Have you been tossing around the idea of moving to Rhode Island, but you’re not quite ready to make it Facebook official? Well, you're in the right place. We’ve gone ahead and put together this real sweet guide to some of the biggest factors worth considering before you move.
It’s packed with history (the fun kind), facts, trivia, pros/cons and even some weirdness for good measure. And in the end, you should have a good, clear picture of your next steps. Let’s get started.
An Intro to Rhode Island
To start, we’ve got a bit of bad news: Rhode Island isn’t actually an island. Sorry to burst your bubble—it almost feels like the day we found out Pluto wasn’t a planet. It is, however, flanked by the Atlantic ocean on two sides.
It’s been called many other names too. The state’s official nickname is The Ocean State, which references the state’s many bays and inlets. But our favorite is probably Little Rhody, given to the state based on its itty-bitty size—how cute is that?
But seriously, Rhode Island is really small— it's only 48 miles long and 37 miles wide. But that doesn't stop people from moving here, though, including the 2,073 who did so in 2017 alone, according to worldpopulationreview.com. They're really packed in like sardines, too; this 1,545 square mile state comes in second to just New Jersey in terms of population density. And with 179,000 people, Providence is the only city with a population of more than 100,000. So the population is pretty spread out, or as spread out as you can be in such a small area.
Still, size isn't everything. Unless we’re talking about candy bars, of course. And this little state has plenty to offer. So let’s talk about the job scene first.
There are currently 1,061,712 Rhode Islanders in the state, according to worldpopulationreview.com. And in such a small area, that population is really packed in tight. So what does that mean for jobs?
According to sources, some of the current fastest-growing jobs include: welder, software developer, business analyst, information technology manager, marketer and machinist. And they go on to say the highest-paying jobs currently include: anesthesiologist, psychiatrist, CEO, surgeon, dentist, compensation/benefits manager and judge. You have a pretty nice little variety of careers there, on both lists. And say, the medical world looks like it’s really booming.
Despite the many opportunities, and a minimum wage higher (at $10.10/hour) than the federal minimum, Rhode Island still has an unemployment rate of 4.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though the Bureau’s statistics show a dramatic shift for the better in recent years.
One of the hardest parts of moving to a new state is finding the right place to live. Luckily, there seem to be a lot of good options on the table for you in Rhode Island. Let’s take a closer look.
When it comes to homes, zillow.com states that the median value is around $276,000, up a whopping 9.2% from the previous year—great for sellers, that’s for sure. And the median list price for homes on the market currently is $309,000. But if you’d just prefer to rent a home, the median rental price of a house is around $2,000/month.
What about apartments, you ask? Well, rentcafe.com lists the average one-bedroom in the state's capital of Providence at $1,585/month. But prices are quite a bit better for one-beds throughout Newport, Pawtucket and Warwick, ranging between about $1,089/month and $1,145/month. So depending on your budget, and your ability to choose the city that works best for you, you do have some nice options.
And even more good news, there is literally TONS of new construction across the entire tiny state. We took a look at a map on zillow.com that pinpoints where all the new construction is happening, and there were so many red dots all over it, we thought it had chicken pox. Though the action was primarily all around Providence, with quite a bit more in Newport, Warwick and Hope Valley.
Yep, there’s something for everyone.
Culture and Natives
You'll find no shortage of grown-ups in Rhode Island. According to worldpopulationreview.com, the median age for men in the state is 38.1, and 41.5 for women. As far as smarts go, the largest percentage of the population graduated from high school (27.69%), with the second-highest percentage going to holders of a bachelor's degree (19.36%).
When it comes to how the state operates, instead of working as a collective of counties, Rhode Island is actually split into 39 municipalities.
Religiously speaking, Little Rhody is home to the highest percentage of Catholics in the nation. It’s also where the first Baptist church in America, named First Baptist Church, began—right in Providence. AND, Newport is home to the oldest synagogue, not just in America, but in North America—Touro Synagogue.
Now, according to residents (and some former residents) on city-data.com and quora.com, locals are quite private. One resident advised those new to the state not to try to say "hello" to strangers on the street. Apparently if you do, people will look at you like you're crazy.
A few other words/phrases used to describe the locals were "stodgy," "traditionalist," "conservative in behavior, but liberal when voting," "down to earth",,"friendly but reserved",,"sedentary," "practical," "judgy" and "simple," which sounds like people anywhere you go, to be perfectly honest. And just to point it out, once again, these words came from other Rhode Islanders, not us.
Little Rhody Trivia
The people of Rhode Island people and their accents have been called a “cross between The Sopranos and Family Guy." A large percentage of the population pronounces their ‘r’s like ‘ahs’, similar to Massachusetts. As one local said (jokingly, of course) said the state is known for its "mahbstahs and lahbstahs." If you’re having trouble with the small talk when you get there, there's actually a Rosetta Stone program to help you decipher Islander-speak. Our copy is on the way.
Rhode Islanders drink something called "coffee milk,"which is milk with coffee syrup in it. Supposedly, it tastes like a melted-down coffee milkshake. But the most unique staple of the Islander diet is clams. Considered the fruit of the sea, you can fry em’, barbecue ‘em and broil ‘em. But the absolute must-trys are clam chowdah and clam cakes (a ball of fried batter dipped in tartar sauce). And those who harvest these delicacies are called quahoggers.
Now, just so you know, Rhode Island celebrities aren’t limited to Family Guy’s Griffin family. Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft was a Rhode Islander, and had such pride in his hometown that "I AM PROVIDENCE" was inscribed on his headstone. A fair number of famous actors and actresses were born and/or moved here at an early age, too.
