|By Cynthia Needham, Providence Journal, R.I.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 10--Most Rhode Islanders know "There's no place like home." Now the state's tourism councils have created tours to prove it.
On May 1, the councils will sponsor guided visits to destinations spots throughout the state. From the mills of Blackstone Valley, to the vineyards of Newport, the councils have 10 different ways to tour your own backyard, complete with transportation, souvenirs and, of course, lunch.
"If you've lived here your entire life, these tours will give you a pair of glasses to see the state in a way you haven't before," said Robert Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and chief organizer of the event.
"If you've just moved here for a better quality of life and you want to get out and see Rhode Island, it would probably take you two years to see what we'll show you in a day."
"There's No Place Like Home" day will kick off with a pep rally at the Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick. From there, 22 buses will fan throughout the state.
For the South County-bound, the tour will begin with a traditional breakfast of jonnycakes, followed by stops at the Southland Riverboat in Galilee, the Towers of Narragansett, Gilbert Stuart's birthplace in Saunderstown and the shopping district in historic Wickford.
Billington said he hopes a taste of the area will leave participants wanting more and planning a return visit, which will no doubt help the local economies.
But for all his enthusiasm toward the project, Billington credits Suzanne Carcieri, wife of Governor Carcieri, with the initial idea.
The day of her husband's inauguration, Billington said, the first lady told him how much she had enjoyed getting to know different parts of the state while on the campaign trail. She said she wished all Rhode Islanders could have that chance.
Billington put together a proposal and asked his counterparts throughout the state to help. Two weeks ago, they announced the tour date, and the 10 destination sites, which also include the Providence "capital sampler," the Newport cliffs, the beaches of Block Island and the farms of West Bay.
Carl Richardson, director of auto travel at AAA of Southern New England, said nearly 35 percent of the available 1,000 tickets have sold since they first went on sale two weeks ago. The Block Island trip and an East Bay mansion tour have already sold out.
Those at the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council say that's not surprising.
Anywhere else, a day-long tour would come with a fee of more than $50. At $15 a ticket ($10 for children under 13), this one's a bargain.
"If you can get to Warwick," Billington promised, "We'll show you your state like you've never seen it before."
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(c) 2004, Providence Journal, R.I. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.