In colonial times, Providence, Pawtucket, and Newport were the center of commerce in the thriving New England colonies. Surrounded by New Bedford, Boston, Salem, Lowell, Mystic, Sturbridge, and Worcester, goods and trade passed in and out of the region, creating very wealthy merchants and jobs for millions of workers. The heritage of even one of these places is fascinating. Taken together, they deliver a picture of life in the colonies, when fortunes were based on the turning of spinning wheels and ship wheels. Pawtucket is part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor celebrating the textile heritage that once powered the economy here. When the Astors, Morgans, Rockefellers, and Goulds decided to make Newport their summer playground, the Newport Gilded Age Trail and the South County Heritage and Nature Trail present the amazing differences not more than 20 miles apart. Newport’s mansions are, of course, beautiful and you can’t miss them. Newport’s landmarks and locations that link the city’s maritime heritage are also worth a visit. Yet, the contrasts of South County are also worth the experience. Here, you’ll see America’s oldest plantation house, a Native American museum, working historic farms, an 18th century snuff mill, lighthouses, and scenic coastal communities standing proudly as though it were still 1750. In between, miles of pristine coastline, thousands of acres of woodlands, nature preserves, beaches, freshwater ponds, meandering rivers, and nesting birds await those who appreciate the gifts of nature. Narragansett Bay looks much like it did when the Native Americans were in residence. The presence of all of these different environments makes each all that more interesting.