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By Marilyn Busch
When it comes to summer in Rhode Island, many of us dutifully make the hour-long trek down Route 95S to join the tourists that have gathered en mass at the crowded Newport and Narragansett beaches. I have been part of this pilgrimage out of the city for years – and lived through countless hours of bumper to bumper traffic our beach “adventures.” For years I thought this trek was our family’s only option for sun & fun in the sand. Lo and behold after moving to Greenville a few years ago, I was tipped off to the wonders of Spring Lake Beach and Arcade. And located right next door in Burrillville, of all places. With everything you would ask for in a summer outing here to be had at reasonable prices and within 20 minutes of my doorstep, It’s no wonder that tried and true area residents want to keep this little slice of summer to themselves.
Originally known as Herring Pond, Spring Lake Beach has been a getaway destination for Rhode Islanders for over 100 years. Originally privately owned, the Town of Burrillville purchased the land in 1989, and over the years completed renovations of the beach and its surrounding buildings. The Town’s years of restoration and renovation have made Spring Lake Beach into a hidden gem in this area. The beach is a family (and budget) friendly getaway offering a day’s worth of swimming and amenities for only $5 per person and free admission for children under 5. Located at 50 Old Hillside Drive in Burrillville, area residents have the added incentive of a resident admission of $2.50 or a season Burrillville Resident Pass for the entire family for only $30.00.
On our recent family visit, there was no issue with fighting traffic or finding parking. As we unpacked our car and headed down the short walk to the recreation area, my young boys, ages 7 and 9 excitedly said that it felt like they were now “on vacation.” And truly, their description was spot on. Located just off the beaten track, the rustic wooded area that leads to the lake itself feels like a quiet respite away from the daily hustle and bustle. With 750 feet of well-maintained lakefront beach, we found ample space to lay out our blanket and stake our claim. Since my children are new swimmers, I was very pleased to see that there were 2 nearby lifeguards on duty, with a third out on the floating dock a few yards out on the lake – a very popular destination for teen and adult swimmers alike.
Open daily (weather permitting) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Spring Lake beach and recreation area seems to appeal to beachgoers of all ages. The lake itself is quite expansive with a beautiful view, and once we stepped into the clear freshwater we immediately spotted some minnows at our feet – much to the delight of my sons. With not a weed in sight, it was easy for us to spot the lake’s tiny fish and the boys immediately busied themselves trying to catch one (an impossible – but entertaining – task.) The lake itself has a gradual slope into the deeper waters that gave my beginning swimmers plenty of room to take a dip without my worrying for their safety. Scattered along the beach waterline there are children’s slides that seemed to be popular with the elementary school set. It was remarkable how idyllic a setting this was on a sunny day, as I sat watching a family of half a dozen ducklings make their way across the beach to the nearby food concessions, hoping for a stray snack to fall their way.
No sooner did the parade of ducks pass, my youngsters appeared (hungry as well) and we soon followed the siren scent of freshly made French fries up to the concession window. Tucked into a shaded picnic table in the outdoor gazebo area, we watched as half a dozen teen and adult adventurous beachgoers paddled out to the center of the lake, taking advantage of the Beach Shoppe’s kayak and paddleboard rentals. The beach also features a modern playground nestled in the sand, complete with a child-size rock climbing wall, slides and monkey bars.
After the kids had exhausted themselves exploring the beach and swimming, chasing ducks (and one very elusive butterfly) I showed them the surprise that I had intentionally saved for last. Along the small boardwalk deck, past the snack bar and the boat rentals lies the heart of Spring Lake exactly where it has stood since 1931 – the Spring Lake Arcade. Home to some of the oldest penny arcade games in the country, this is a one of a kind treat for all ages and a must-see for anyone visiting this area of Rhode Island. The recent addition of new modern video and ticket redemption games make the building a literal tour of the evolution of arcade gaming. From the oldest penny arcade games – each ranging from an actual penny up to a dime – through to the carnival mainstay of Skeeball to a variety of vintage pinball machines, a black and white photo booth, the classic 80s Ms. Pac Man, and ending with the Dance Dance Revolution game in the corner there is a classic childhood memory waiting to be rediscovered.
It is no wonder that so many local families have been coming to this area generation after generation. Under the management of the Burrillville Parks & Recreation, the Spring Lake Beach and Arcade has been attentively restored to a timeless, tranquil and family-friendly summer treat that we can share with our children for generations to come.
For seasonal hours and more information about Spring Lake Beach and Arcade, visit www.burrillville.org or call (401) 568-9474.