Concord, Massachusetts has all the charm of an old-world New England town. Concord is full of Victorian houses, quaint shops, cemeteries, and historic sites. After all, this was Paul Revere’s destination on that fateful night so many years ago.
To truly experience Concord in all her glory you can’t leave out history. History is everywhere as you walk the streets and take in the sites. Don’t forget to bring your wallet though, you will find a number of great local shops to buy antiques, clothing, books, and toys in as well as countless restaurants and coffee shops to enjoy.
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The History of Concord
The town was first settled by colonists in 1635 as a farming village. The Concord and Assabet rivers are abundant with fish and made a good settlement. However, it made its mark in history during 1775 on that famous night in April. A visit to the Concord Museum will reveal not just a lantern used in the Old North Church but also Revolutionary swords, muskets, and powder horns for you to see.
After that, Concord saw a literary boom in the mid-1800s. With works of literature like The American Scholar, Walden, Little Women, and The Scarlet Letter, Concord was on the map. At the same time in 1853, the town won notoriety again when Ephraim Wales Bull won first prize for his Concord grapes at the Boston Horticultural Exhibit that year.
Today, this famous town enjoys sharing all its history, landmarks, and charm with everyone who visits.
A New England English Lesson
I do need to mention that although Bostonians pronounce Concord grapes exactly as it’s spelled, they do not pronounce this town the same way. True Massachusetts natives pronounce the town as ‘Con-kid’. And please draw out the ‘Con’ with a very high ‘o’ sound, like in the word stop. Bostonians drop the ‘r’ in words and add an ‘h’. With words that end in an ‘a’ they will change it to an ‘r’. Crazy I know but true. So, think of ‘pahk the cah in Havahd Yahd’. This translates to ‘park the car in Harvard Yard.’ And my last name, Miller, is pronounced as Milla. Now say Concord with that ‘o’ sound and you will be saying it like a true native.
Exploring the Charm of Concord
Similarly, make sure to explore the small shops on Main Street. Have a meal at one of the many fine restaurants and walk through the town’s cemeteries.
Main Street Market Cafe has a great variety of dishes to choose from for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Concord Cheese Shop is a great spot to pick up a picnic lunch. Another great restaurant is The Colonial Inn. If you eat here you will be stepping back in time. This restaurant and hotel were built in 1716. Consequently, old-world charm is everywhere.
The Concord Toy Box has some great kids’ toys, crafts, and dress-up clothes for kids to peruse. However, for the adults, head downstairs to ‘Revolutionary Concord’. They have tons of American hand-made gifts including Simon Pearse glassworks.
For those who need a good book fix, this town has you covered. The Concord Bookstore has all the latest books available for you to buy. If you just want to soak up the smell of books and read for a half-hour, head on over to the Public Library and surround yourself with some great architecture while you read.
Literary History in the Cemeteries
Concord has many cemeteries for you to explore. Now, this may not be your thing, I understand that. However, at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, you should pay a visit to Author’s Ridge. Here atop a quiet hill sits the graves of some of America’s famous authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathanial Hawthorne. They all deserve a visit.
However, to really understand the literary history of Concord you must visit the homes of these famous authors. The Orchard House and The Wayside, both houses associated with Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. However, the Wayside has the honor of being the home of three literary families.
If you have a writer in your family you can even get them some time in the house where Henry David Thoreau was born. For a writer, this would be magical. Sitting at a replica desk that he used to write Walden has to stir any writer’s juices.
The house Ralph Waldo Emerson bought in 1835 is still owned by his family today. The house is now a museum and still looks the same as it did after its renovations from 1873 after a fire.
Old Manse was purchased by Emerson’s grandfather and both Emerson and Hawthorne lived in the house during the mid-1800s. The gardens are operational again, showing off their beauty. You can see the beautiful North Bridge from the house, so don’t miss walking over there.
All of these houses are open to the public, usually April-October.
Exploring by Water
Don’t miss out on the water in this town, though. You can enjoy the Concord river by canoe or kayak by renting from the South Bridge Boat House right on the river. Paddling down to the North Bridge where the ‘shot heard round the world’ took place is very special.
However, the place you should not miss is Walden Pond. Walden Pond in the summer is a wonderful place to swim and, in the spring and fall, the hiking is great. You can even hike to see the site where Thoreau lived for 2 years.
Exploring the Woods
In addition to Walden Pond, Concord has two other outdoor areas you can explore. Hapgood Wright Town Forest has a fairyland pond along with several hiking trails and is also connected to Walden Pond. In this forest, you can see tributes to the area’s famous writers as they were all visitors in this forest.
For bird watching and wetland exploration, visit Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Here you can also see the Blanding’s turtle, muskrat, and blue heron.
Fun on the Farm
Since Concords past is in farming it’s befitting that there are 2 great farms in town for you to enjoy. Saltbox Farm has ‘pick your own’ berries in the summer, a grand farm stand, and cooking classes along with a restaurant and its own microbrewery.
Verrill Farm is a larger farm with ‘pick your own’ strawberries and pumpkins. The deli and kitchen make wonderful homemade hot and cold dishes for you to enjoy. This is a great spot to pick up food for a picnic lunch.
Historical Sites in Concord
To truly dive into history take one of the many tours by Concord Tour Company. You can choose between graveyard tours, literary tours, drinking history, black history, revolutionary history tours, and even love and romance in colonial times tours. Yes, they have something for everyone.
There are several places to explore around Monument Square in downtown Concord. Although Wright Tavern is not open to the public its history is important. In October of 1774, it is where the new Provincial Congress of Massachusetts first met.
Also, the Tavern is where the Minute Men of Concord met in the night on April, 19th, 1775 to learn about the British marching from Boston. After they left the tavern to defend the town, the British set up their headquarters here.
Another very important place to visit is the North Bridge. This is where the “shot heard round the world” happened. If you time your visit just right you might be lucky enough to see a ranger program at the bridge.
Along with the bridge check out the Black history in Concord by visiting the Robbins-Hutchinson House. With lots to learn about the anti-slavery movement and how the first free slaves lived right here, this is a house not to miss.
In addition to these sites, there are many more along the Minute Man Trail described below.
Enjoying the history? Read more about history in Massachusetts with the Mayflower restoration and journey.
The Minute Man Trail which highlights Paul Revere’s ride is a national park and a beautiful way to spend a day hiking among the different sites.
Along the route, you will see witness houses, farms, fields, Hartwell Tavern, Paul Revere’s capture site as well as the Minute Man Visitor’s Center. Hopefully, the center has some programs going on for your visit.
Paul Revere rode out from Boston on the evening of April 18th, 1775 to warn his fellow Minute Men “The Regulars” were coming. The colonists didn’t use the term redcoats. Revere was also looking for Samuel Adams and John Hancock since the soldiers were there to arrest them as two of the most outspoken colonists of their time.
After Revere arrived in Lexington he was able to meet with both Adams and Hancock which allowed them time to hide. Thankfully, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott joined Revere on his mission to let the colonists in Lexington and Concord know of “The Regulars” emanate arrival.
Along the way, Revere did get captured but Dawes and Prescott made it to Concord to warn the Minute Men there.
I will go into more depth about April 19, 1775, and all the sites along the Minute Man Trail in a future post.
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Final Thoughts on Concord
I hope you get to visit Concord, Massachusetts with all its history and charm. Does Concord remind you of another town you have already visited?