Spend a weekend in historic Concord, Massachusetts
There may be affiliate links in this post. Read my disclosure policy to learn more.
Things to do in Concord, Massachusetts
Historic Concord, Massachusetts is an easy day trip from Boston and exciting enough to be the destination on its own.
It seems I always dread writing about places that are dear to me. The Concord area in Massachusetts is near and dear to my heart. My beloved Aunt lives in a neighboring town and we have been doing things in Concord for nearly 30 years. If you decide to go give my aunt a wave, and please tell me you love it as much as I do!
How to pronounce Concord
If you are going to visit Concord, you must learn to pronounce it correctly! Do not pronounce it like the famous aircraft, or the grape, or like concourse with a “d” on the end. It is pronounced with the first syllable stressed like “Conk-erd.”
The history of Concord Massachusetts
Battle of Lexington and Concord
Concord Massachusetts is a place that every American child has heard. It was the site of the first battle for American independence.
Paul Revere rode out on his famous night journey to warn the colonists that the British were on their way. He didn’t quite make it to Concord, but his message did (through Dr. Samuel Prescott), and the militia of the area were pre-warned of ensuing British troops.
The Battle of Concord was made famous by the phrase “the shot heard ’round the world.” The poem was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson who, strangely enough, lived in Concord, and penned the lines:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Concord Massachusetts is famous for reasons other than the site of the battle. It was also a literary hotbed in the mid 1800s. It was home to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louis May Alcott. They were all part of the transcendetalist movement that swept through New England. The movement focused on self reliance and the individual. It highly influenced the writing and thinking of the authors living in Concord.
The Concord grape
The Concord grape was developed in Concord by Ephraim Bull. He cultivated thousands of different varieties of grapes to create the grape we all know and love today.
What to do in Concord, Massachusetts
Old North Bridge
The Old North Bridge is the site of the famous battle that began the American Revolution. The British Army began burning the ammunition of the local militia which led to a face off on the bridge between the American militia and the British Army. No one knows who began firing, but after a brief skirmish 3 British and 2 Americans were dead.
Today the Old North Bridge has a tree lined path leading to it from the visitor parking lot. The Old Manse (the home of Ralph W. Emmerson’s grandfather ) is to the left of the path and the rest is National Park. The bridge has been rebuilt a number of times and bears little resemblance to the original, but it is still a great place to visit and to let the kids get their wiggles out.
Plan on 30 minutes to an hour.
The Old Manse
This historic home is directly next to the Old North Bridge and you don’t even have to move your car!
The Old Manse has the distinction of being the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Emmerson’s grandfather lived on the property during the battle of Concord, and young Emerson would stay there most summers. Years later the home was rented to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his young family.
The Old Manse is a great home to tour if you don’t have little kids with you. My kids are not huge fans of “another old house” ever. If your kids are a little older or very tolerant, it is a great activity.
Plan on 45 minutes.
The childhood home of Louisa May Alcott is a joy to visit. The author of “Little Women” not only wrote the beloved book here, she also used it as the setting for the book.
The home has a fabulous tour and helps you get to know about the lives of the Alcotts. Louisa’s father wanted to create a utopia in nearby Harvard, which ultimately failed; Louisa’s youngest sister May was a very talented artist; and the the family grew their own food (they were vegetarians).
After your tour you will be intrigued to learn about the other authors that shared the Alcott’s views and ideals.
Plan on an hour to an hour and a half.
This house was home to a young Louisa May Alcott and later to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s family. These families were quite intertwined, weren’t they?
The Wayside is right next to Orchard House, and the Hawthornes and Alcotts became neighbors. Apparently Nathaniel Hawthorne was not a very sociable neighbor, however.
The tour of The Wayside is great for the whole family. My kids really enjoyed learning about the house as part of the Underground Railroad.
Plan on 45 minutes.
If you thought the lives of the transcendentalist authors couldn’t get more intertwined, you were wrong. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is right in the center of downtown Concord and up on a scenic ridge is the burial site of Hawthorne, Alcott, Thoreau, and Emerson. All within a few steps of each other!
Most are buried in family plots. It is probably mere coincidence that their plots are all so near, but it’s pretty fantastical. Many visitors leave pens, small stones, or other gifts on the simple headstones of each author.
It is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, but if you happen to be visiting Massachusetts in the fall, you are in for a rare treat.
Plan on 30 minutes to an hour.
Walden Pond is famous as the site of a small cabin built by Henry David Thoreau. He built the cabin at the shore of the pond in an attempt to live as simply as possible. He wrote about this expiremnet in the book “Walden.”
Walden Pond is what most of the rest of the United States would call a lake, but it is actually a body of water formed by a glacier creating a “kettle pond.” Kettle ponds tend to be wide and shallow and make great swimming holes. In the summer you will find hundreds of locals enjoying the beach at Walden Pond.
