Trivial Pursuits: Obama First President Since JFK to Sleep in Rhode Island

The smallest state gets a big-time overnight guest.

On Thursday night President Obama will sleep where few presidents have slept before: Rhode Island.  It's been more than a half-century since a sitting president–JFK–spent the night in the nation's smallest state.  

“Rhode Island is obviously a small state, easy to get in and out of, so the fact that President Obama has chosen to spend the night is a huge honor and privilege,” says Martha Sheridan, president of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Downtown Providence, she said Thursday afternoon, was abuzz in anticipation.

Obama's last visit was a day trip, and President Clinton had an equally short visit, Sheridan said. By contrast, both Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower enjoyed vacations in Newport.

That said, the purpose of this trip is business, not pleasure. On Friday the president will give a speech at Providence's Rhode Island College. 

“We hope President Obama takes a few minutes to stop and smell the roses, so to speak,” said Sheridan, noting the Italian restaurants in Federal Hill, the trendy West Side, the architecture near Brown University, and Point Judith calamari (locally caught, fried, tossed with garlic butter and sliced cherry peppers).

Seafood in the Ocean State makes sense, but given the president’s dining habits, and the fact that Michelle Obama is on the trip, our bets are on dinner at hotspots that begin with lowercase letters—north, or birch—both of which are close to the hotel where he’s expected to stay.

“People think they can do Providence in a day,” Sheridan said, “But there’s a whole weekend’s worth of activities here.”