Having grown up in Massachusetts, it’s easy for me to dismiss it as an interesting destination. The Alcott House, Bunker Hill, The House of the Seven Gables, even the Nantucket Whaling Museum are just school field trips to take for granted. I’ve thought a lot about writing a Concord day trip guide but I was always worried it’d be too boring!
I grew up next to historical Concord, MA and often take its well-preserved stately homes and charming downtown for granted. But I’m strolling down Walden Street with an iced coffee from Main Streets Market + Cafe on a gorgeous, sunny day and I’m so happy. It’s quintessential New England, and it’s home, so how can I not share it with you? Whether you’re visiting Boston, or have lived here your whole life, a Concord day trip is worth the drive!
Visiting Concord from Boston is actually super easy. I recommend grabbing the Commuter Rail from North Station (it’s like $20 round trip) to avoid the traffic on Route 2 but, if you plan it well, you can do the drive in twenty to thirty minutes. Just avoid rush hour as much as possible. Trust me. Concord has plenty of public parking and the train station is an easy, 5-minute walk from “downtown.” (Tip: You can also take the train an extra stop to “West Concord” but most day-trippers will prefer to get off the train at “Concord.”)
Before you start out, stop by Haute Coffee for their thick cut cinnamon toast. It’s heavenly.
As a book-devouring child, I was blown away by the fact that the March sisters, of Little Women fame, lived in Concord. Amy fell through the ice at Walden Pond?! I’ve been to Walden Pond! And so on. When I learned that I could actually visit Orchard House, that we actually drove by it all the time, I think I threw up with excitement. (Side Note: Pretty much any emotion made me barf as a kid.) So, like any good English major, I think your first stop on any Concord day trip needs to be Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. Even if you haven’t read Little Women (or at least seen the movie starring Wynona Rider and Kirsten Dunst), and you absolutely should, you’ll still enjoy a tour of the home. Transcendentalists of the day like Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson often gathered here. Across the street, you’ll be able to visit The Concord Museum, the Ralph Waldo Emerson House, and The Wayside for even deeper looks into life in Civil War era Concord. I actually have a funny story about a visit to Emerson’s house that includes an elderly docent and a velvet-trimmed dressing gown, but I think it could lead to trouble.
If the Revolutionary War is more your speed, you’re in luck! Guess where the-shot-heard-round-the-world was fired?! Yup! Concord! Visit the Old North Bridge at Minuteman National Historical Park and imagine yourself in the middle of the Battle of Concord! The park is quite extensive and dips into three towns, but the trails are perfect for hiking, bikes, dog walks, and visiting other historical sites. If it’s hot, explore the park by kayak or have lunch on a pontoon boat from Concord River Cruises.
You’re going to be hungry after all that history, so make your way back to Concord center. I have two favorite lunch spots in Concord Center, Helen’s and Main Streets Market + Cafe. You really can’t go wrong with either, although Helen’s is probably the more kid-friendly of the two. (Tip: At night, Main Streets transforms with a full bar and live music so you may need reservations.) At lunchtime, get the Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese sandwich and a Raspberry Lime Rickey from Main Streets or the Baja Fish Wrap and fries at Helen’s.
After lunch, it’s time for my favorite part of the day: shopping! Did you expect me to say something else? There are a bunch of cute boutiques and specialty stores dotting the corners of Main and Walden. Most are locally or independently owned small businesses staffed with friendly, knowledgeable locals. As a teenager, my designer fashion obsession was fed here. I used to save up for jeans and tops on sale at French Lessons and my first Rebecca Minkoff came from Viola Lovely. Taffy from Priscilla’s Candy’s is a must-have as well as bottles of wine from the Concord Cheese Shop. But most importantly, to me anyway, is the Concord Bookshop. Are you really surprised? It’s been there since 1940 and is quite large for a small store. They have everything from local authors and classics to an extensive children’s collection and the newest contemporary releases. They also used to be the only place I could rely on to have all the international magazines, like Tatler and British Vogue, so much of my allowance was spent here on Concord day trips. That was 15-years ago now so I’m not sure if they still carry them though I wouldn’t be surprised since Concord Academy is right there and is home to many international students.
Before you leave, stop by Walden Pond. It’s home to Henry David Thoreau’s teeny-tiny cabin and loads of walking trails. It also has a beach where you can swim or picnic. It’s run by the state so there are accessible bathrooms and ramps, but there is a fee to park (between $8-$15 depending on your residency) and the lot fills up quickly in the summer.
If you decide you need more than a day book a room at The Colonial Inn! It’s been open since, like, 1716, and has an awesome Sunday brunch!
One of my goals for this summer is to explore my home state in a bit more depth. Do you have a favorite local day trip or are you planning a Concord day trip? Let me know in the comments! You may just bump into me and Daisy out exploring, but I hope you don’t because I’m ridiculously awkward.