In addition to great swimming there is a fabulous walking loop around the pond. You can see the original site of Thoreau’s cabin, and you can bring a small stone with you to add to the stone towers near the spot.
Plan on 1-2 hours.
Battle Road is the road that runs from Concord to Lexington. It was the road used by the British troops on their way to Concord after the skirmish in Lexington, and you will find markers directing you to historic sites. Along Battle Road you will find the place where Paul Revere was captured and the historic Hartwell Tavern, which offers varied educational programs during the summer months.
The Road itself is a beautiful walking trail that winds through local forest. It is paved and is great for little walkers and strollers.
Plan on 30 minutes.
Unusual things to do in Concord
If you are looking for more things to do to round out your visit, or if you have visited before and want to do something else, here are some of our favorite activities.
Canoeing on the Concord River
The Concord River lazily meanders through downtown Concord. It passes under the Old North Bridge and has seen so much history. It is a great place to canoe and kayak.
Rentals are available at South Bridge Boat House.
Rentals include life jackets and paddles, and rental times are calculated by 15 minute increments. The boat house is a little over a mile from the Old North Bridge, so we generally row to the bridge, get out and stretch for a bit, and then row back.
Plan on an hour.
- Make sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray. The river area is really buggy!
- Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it at the Old North Bridge before turning back.
Concord Ghost tour
Concord has a lively paranormal scene, and you can learn all about it on the Concord Ghost Tour.
You will learn about the haunted room in the Colonial Inn, strange goings on in the cemetery, and about a friendly ghost that roams a famous house. It is a walking tour that takes you throughout downtown and is well run and professional.
I wouldn’t recommend this for kids under 10 or ones that are easily scared, but older kids will eat it up!
Plan on an hour and a half.
Saltbox Farm Cooking Class
Take a cooking class at local Saltbox Farm. Most weekends feature at least two classes. You will use locally grown vegetables and locally sourced proteins when you learn to make a creative meal. Chefs from all over New England lead the small classes.
Where to Eat in Concord, Massachusetts
Main Streets Market and Cafe
This is my favorite place to eat when I am in Concord. I love their sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and their delicious cupcakes. There are also gluten free goodies, so my oldest loves it too!
It is often very busy in the summer, so order at the counter and then take your food to sit on one of a dozen benches outside of the cafe.
If you want to eat in an historic inn and eat some really yummy food then head to Colonial Inn. There are 2 restaurants in the inn and both are really good. I prefer Liberty Restaurant because prices are lower, and I don’t feel bad if my kids are a little wild. I recommend the pot roast or a burger.
Kimball Farm Ice Cream
Ok, this isn’t technically in Concord, but you can’t visit without venturing to nearby towns of Westford or Carlisle to get some of the best ice cream ever. I have been eating this ice cream for nearly 30 years, and I think it is the best! Well, to be fair, I think it’s a tie between New Haven’s Arethusa Farm Dairy and Kimball Farm.
Some of our family favorites are mint and cookies, butter crunch, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry, and gingersnap molasses (available in the Fall only). There are dozens of flavors, and they give very generous scoops, so if you aren’t very hungry get a kiddie size!
Patriot’s Day in Concord and Lexington
If you can make your visit to Concord happen in April then you are in for a treat. Patriot’s Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine. It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon.
Patriot’s Day is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of April as a bank holiday and a day off school, and many businesses are closed.
What makes Patriot’s Day so special to a history lover are the re-enactments of the battles of Lexington and Concord. Both reenactments occur at the actual time so it makes for an early morning.
Battle of Lexington reenactment
First comes the battle of Lexington at 5:30 AM. The re-enactors come out of Buckman’s Tavern to find the British have arrived on Lexington Green. A British officer tell the militia to put down their weapons and then shots are fired.
The entire scene only lasts for about 15 minutes, but it is thrilling to feel like a witness to history. My boys love seeing the old guns fire.
Plan on arriving by 4 am if you want to have a front row seat!
Battle of Concord Reenactment
You have a little bit of time to make it to the Old North Bridge in Concord because cars move much faster than the British marched.
The re-enactment begins at 8:30 am with British regulars standing off against the militia. The “shot heard round the world” is fired as the two armies meet each other.
The Concord Patriots day parade follows the re-enactment in the center of town.
These are the two main Patriot’s Day events, but check here for other activities going on during the weekend.
Our family has really loved this glimpse at history, and we have gone 3 times over the last few years. It helps cement history in our minds. I loved it when my middle son came home from school to tell me that he explained the battles of Lexington and Concord to his class at school!
I highly recommend it!
I hope you love Concord as much as my family does and that you enjoy a day or two exploring this fascinating town.
If you want to make a week out of your visit check out my favorite to do’s in Boston with your kids.
Like this article? Pin it for Later!
I endorse products I’ve personally used or come highly recommended by my trusted peers. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Leave a Reply