neighborhoods and other times exhibiting the best scenes of coastal Rhode Island.

Warren -- once well-known as whaling port and as a shipbuilding center beginning in the 18th century --  surprisingly offers many criteria sought after when planning a coastal New England day trip. There’s great seafood, a beach, a growing restaurant scene, a wonderful bike trail, theater and and a walkable, historic downtown with boutiques, galleries, a one-of-a-kind gift shop and many appealing “mom and pop” stores. It is especially heartwarming to travel the narrow Main St., that retains a charming, historic traditional New England look rather than the wide single and multi-lane roads -- or being split in the middle by a major route -- that have increasingly impeded the authenticity of so many towns and cities in the northeast. Yes, the traffic can become more congested on a single lane road, but it's not all that bad in Warren and the retro layout lends itself to having a close-knit community vibe.

Downtown Warren, Rhode Island
Downtown Warren, R.I.

“This is a perfect example of a small town,” said Tim White, a Bristol native now living in Boston -- and whose mom once owned a flower shop in Warren. “You get that small-town Americana feel here, but you also have theater, and so many great restaurants. That Americana feel, there’s not enough of it here (in our country) so it’s nice to see that Warren still has it. I really enjoy coming back here.”

The 8.6 sq. mile town with a population of a little over 10,000 people as part of Bristol County (with a population of only 50,000) includes a scenic location on the Warren River. One of the biggest draws of visiting Warren is the East Bay Bike Path, which spans nearly 14 miles from Providence to Bristol. It’s one of southern New England’s most beautiful bike and walk ways with some stunning water views, especially in Bristol. Warren offers a great advantage to East Bay Bike Path visitors around the downtown district, as many make a stop here to discover some unique shops and restaurants.

East Bay Bike Trail in Warren, R.I.
East Bay Bike Trail in Warren, R.I.

East Bay Bike Trail in Bristol. R.I.
Waterfront views at the East Bay Bike Trail, just over the border in Bristol, R.I.

Delekta’s, at 496 Main St., serves as the cornerstone of Warren businesses, dating back to 1858 as a pharmacy with a soda fountain. The pharmacy side closed in late April, but the delightful old-fashioned soda fountain remains serving its famous “coffee cabinet” (in Rhode Island, cabinet is the word for “milkshake,” or for “frappe” in New England with varying ingredient interpretations) and other delicious flavors that keep it simple with syrup, ice cream and milk. The coffee syrup recipe is secret, according to Bob Daignault who worked at the pharmacy as a youngster and then went onto a career in the medical field before returning to work at Delekta’s in his retirement. The store has only seen three owners in its history and still features original woodwork, tin ceilings, tiny vintage booths, and tile flooring, as well as collectibles, old-fashioned candy and basic drug store items. The stone bar is an update, but the feeling is truly nostalgic and priceless -- a must visit as few soda fountains remain in New England.

Delekta's in Warren, R.I.
Old-fashioned Delekta's in Warren.

The inside of old-fashioned Delekta's in Warren, R.I.
A return to yesteryear: the inside of Delekta's in Warren.

Mixing some 21st century business ingredients into its signature drink, Delekta’s recently ran a social media promotion and, according to Daignault, sold 225 cabinets in a day.

Daignault, a lifelong Warren resident, said that while the Warren of yesteryear had many more local stores and services, the pride of a small town template still remains.

“Growing up here, you could get anything you needed in town,” said Daignault. “We had five pharmacies within a block! There was also Woolworth’s and Newberry’s (both five and dime stores), two grocery stores, everything. You don’t see that anymore, but you still have that local feel... I am proud of Warren.”

Historical preservation helps keep the older look of Warren prominent with a visually appealing variety of housing in 19th century revival and Victorian styles within the central district. At the center of town is the beautiful Warren Town Hall, at 514 Main St. -- built in the 1890s and featuring an Italian Renaissance tower on a Federal hip-roofed structure, with Italianate compound windows.

