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A.M. Start your day with brunch at the gayest eatery in town, the newly reopened DownCity restaurant (50 Weybosset St.; 401-331-9217), which serves up treats like Portuguese sweetbread French toast amid the funky splendor of chandeliers, orange walls, and groovy tunes.
Then get down to shopping at the 1828 Greek Revival Arcade (65 Weybosset St.; 401-598-1199). Inside, student chefs from Johnson & Wales University?s culinary arts program whip up concoctions like cr?me de menthe chocolate cake at Johansson?s Bakery Caf? (401-598-2253).
On the far side of the Arcade is Westminster Street, the fashionable center of the downtown?s revival. OOP! (220 Westminster St.; 401-270-4366) sells startlingly funky products like stick furniture, wall masks, ceramics, lampshades, and mirrors, many handmade by local artisans.
Across the street, Homestyle (229 Westminster St.; 401-277-1159) is a gallerylike store with mid-century sofas, Impressionist paintings, and vintage Asian trunks. Then have a leisurely lunch of flatiron steak sandwiches or black angus burgers at WaterPlace Restaurant and Lounge (1 Finance Way; 401-272-1040), an upscale indoor/outdoor eatery with a veranda view over the city?s downtown Riverwalk. The pedestrian Riverwalk is the site of the celebrated summertime WaterFire fest (401-272-3111), where bonfires burn in the middle of the Providence River?s canals as music, boat rides, and events occur all around.
From May through October (weather permitting), charter your own private gondola (401-421-8877), complete with Venetian-costumed gondolier.
P.M. Foodies adore Providence?s Little Italy on Federal Hill, west of downtown. The Food Network?s Mario Batali has called it one of America?s five best Little Italys. Gay-popular Mediterraneo Caff? (134 Atwells Ave.; 401-331-7760) serves authentic Italian multicourse meals in a local but upscale atmosphere that attracts celebs like Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin. After dinner, the place transforms into a nightclub. Or you can head back downtown to explore the gay bars, many of which are within walking distance of one another.
The Dark Lady (124 Snow St.; 401-831-4297) is a crowded chandelier-lit space known for its drag shows -- and you might find the mayor holding court there.
A.M. The closest thing Providence has to a gayborhood is artsy Wickenden Street, located in the southern part of the city near the Providence River and brimming with antique shops and a leafy old New England vibe.
For more local flavor, grab a slice of excellent thin-crust pizza at lesbian-owned Fellini?s Pizzeria (166 Wickenden St.; 401-751-6737); its menu has pizzas with names like Go Ask Alice and Satyricon. Down the street, spend time unearthing treasures in the upscale, gay-owned Curatorium (197 Wickenden St.; 401-453-4080), which sells everything from actual framed bats to costume jewelry and elegant vases.
Make your way up Wickenden as it climbs past galleries and tattoo parlors to the hilltop Reflections Caf? (468 Wickenden St., 401-273-7278), a gay-owned, somewhat cruisy coffeehouse with sidewalk seating where it?s easy to while away an afternoon over board games, home-baked goods, and wraps named after Greek gods.
Further south (but worth the trek) is the massive Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts Museum (315 Harborside Blvd.; 401-598-2805). Anyone who likes eating will appreciate this 25,000-square-foot space filled with bizarre old-fashioned cooking implements, menus from White House dinners, and full-scale replicas of antique dining cars.
P.M. Now that you are properly appetized, head east to the Jewelry District and the hidden CAV Restaurant (call for directions; 401-751-9164), which is housed in a funky historic loft space filled with African and Asian artifacts, all of which are for sale. On the menu: health-conscious fare like carrot ginger soup and Block Island striped sea bass.
For nighttime entertainment, grab a sofa at the Cable Car Cinema (204 S. Main St.; 401-272-3970) for art-house flicks and free popcorn refills, or head to the naughty area of Allens Avenue for the tasteful Montreal-style male strip joint Trixx (257 Allens Ave.; 401-432-7780). Not far is the multi-room Club Gallery (150 Point St.; 401-751-7166), a favorite of gay men every night except Saturday, when it becomes Girlspot, one of New England?s biggest lesbian parties.
"Hundreds of people come from all over the place -- even from New York City -- for the ProviDance parties by Chris Harris Presents (401-831-3526), which have different themes like white party, Madonna madness, and the military ball. They happen on Sunday nights on most holiday weekends.?
--Alexis M. Gorriar?n, Providence, R.I.
Part One | Part Two