A few weeks ago, some of the staff of Netroots Nation headed out to Providence for a scouting trip. Having not all that much experience in Providence, what we found was a great group of smart, engaged people, in a great town, excited to host 2,500 progressives next June 7-10, 2012. Have you registered for Netroots Nation yet? There are still early-bird $195 registrations available! (this rate expires August 19... and the price only goes up from there)
I landed at TF Green Airport and caught a $2 bus that drops off at Kennedy Plaza, at most 2 blocks from both NN12 hotels and the Rhode Island Convention Center. From there we toured the Rhode Island Convention Center, where all the NN12 events will take place. The venue is the perfect size for us, just enough room for everything, but no extra space to get lost in. We'll be taking up the entire building. The hotels for NN12 the Westin and the Biltmore. The Westin is a sleek, modern hotel that's directly attached to the convention center while the stately Biltmore is a historic hotel, opened in 1922, sits on Kennedy Plaza.
And what great things there are to do in Providence! On some summer nights, the city puts on Waterfire (pictured right). What started as an art installation, now comes to life many nights throughout the summer (and year) and is the most iconic representation of Providence's creative class. Cauldrons in the river burn while crowds gather for a great time around the waterfront area. Music is playing and folks are eating and drinking as people stroll the paths of Waterplace Park.
Providence is also home to delicious food and dining. Providence boasts more degreed chefs per capita than any other city in the United States. There is also the great Italian dining at any number of many restaurants in the 'Little Italy' neighborhood of Federal Hill (pictured left).
And that's really just the start of it, perhaps Rhode Island's greatest asset is it's wonderful people and great activist tradition. We had a chance to visit with folks who run a couple of the state's best blogs, RI Future and Greater City: Providence. At the same time, just chatting and getting to know us were several progressives from Rhode Island's State Senate and State Legislature. We also got a chance to catch up with friends at Ocean State Action, a great action and communications hub for lefties in Rhode Island.
There's also amazing culture in Providence. Around the corner from where we'll be, is AS220. It's a little difficult to explain what it is, but it's a great example of why Providence is such a funky, cool town that is so supportive of the arts. AS220's mission is:
AS220 is a non-profit community arts space in downtown Providence. Our mission is to provide an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts. If you live in the state of Rhode Island, you will get an opportunity to exhibit or perform at AS220.
But it's so much more than that. They've taken over several buildings downtown, renovated them and opened them up for artist live/work spaces as well as for amazing restaurants and shops to go in. Just another example of the great stuff going on in Providence.
And it's not just Providence that has great things to do in Rhode Island! I'm told one of the great things about Rhode Island is that you're never more than 15 minutes from anywhere else in the state. And while that might be a slight exaggeration, it's only slight! It's easy to tack on a few days to your trip to Netroots Nation and make a summer vacation of it. Head down to the beach for a clam bake in Narragansett or go sailing off Newport. Check out the near-major league talent at the Pawtucket Red Sox. If that's not far enough removed for you, head out to Block Island.
And Rhode Island is a place where progressives can make their mark. It's a state where the difference between "Democrat" and "Progressive" come into stark view. The advantages for "Democrats" in both houses are profound: State Legislature is 65-10 (D-R) and the State Senate is 29-8-1 (D-R-I), but every progressive gain must still be fought for. It's work our friends have been doing in Rhode Island for a long time and work Netroots Nation hopes to contribute to and shine a light on!