Pinwheel lets you decide what tours are worth

A free tour may not sound like a practical business model, but Bradly VanDerStad, owner of Bradly J. LLC – doing business as Pinwheel Tourism – has found it works for him.

His walking-tour business is focused on an hour-and-45-minute “Welcome to Providence Tour,” which is aimed at newcomers and visitors alike. On a recent weekend, the parents of Rhode Island School of Design graduates were his customers.

His tours start at the Statehouse, and include sights such as the First Baptist Church, Burnside Park, Providence City Hall and the Arcade Providence.

Although the tours are free of charge, VanDerStad earns income from tips. Other tours – including of Federal Hill and the East Side – are more rarely requested from visitors. When he started his business in August 2018, he charged $17 for the service. His earnings have increased since he went the free route, inspired by tour operators in Europe.

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The Pinwheel website allows people to book a tour, which are offered at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

“This year, so far, I’ve had enough bookings where every weekend, someone shows up,” VanDerStad said.

Mary MacDonald is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at