Cumberland, tucked into Rhode Island’s northeast corner, once was the home of an ironworks that made cannon balls for the patriots during the American Revolution. Today it lends its name to a chain of convenience stores, Cumberland Farms, which finds its roots in a local dairy farm purchased by a pair of Greek immigrants around 1939. Cumberland is home to Oscar-nominated actor Richard Jenkins and the ancestral home of moviemaking brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly. This summer, visitors will flock here for the annual family-friendly Cumberland Fest in August and the popular Summer Solstice Festival of entertainment and music in June, both at Diamond Hill Park. But this time of year visitors still venture to this hilly community with a rural touch, home to country stores, hiking venues, and a vineyard, along with many restaurants and places to shop.
Cumberland has no lodging but nearby are All Seasons Inn and Suites (355 George Washington Highway, Smithfield, R.I., 401-232-2400, www.allseasoninn.com, rates from $95), which runs specials geared to local college sports and graduation schedules, and Courtyard by Marriott (636 George Washington Highway, Lincoln, R.I., 401-333-3400, www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pvdln-courtyard-providence-lincoln, rates from $135), with free Wi-Fi, mini fridge, microwave, and whirlpools in some suites.
Grab breakfast or lunch here and you’ll know why it’s named Everybody’s Favorite Family Restaurant (1370 Mendon Road, 401-333-5035, www.facebook.com/pages/everybodys-favorite-family-restaurant/561395617270006, from $2.95). This classic local eatery, across the street from the picturesque St. Joseph’s Church, serves tasty down-home comfort favorites like bacon and eggs, sandwiches, hot dogs and beans, and hearty soups. Here you’ll hear customers hashing over local happenings, sometimes with a hint of an accent as Woonsocket, with its strong French-Canadian heritage, is only five miles away. In a small strip mall is Andrew’s Bistro (3755 Mendon Road, 401-658-1515, www.andrewsbistro.com, entrees from $16), a higher-end establishment serving wines from around the world and bistro fare that includes clam pizza, various pastas, seafood, beef, poultry, and veal. Locals rave about Fortune House (1800 Mendon Road, 401-333-9976, www.fortunehouseri.com, dinners from $8.50), serving Szechuan, Mandarin, Cantonese, and other styles of Chinese food, inclucing clay-pot casserole dishes, Peking duck, crispy walnut shrimp, and all manner of chop suey and chow mein. Get your pizza fix at a local fave, Cumberland House of Pizza (2360 Mendon Road, 401-658-2626, www.chopsri.com, from $6.75). Since 1973 the Lambrou family has been making orders here from scratch, including calzones, grinders, Friday seafood specials, soups, and salads. Want something sweet? Check out Zaccagnini’s Pastry Shoppe (2339 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-2699, www.zaccspastry.com), a staple since 1947, making pastries from cinnamon-raisin rolls to apple-filled strudel to a variety of pies and cakes, and Rhode Island-style pizza strips, with thick crust and a range of toppings.
DURING THE DAY
One of the most popular spots to hike in town is Diamond Hill Park (4097 Diamond Hill Road, 401-334-9996, www.cumberlandri.org/parksandrec.htm, free), a former ski area now owned by the town, with hilly terrain and popular with rock hounds for its abundant white quartz. History buffs will want to set aside time for a stroll around a former monastery’s grounds at the CumberlandPublic Library (1464 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-2552, www.cumberlandlibrary.org, free), where there are several trails, the longest a bit more than a mile. You’ll see not only buildings of the former Trappist monastery, but the historic site of “Nine Men’s Misery,” where in the 17th century, nine colonists where killed by natives during King Philip’s War. At It’s My Health (1099 Mendon Road, 401-305-3585, www.its-my-health.com), shop owner and certified comprehensive iridologist Marie Bouvier-Newman sells EuroPharma and Garden of Life natural, organic products, and offers massage, reflexology, and Reiki sessions, all in a former 19th-century church where Norman Vincent Peale was pastor in the 1920s. Known for its fresh fruit and produce, Phantom Farms (2920 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-2240, www.phantomfarms.com) is also popular in the off-season for its homemade pies and pastries as well as Rhode Island-made cheeses, honey, coffee syrup, and more. Partake of the grape at free tastings at Diamond Hill Vineyards (3145 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-2751, www.diamondhillvineyards.com), a second-generation Bernston-family business on 30 acres of vineyard and woods, where the pinot noir is the estate wine. In warm weather you can sit on the porch or picnic on the grounds, relax and, of course, sip wine, accompanied by snacks from the store in the centuries-old vineyard house. A new shop is
Diamond Hill Country Store (3777 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-3777, www.diamondhillcountrystore.com), with gifts and accessories from area rugs to African market baskets, gourmet foods, candles and soaps, locally made furniture and shelving, and fun things like a beer-tab change purse, all in a restored 1750 home.
The artistic center of town is the Blackstone River Theatre (549 Broad St., 401-725-9272, www.riverfolk.org), run by Russell Gusetti, of the Celtic band Pendragon (which plays at the theater on Sunday). The theater is housed in a renovated Masonic temple, and it hosts about 40 concerts a year, featuring Celtic sounds and “music of many other ethnicities that settled the Blackstone Valley,” said Gusetti, who also organizes the annual Summer Solstice Festival. The theater also hosts night classes for fiddling, step dancing, and even Celtic stone carving. Listen to live weekend music and snack on late-night food such as sliders, chili, and chicken wings at J. Gray’s Family Tavern (405 Mendon Road, 401-723-7600, www.jgraystavern.com, no cover), where this month performers such as Unplugged, Space Captain, and Jim Devlin will take the stage. Sports fans looking to catch a game on TV will find kindred spirits here.
Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at email@example.com.