This includes Viola Davis, James Woods (who’s even done a little work on Family Guy, himself), Debra Messing, Harry Anderson and Ruth Hussey. The state also gave us famous journalist Meredith Viera, football player Will Blackmon and playwright/producer George M. Cohan, to name a few others. Maybe someday we’ll be adding YOUR name to this list.
Can't-Miss Rhode Island Fun + Activities
Whether you're a huge clam lover or just a total classic horror nut, Rhode Island has loads of goodies in store for you.
Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Mr. Potato Head Statues: Reports vary on whether there were originally 37 or 47 of these six-foot tall statues of the childhood toy icon, but now only a handful remain. It began in 2000 as an art project between local artists and organizations before turning into a massive scavenger hunt ripe with photo opps for both locals and visitors. Unfortunately, weather and vandalism have led to a dramatic decrease in the number still standing.
- WaterFire Arts Festival: This annual festival features fire sculpture installations on three different rivers in downtown Providence. Widely known as the town's signature event, there’ are around 100 bonfires to warm up by with music and performances to enjoy, all along the water. The event runs from May to November, typically twice each month.
- Bellevue Avenue Historic District: This well-known district in Newport showcases some pretty fancy mansions dating back to the Gilded Age of the late-19th century. You’ll can see a fair number of homes built by some of the most elite of the elite, the Vanderbilts and Astors. The Bellevue District is now also home to some ultra-swanky high-end shops and museums, including the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the Newport Tower.
- Green Animals Topiary Garden: Though you may only think of Stanley Kubrick's classic horror film, The Shining, when you think of topiary gardens, the oldest example actually lives in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. There are 60 different topiary trees shaped as a wide variety of animals, including elephants, giraffes and even unicorns.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Ocean State
Now we’ve been throwing a lot of fun info and history around, and, honestly, we could do it all day. But wouldn’t you rather hear the unfiltered words of real-life Rhode Islanders yourself? Here are a few ups and downs of life in the tiniest state in America.
Pros (as voted on by Islanders themselves):
- The best airport: T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, RI has been named "one of the most convenient airports in the country" by Money Magazine—it landed “safely” at number six on the list. Plus, being right on the sea, getting in and out of Rhode Island is a total breeze.
- Shorter road trips: At only 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, the idea of a Rhode Island "road trip" is pretty funny. Without traffic delays, you can reach any destination in the state in under an hour. There's even a joke in Rhode Island where any trip longer than 20 minutes is called a "road trip."
- Smart and creative people: The capital city of Providence is home to, not just one, but two famous institutions for higher-ed, Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Brown is an incredible Ivy League school, and competition to get into RISD is super-fierce. So spend enough time wandering around Little Rhody and you're bound to bump into someone who's wicked smart and/or super-creative.
- Water, water, everywhere: Living so close to so much water is not a gift wasted on Rhode Islanders. They spend a boatload of time out at the beach, sailing, fishing, waterskiing and any other water-based activity you can think of. So if you're a beach bum by birth, this just might be the place for you.
Cons (as also voted on by Islanders themselves):
- Small state, big taxes: Rhode Island has some of the highest property taxes in the entire country. State and local taxes are 25.77% higher than the national average, according to movoto.com. The price of food is also noted to be nearly double what people pay in other parts of the country. Rhode Island as a whole came in at number nine on CNBC's list of "The Most Expensive States to Live in for 2018."
- Nor'easters: Winters here are no joke. In March 2018, a single storm dumped 23.6 inches of snow, according to providencejournal.com. While Rhode Islanders like to joke that they are tough and laugh in the face of such storms, the shoveling has gotta be bad on your lower back, right?
- High population density: Rhode Island has the second-highest population density in the nation, right behind New Jersey. This small, 1,545 square miles of land can get a bit crowded at times. Locals point out that there’s traffic pretty much everywhere you and you'll always find quite a crowd waiting for you when you get there late.
- The drivers: During our research, this one came up time and time again. Rhode Island drivers have been named the worst in the nation, by many different sources. Whether it’s the volume of traffic, the obstacle course of potholes, or just people feeling a bit claustrophobic and on-edge, who’s to say.
You’ve made it this far, so we want to reward your efforts with a bit of fun. We’ve put together a list of some of the strangest and wackiest Rhode Island laws still in existence. You’re welcome.
Here are a few from onlyinyourstate.com:
- You can't throw pickle juice on a trolley. We’d love to know more of the backstory on this one, but alas, we found nothing. We just can’t figure out why anybody would waste perfectly good pickle juice in the first place.
- You can't intentionally bite off someone's limb. We couldn’t find any info on “accidentally” doing so. Best just to play it safe and not.
- You can't ride a horse on a highway to test its speed. Yep, you’re just gonna have to take that bad boy (or filly) for a test drive on your own property first.
- You can't coast downhill in neutral. Sure it saves gas, but it’s not like your drive was all that long, anyway.
- No dueling. This means no challenging to, AND no accepting of. a duel. This one sounds a bit outdated, but hey, it’s still probably a good idea, right?
Rhode Island bound!
So there you have it, a nice, big taste of the goods Rhode Island has to offer. And while we'd love to be able to tackle absolutely all of your questions and concerns, there's just not enough coffee milk around to give us the fuel we'd need. But we do hope to have set you on the right path.
Now it's all on you to decide if the state’s adorable size, historic charm, proximity to water and love for clams is right for you. Godspeed.
NOTE: if you decide Rhode Island isn't right for you, we've got a whole series of these guides to help you find the perfect spot. Ever thought about Wisconsin?