Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States. The first known European explorer to reach what is now Rhode Island was Giovanni da Verrazano, who came to Narragansett Bay in 1524. The first European colony was established there in 1636 by Roger Williams, who wanted to set up a sanctuary of religious freedom after being booted out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony prospered, and farming, fishing, lumber, and shipbuilding became major industries, while Brown University was established in 1764 to expand the minds of the young men in the colony. During the period of the American Revolution, Rhode Island became the first colony to declare itself independent from Britain, but once independence was achieved, it was the last of the original thirteen states to ratify the Constitution. Not long after the Revolution, industrialization came to Rhode Island with the start of America's second cotton mill.
In the second half of the 1700s, Rhode Island became heavily involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, until that trade was abolished in 1808, although the importation of slaves into Rhode Island itself was banned in 1774. At the same time, other Rhode Islanders were abolitionists, and following the Civil War, Rhode Island became one of the first states in the nation to abolish racial segregation in public schools. In the decades following the war, Rhode Island became the destination of many immigrants from Europe, who were drawn by and in turned fueled the state's continuing industrial development. Rhode Island is nicknamed the Ocean State, since every point in the state is less than an hour's drive to the sea. Because of its proximity to the ocean, the climate in Rhode Island is humid, though comfortable, and the highest point in the state is only 812 feet above sea level, at Jerimoth Hill.
Tourists today can enjoy the beaches, but they can also explore the history of the area by visiting colonial homes in Providence and 19th century mansions in Newport. An itinerary might also include an examination of the region's religious history, since the nation's oldest Baptist church and Jewish synagogue are both located in Rhode Island. Newport hosts numerous museums dedicated to a variety of interests, including tennis, yachting, naval war, and the Victorian era, while Providence is home to the Museum of Art as well as the Rhode Island School of Design. Rhode Island has the second highest population density in the nation, but as you can see, it has a very high concentration of attractions as well.