Remember back in the 1990s, when we asked: “What’s the 411?” (Kids: it traces back to landlines. Wikipedia it.) Well, Rhody, I got the 401, if you will. Best Times will offer up the best of the best of what’s going on this week in the Ocean State each week.
As this is the first column, let me explain. Best Times won’t simply be an automated list of everything going on in the state. That would be insane, a pain for you to sort through, and of hugely varying degrees of fun. No, friends, Best Times is a heady curation, the cream of the week’s crop — the Awful Awful of happenings — from live music to family fun.
Events below range from now to Dec. 10 — to paraphrase those Disney+ stars, The Beatles: 8 days a week of Rhody fun. You can find more things to do in Rhode Island this month right here.
“HAMILTON” IN PROVIDENCE
I am not throwing away my shot… to see “Hamilton” at PPAC. Luckily, I have quite a few shots. Shows run now through Dec. 12, and check out this interview with Pierre Jean Gonzalez, the actor in the title role, before you go. See the full schedule and details here. Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets from $69. 401-421-2787.
“DOWNTON ABBEY” HOLIDAY VIBES
Perhaps only Rhode Islanders could rewatch “Downton Abbey” on Netflix and think: “Eh. We’ve seen Newport.” See the real deal as The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House are decked to the nines (scratch that, the tens) for the holidays. Open daily through Jan. 9. Full schedule here. Tickets start at $20 per adult. Price details here.
If you feel more comfortable at home, you can take a virtual visit. While they won’t be decorated, you can still get your Crawley on.
Ditto on the #DowntonVibes at Bristol’s Blithewold, a grand ol’ summer estate sitting on 33 acres by Narragansett Bay. Experience “Night Lights” now through Jan. 9: Festively lit paths throughout the grounds, gardens and arboretum. (Here’s a look at last year’s event.) Plus hot cider, hot chocolate, hot coffee — and hot drinks with a kick. Mansion closed during program. 5-7 p.m. Non-member adults: $10; kids: $5. Details here.
THE ZOO IS LIT
Literally. Rogers Williams Park Zoo is celebrating the season with their Holiday Lights Spectacular. Now through Jan. 2, the walk-through experience features 40 acres of light displays, with some 3 million lights, according to their web site. 5-9:30 p.m. Tickets are timed-entry and available for purchase online only. Non-member adult $12; kids 2-12, $10. 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence. 401- 785-3510. Details here.
SKATE BY THE SEA
Ice skating on an island? By the ocean? With hot chocolate? Yes, yes, and yes, please. Gurney’s Newport, a luxe resort on Goat Island, is open to the public for ice skating — and you will want to Instagram all of it. #WinterVibes Adults $12, kids 12-and-under: $7, 65+, $7. Skates are available to rent, $10. 1 Goat Island, Newport. 401-849-2600. Details here.
FOUR CORNERS FESTIVITIES
Tiverton Four Corners Art Center kicks off its 8th Annual “re-Tree Outdoor Exhibition,” a festive showcase of trees created with recycled materials on Dec. 3 — the same evening as their annual Holiday Bright Night, 4-7 p.m.
Bright Night looks to be a spirited stroll through the historic corner’s quaint shops and galleries, while re-Trees gives you a chance to play judge: Artist-submitted trees, all made of recycled materials, will be scattered throughout the Four Corners campus. Popular vote winner announced Dec. 17. 3852 Main Road. Details here.
HIS NOSE SO BRIGHT
It’s not actually December until you see the claymation “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on TV. Fact. On Dec. 4, Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and the whole misfit gang arrive in Providence for “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” at The Vets. (“Why I am I such a misfit?” Good question, Hermey. Good question.) Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets from $28. 1 Avenue Of The Arts. Details here.
SANTA IN NEWPORT
You might plan for holiday shopping in Newport Dec. 4 to catch the 51st annual Wharf Tree Lighting at Bowens Wharf. The fun kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with local musicians taking stage and leading in carols, according to their website, and the “enormous tree” is lit at 6 p.m. Weather permitting, Santa and the Missus will arrive by boat. #BecauseOceanState. Free. 401-849-2243. Details here.
I’m not going to insult your Rhode Island-ness by describing all the details of a holiday Waterfire. Be there Dec. 4, friends. Music starts at 3:30 p.m.; basin-lighting at 4:15 p.m. Santa will be arriving by boat — the old guy’s apparently quite the sailor — at Santa’s Village to hear your wishes at 5:15 p.m. Note: families score $2 off skating at the Providence Rink with coupons at the BankNewport City Center. Details here.
HOLIDAY WALKING TOURS
Stroll Ye Old Newport by lantern light, and hear tales of Christmas yore with a Newport Historical Society Holiday Lantern Tour. (Dec 4, 10, 11. $20 per adult; $15 for members, kids 5-12, $8.) Note that they also give many themed tours throughout the year — and if you haven’t been on one since your field-trip days, you might find they’re much more eye-opening now.
Fans of NBC’s “The Voice” might want to catch two-time Grammy nominee Billy Gilman. The Westerly native returns Home for the Holidays with a show at The Vets Dec. 5. Gilman burst onto music scene at age 11 in 2000 with his hit single “One Voice.” (Fun fact: he made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest singer to ever reach No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album charts.) The Rhode Islander has since sold 10 million albums worldwide, and was featured on Season 11 of “The Voice” coached by Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Doors 6 p.m., show 7 p.m. Tickets from $40.
HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER
A Newport Folk Fest favorite, Hiss Golden Messenger always delivers. With a new holiday album, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” out now, the Dec. 6 show at Fete Musical Hall might offer #SeasonalVibes. $23 advance, $25 door. 103 Dike St., Providence. 401-383-1112.
OK. You’ve never heard classical instruments played like this. For the uninitiated, viola player Wilner Baptiste (aka Will B) and violinist Kevin Sylvester (aka Kev Marcus) are Black Violin: a duo from Florida who known for their unique merging of classical and hiphop. The Grammy nominees defy genre: They’ve opened for Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Petty, performed with Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, gigged for Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Ball. YouTube “A Flat.” It’s earned nearly 13 million views since 2012, and shows, in a nutshell, their vibe. I also love their more recent “Show Off” and their newly-posted “Joy to the World.” (Dare you not to smile.) Dec. 9, 7 p.m. at the Vets. Tickets from $29. Details here.
Until next week, neighbor: Keep that Rhody fun rolling.