The food scene in tiny Warren is quite impressive. For seafood lovers, the year-round Blount Market and Kitchen at 406 Water St., has a fabulous seafood market, as well as a cozy small dining area serving delicious half pound lobster rolls, New England clam chowder to die for, full bellied clams, lobster and, overall, a great variety of seafood and shellfish arriving fresh daily—some from its own local lobster and scallop boats. The Blount family helped pioneer the oyster industry locally going back to the early part of the 20th century, but the 1938 New England Hurricane wiped out the thriving business. Blount’s recovered, however, transitioning the business to clams and thriving to this very day with further expansion to a state-of-the-art soup facility in Fall River, Massachusetts. Many restaurants nationwide serve Blount’s soups under brand names.

Lobster roll, New england clam chowder and clam cake from Blount Market and Kitchen in Warren, R.I.
New England clam chowder, Rhode Island clam cake and lobster rolll with tail from Blount Market and Kitchen in Warren.

Blount fish market and kitchen inW arren, R.I.
Unassuming from the outside, delicious on the inside: Blount Market and Kitchen in Warren.

Down the road at 335 Water St., the seasonal Blount Clam Shack has the same menu as the Kitchen, but with water views and, often, lines forming to soon enjoy the summer breeze and fresh seafood.

More than 15 restaurants reside in the central district, including waterfront dining at the Wharf Tavern (215 Water St.), traditional American food at the Square Peg (51 Miller St.) and the Revival Craft Kitchen and Bar (50 Miller St.) with contemporary American cuisine, tapas and specialty drinks.

Wharf Taverm in Warren, R.I.
Waterfront dining at the Wharf Tavern in Warren.

Revivial and Square Peg restaurants in Warren, R.I.
Mini restaurant row in Warren. R.I.: Square Peg and Revival.

For lovers of shopping, Imagine Gift Store, at 5 Miller St., in the downtown district, calls itself the largest gift store in New England, and that could very well be the case. Located in the former Lyric Theater building, the colorfully-painted storefront features three floors of merchandise including home decor, gourmet food, fashion accessories, bath and body items, clothing and apparel, stationery, jewelry, unique gifts, a 1950s-style ice cream parlor and a candy shop with more than 500 candy choices. Imagine Gift Store is also part of the CowParade movement where more than 10,000 artists worldwide have participated by creating art work with cow themes. Imagine Gift Store features four full-sized cows on display both inside and outside the store, as well as miniature cows which can be purchased within the store.

Imagine Gift Store in Warren, R.I.
Imagine Gift Store in Warren is housed in the former Lyric Theater.

Some other noteworthy businesses downtown include in Your Ear Records, at 462 Main St., for new and used CD and records; Luca, at 193 Water St., a “designer children’s & maternity consignment boutique”;  Sea Dog Adirondack, at 92 Water St., selling hand- crafted Adirondack chairs made by owner Glenn Turgeon; Made in Warren, at 476 Main St. showcasing a cooperative of artists’ and artisans’ works
in a retail storefront; and Flashback Vintage Emporium, at 450 Main St., merchandising vintage pop culture collectibles, records, clothes, and toys. 2nd Story Theatre, at 28 Market St., utilizes local talent to offer affordably-priced plays at its theatre.

The free Warren Town Beach at 533-539 Water St. offers a modest stretch of sand, shallow water for swimming (and virtually no waves), playground equipment and nice, grassy, shaded areas for walking or enjoying a picnic.

Warren Town Beach in Warren, R.I.
Warren Town Beach in Warren.

Some nice shade extends beyond the Warren Town Beach in Warren, R.I.
Nice, shaded area just beyond the Warren Town Beach.

At the end of the travel day in Warren, it is quite apparent that this friendly little town offers more than initially meets the eye. Given that Warren is less busy than Providence, Bristol and Newport, the chance to see the town and make your own discoveries can easily be achieved by getting out of the car and enjoying the quaint narrow streets, bike path access points, and waterfront all within walking distance.

“It’s such a wonderful town,” said Carole Ferias, a manager at Blount Market and Kitchen. “So cute, so quaint. It’s really a great community.”

Stay at the Bristol Harbor Inn near Warren, Rhode Island

To find out more about Warren, log the Discover Warren web site at http://discoverwarren.com/.

Interested in having your Warren, R.I., business featured on this page for a low, one-time fee? Contact Eric for more information

Quaint downtown Warren, R.I.
Quaint, historic downtown Warren.

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