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On-shore Accessibility at WaterFire Providence

Passengers aboard the WaterFire Access Boat, Sandra Jane, with volunteer Captain Ken Panciera and first mate Sabrina Rocha.

WaterFire takes place along the walkways bordering the three Providence rivers. These walkways have been designed and built to be accessible (ADA-compliant). Although most of the walkways are accessible, accessibility can be difficult in crowded situations or in the dark. During a typical WaterFire lighting, the walking crowds assembled from sunset through about 10:00 p.m. can themselves be a considerable obstacle for persons with limited mobility or vision. These crowds also present potential problems to persons with dogs, strollers, or small children. After 10:00 p.m. the crowds thin out and the walkways become much easier to navigate.

Wheelchairs can traverse along most of the walkways, but the occasional cobblestone surface can cause difficulties. There are some sections of the riverwalk where access by wheelchair is provided from only one direction, requiring the visitor to circle back to the access ramp where they entered. In general, it is a good idea to come early to get a spot before the event gets too crowded, about 40 minutes before sunset.

There are several prime overlook viewing locations that we recommend that can be accessed by wheelchair.  The numbers refer to the map that can be found here and the sites are numbered from Providence Place downstream to the Crawford Street Bridge: 

1 – Providence Place Mall:  Great, but distant views of WaterFire are available from the Galleria windows on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the Mall.  There are also accessible bathrooms on each floor.  Accessible parking is available on every floor of the Mall Parking Garage.

2 – Waterplace Basin:  The two overlooks to see the full Basin and the city skyline are accessible from Finance Way (there are 4 accessible parking spots one block away at the Train Station and adjacent to Waterplace Park on Finance Way).

3 – Skyline:  When open, Skyline’s elevators will take you down to the river path at the Basin, near the Waterplace Stage.

4 – Memorial Blvd at Capital Grill:  The park entrance by Capital Grille off Memorial Blvd has a winding accessible path down to an overlook close to the water.  The final ramp brings you to the circular path around the Basin, but half of its length is cobblestone. 

5 – River Social Walkway:  There are two overlooks at Waterplace Towers off Exchange Street, one looking down on Waterplace and one looking down on River Cafe.  There is a public elevator just south of Jacky’s that will take you down to the river level to River Social, but some of the walkway is paved in cobblestone. 

6 – RISD and Market Square between Washington and College Street:  the upper path is easily accessible and all paved with smooth brick. At the north end (only) nearest to Washington Street is an access ramp down to river level that is also mostly smooth brick. This area can be crowded. (There are accessible parking spots on North Main St.)

7 – Memorial Park Main Path: The wide brick path from College Street to the Crawford St Bridge is entirely accessible and wide enough for easy passage at all times with several great vantage points to overlook the river. The lower river level is accessible only from the College Street side, but the walkway at the lower level is cobblestone.  (There are accessible parking spots on North Main St.)

8 – Memorial Blvd River Overlook:  At the corner of Memorial Blvd and the Crawford St Bridge is a handicap viewing area reserved for chair access with a great view of the river.  This is the only place on Memorial Blvd with a wide enough sidewalk for maneuverability.  Parts of this sidewalk are paved in decorative cobblestone. (There are accessible parking spots on North Main St. and on the east side of Memorial Blvd, south of the Crawford St. Bridge.)

Accessible Restroom Facilities are located at the Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium (9) facing the river across the street from the RISD Museum of Art, near the College Street Bridge as well as at Providence Place Mall (1) and the Amtrak Train Station (10).  WaterFire has also placed accessible temporary porta-johns throughout the park.  For more accessibility options check out the WaterFire Access Boat program at the WaterFire Access Dock (11).