Visitors to Concord are in for a treat. The town is at least a little familiar to anyone who studied U.S. history, as the setting of the first conflict in the American Revolutionary War. The famous shot heard around the world was fired here, at the Old North Bridge, on April 19, 1775. For thousands of years before that, though, the area of land at the confluence of the Concord/Sudbury and Assabet rivers was a popular site for seasonal Native American camps, originally known as Musketaquid, or “grassy plain.” Much later, the area became the country’s literary capital, when Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote here; many of their homes are preserved and open to visitors to this day.
True to its upstart roots, Concord continues to be a progressive little town with a big impact: In 2012, Concord became the first community in the country to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. (Bring your refillable water bottle when you visit!) Also in 2012, Building Local Connections: A Community Food System Assessment of Concord, Massachusetts was published. Concord has a conservation-minded citizenry and significant agricultural heritage, with about 1,350 acres of good farmland, knowledgeable farmers, and a vibrant community, with many restaurants serving locally sourced foods. No need to go home hungry—or lacking in history lessons.
If You Have One Afternoon to Visit
Hit the must-see sights: Walk from Monument Square up Monument Street to The Trustees Old Manse, at the nexus of Concord’s political, literary, and social revolutions. Emerson wrote his essay “Nature” from a room upstairs, and Henry David Thoreau planted the vegetable garden, which has been recreated by Gaining Ground, in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wedding. All of which is steps away from the North Bridge in the MinuteMan National Historical Park with the famous Minute Man statue by Daniel Chester French (who would later create the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.). Just across the street is Robbins House, which was inhabited by the first generation of descendents of Caesar Robbins, a freed slave and Revolutionary War veteran. The Meeting House, an installation adjacent to the Manse by Sam Durant, was designed to continue the conversations about slavery and segregation and their lingering effects in modern day.
On your way back to Concord Center, stop for a cup of George Howell coffee at Trails End Cafe at the corner of Lowell and Keyes roads. Trails End serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a full bar and many locally sourced ingredients.
If You Have Good Walking Shoes
The Robbins House also offers a self-guided walking tour of African American and anti-slavery history in Concord, which gives a deeper understanding of the contributions of Concord’s first free African Americans toward abolitionist causes.
A Taste of the Town
The Visitors Center is located at 58 Main Street, in the center of town, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with public restrooms. From there, you can visit the Concord Cheese Shop, warm up at Haute Coffee, or find a sweet treat at Sally Ann Bakery. For fine dining, it’s hard to beat either Bondir Concord or 80 Thoreau, both of which serve local and seasonal foods of the highest caliber. See the Chamber of Commerce's business directory for a full listing of all the many offerings in town.
Or cross over to the village of West Concord, with two farm-to-table restaurants (Saltbox Kitchen and Woods Hill Table), plus Debra’s Natural Gourmet, the holy grail of natural food stores. Just down the block is the West Concord Five and Ten, which has anything you might ever have needed. Then don’t miss West Concord’s handmade ice cream shop, Reasons To Be Cheerful.
Stop to Shop
Concord has an outstanding independent bookstore, the Concord Bookshop, established in 1940; Vanderhoof Hardware (28 Main Street), which hasn’t changed much in that time; the “hardware store for the kitchen” in Concord Cookware; and many other independently owned shops are well worth a visit. Revolutionary Concord is a gift shop that you’ll find nowhere else, with American-made gifts, local art, Simon Pearce glass products, and Concord souvenirs. Look for it downstairs at 32 Main Street, a few doors down from Vanderhoofs.
Museums and Sights
The Concord Museum brings the town’s history to life with exhibits about its literary and historical roots. The collection includes one of the two lanterns illuminated in the belfry of Boston’s Old North Church on the night of April 18, 1775, when Paul Revere made his famous ride (“One if by land, two if by sea”).
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, shown by guided tour, looks just as it did when Louisa May lived here with her family from 1858 to 1877. Fans of Little Women will be delighted to see the desk, built by Bronson Alcott, where Louisa May wrote her most famous work. About 80 percent of the furnishings on display belonged to the Alcott family, so a visit to Orchard House is a real walk through history.
No visit to Concord is complete without laying eyes on Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau, a leading Transcendentalist and lifelong abolitionist, lived for two years, two months, and two days in a cabin that seems too small by modern standards. His time at the pond provided the inspiration for writing Walden.
Hartwell Tavern sits alongside Battle Road, the route that the Red Coats traveled first on their way to Concord in search of arms, then again on their retreat back to Boston on April 19, 1775. The tavern is part of Minute Man National Historic Park, where you can immerse yourself in 18th century history, with the help of park rangers dressed in colonial attire.
The Concord Agriculture Committee assembled this guide to the town’s farms, which includes a map and listing of many locations around town, to make it easy for you to plot your own tour or find the many agricultural treasures in the area.