Illuminated Swan Boats At Roger Williams Park

(11.6) The photos I took last night of these lovely swan boats might charitably be considered “impressionistic.” And while that effect has its merits, I’m trying to convey some idea of what’s going on here so you will go. Much much better photographs by Sandor Bodo can be seen at the Providence Journal piece which also provides some background.

The swan boat rides have been run by Allen E. Days and his family since 2007. Their company, La Gondola Inc., is responsible for bringing the gondolas to Providence.

Days brought the gondolas to the Providence Renaissance in 1997. Just back from Italy, he saw the potential of the intimate Woonasquatucket River as it snaked through downtown Providence. Since then, he has sold the gondola business and turned his efforts to the waterways of Roger Williams Park.

About five years ago, another flash of inspiration hit: Light up the swan boats at night and offer night rides on the water, with illuminated tunnel features. There is also a pirate boat with light and sound effects that add to the romance of the evening.

I was surprised to learn that this illumination is in its seventh year and phoned Cynthia Days, Allen’s wife, at the Dalrymple Boathouse for more information. As far as Cynthia knows, there is no other event of this sort happening anywhere else; and if there is, then the Roger Williams Park event was the inspiration. And not only was Mr. Days the creative spark behind the event, as a master electrician, he knew how to fabricate and wire all the features he was dreaming up in his head. And he’s still getting ideas — the blue, spider-webby tunnel is new this year (check out Bodo’s pix).

Hours of operation: Let’s clear this up as there may have been some confusing info in another ProJo item. The illuminated swan boats run from 6pm to 10pm, HOWEVER, on a Friday or Saturday night, they may be kept running as late as midnight, as dictated by customer interest and foot traffic. And interest has been high. The Parks & Rec site has the information.

These swan boat rides run in conjunction with the annual Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at the zoo. Polo Lake has been transformed with fanciful, illuminated arches through which one paddles. It really is magical.

Your ticket gets you two loops around the lake which frankly seems like a nice bit of exercise. There was easy parking along the park streets when I was there and it’s lovely walking around. Dress warmly. Hot apple cider and hot chocolate are available.

$10/adult (16 and older), $5/children, runs seven days, through November 6th, Polo Lake, Roger Williams Park, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, (directions), info call (508) 984.8264

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