Whether you are a devotee of American literary history, aspire to walk in the footsteps of the minutemen or desire a serene escape to nature, the picture perfect town of Concord, Massachusetts is an ideal destination. Located 40 minutes northwest of Boston, Concord has maintained its idyllic charm while ensuring that visitors can engage in a variety of activities hovered around its captivating downtown. Founded in 1635, Concord has a plethora of choices for the historically savvy visitor. My recommendation is to begin at Minuteman National Park either at the North Bridge or Minuteman Visitor Centers. This park comprises the hallowed battleground surrounding the opening shots of April 18-19, 1775, which led to the American Revolution.
If beginning at the Minuteman Visitor Center, be sure to give yourself 20 minutes to enjoy the excellent interactive video about the seminal events that occurred on these days. The North Bridge area includes a renovated home of a free African American family and the Old Manse which was witness to the Battle of the Old North Bridge, and where later both Emerson and Hawthorne lived. If time allows, you can kayak the Concord River or walk along the battle road itself. A gorgeous 5 mile path, the battle road, is where colonial militias harassed the besieged redcoats on their miserable march back to Boston. A popular walking trail, spend your time examining the memorial markers as you wander through forests and historic farming fields be sure to look for the monument that marks the spot of Paul Revere’s capture. Perhaps the most enigmatic locations are the graves of British soldiers, venerated by the British flag (two are located near the Old North Bridge and another by Meriam’s Corner on the battle road.
Grave of British soldiers near the Old North Bridge Plaque commemorating battle of Old North Bridge" Plaque commemorating battle of the Old North Bridge
If colonial history is not your forte, do not worry, as Concord was also home to the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century. Take time to visit Authors’ Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where you can visit the graves of
Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. Also worthwhile is a visit to Orchard House or the Emerson home across from the wonderful Concord Museum. The Concord Museum traces the rich historical tapestry of the area and its collections include one of the lanterns hung from the steeple at the Old North Church, original lithographs of the battles at Lexington and Concord and Thoreau’s desk where he wrote “'Civil Disobedience” and “Walden”. A visit to tranquil Walden Pond should also be on your list (this is a bit outside of the center of Concord though). Be sure to visit Thoreau’s statue next to his reconstructed cabin near the parking area (a gorgeous new visitor center just opened as well). The beach area is popular in summer but make your way around the trail to the right and you will find yourself walking on the edge of the lake where you find a spot all to yourself. Keep going to the northeast corner of the lake to see the footprint of Thoreau’s original cabin and gaze upon the same view across the pond that he did. Leave time to enjoy the gastronomic and shopping delights of Concord as well. In their pedestrian friendly downtown area, there are a variety of small local shops to choose from. My favorites are the Concord Cheese Shop, Concord Bookstore and the distinctive 300 year-old Colonial Inn and Restaurant, which is perfect for brunch. Antique and funky clothing shops abound and if you have an interest in cooking, visit Concord Cookware for their excellent selection of quirky kitchen goods (update, in 2017 Concord Cookware closed - please, please shop small and local!). For unique gift ideas try Nesting - the adorable location alone makes for a delightful visit! A short visit outside of the downtown area, "Bedford Farms” has the most incredible homemade ice cream (my favorite is Green Monster, a mint ice cream with chocolate chunks and crushed Oreos) and the New England Olive Oil Co. sells dozens of fine oils and vinegars. If you want to extend your tour of the area, you can ride the Minuteman Bike Path from Concord to Lexington through the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, a 250-acre wetlands sanctuary along the Concord River. Concord truly has something to offer all visitors. After an excursion here you will appreciate why this enchanting small town remains one of the most coveted addresses in all of Massachusetts.