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Historic Concord, Massachusetts | Winter Day Trip

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The town of Concord, Massachusetts, just 20 miles west of Boston but with major small-town charm, holds a special place in the heart of many Americans. What was once the site of seasonal Indian camps, and then a sleepy New England village, became something else entirely one April morning in 1775 when one of the first battles of the American Revolution was fought in Concord and later immortalized in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” Emerson, along with the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcott duo of Bronson and Louisa May were part of Concord’s mid-1800’s literary and transcendental flowering, for which the town is also famous.

concord winter greetingsI spent a recent winter Sunday in Concord with my trusty comrade in all things historic – my mom. Thanks to a generous dump of snow a few days earlier and lingering bitter cold temperatures, we dressed in layers, unearthed our warmest winter mittens, and set out for a day of fun (and lunch, of course – no excursion should be without something edible to look forward to) in this treasured New England town.

The day began at the North Bridge section of the Minute Man National Historical Park, where the famous “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired on April 19, 1775. The brick visitors center was closed until March, but we traipsed through the snow towards the bridge with a handful of others (some clearly visitors like us, some locals walking their dogs or jogging along the plowed path we failed to notice until it was too late).

minute man national historic park winter

Winter view heading towards North Bridge.

Aimee Seavey

As always, the sight of the “Old North Bridge” induces a soft sigh of delight, but not just for history buffs. Even in the deep cold of winter, its banks blanketed in snow and the Concord River frozen underneath, the bridge (replica or not) is beautiful.

Old North Bridge

Facing west at the Old North Bridge.

Aimee Seavey

For history lovers and patriots, of course, the bridge represents a watershed moment in American independence. Along with the 1836 Memorial Obelisk and 1875 Daniel Chester French Minute Man statue that flank each side (the latter carved in bronze from seven Civil War cannons), not to mention the somber Grave of British Soldiers (where two bodies lie), the site is a spot for reflection and serenity.

old north bridge monuments

Monuments at the Old North Bridge.

Aimee Seavey

Back at the car, we warmed our hands and headed towards the oblong Monument Square (named for its 1866 Civil War memorial obelisk) and Concord’s quaint downtown. A stroll around the upper square (watch out for cars!) takes you past sights like the popular flag-and-wreath decked Colonial Inn…

colonial inn concord

Concord’s Colonial Inn.

Aimee Seavey

The Holy Family Parish Church and Old Hill Burying Ground…

concord burying ground

Sunday service lets out at Concord’s Holy Family Parish Church.

Aimee Seavey

Not to mention the First Parish Church, and Wright’s Tavern, where Concord minutemen assembled on the morning of the battle, and British officers refreshed themselves afterwards.

Wright's Tavern

Wright’s Tavern

Aimee Seavey

Heading down Main Street (and over to Walden Street), we browsed in some of Concord’s many shops, including the Grasshopper Shop, the Cheese Shop (which, unfortunately, is closed on Sundays), and the Concord Bookshop….

concord shops

The Grasshopper Ship, Cheese Shop, and Bookshop.

Aimee Seavey

If you like to cook or bake, you won’t want to miss The Concord Shop, which is stocked to the rafters with kitchen essentials, cookbooks, and more…

concord kitchen shop

Get cooking at the Concord Shop.

Aimee Seavey

But for this mother and daughter pair, we had our best luck at Thoreauly Antiques. Inside, Christie Murphy (one of the shop’s 16 dealers) chatted with us about the shop’s history and offered some suggestions for lunch (since my top choice of cheese was not to be!), and my mom picked up an early 1980’s “practically perfect in every way” Mary Poppins figurine. Mary is very big in our family…

Thoroeauly Antiques

Items for sale in Thoroeauly Antiques, plus a special Poppins purchase.

Aimee Seavey

After all that strolling and shopping it was time to eat, so we headed across the street to the always-busy Main Streets Market & Cafe for sandwiches.

main streets market lunch

Lunch at Main Streets Market & Cafe.

Aimee Seavey

Calorically restored, we admired the houses of Concord literary darlings but saved the tours of the Wayside (former home to both Hawthorne and the Alcott family) and Emerson’s house for a future visit. I’d toured Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (again, with my mom in tow) last spring.

concord author houses

The Wayside, Emerson’s house, and Orchard House.

Aimee Seavey

House-hunting complete, we next made our way to the nearby Concord Museum, a 2013 Yankee Magazine Editors’ Choice for one of the Best Massachusetts Attractions. Housed in a sprawling cluster of connected brick “houses” and with a collection dating back to 1850, the museum calls itself “the one place where all of Concord’s remarkable past is brought to life,” and they’re right.

concord museum

The Concord Museum.

Aimee Seavey

The residents of Concord have long valued the role the town has played in the nation’s patriotic and literary past, and many salvaged and donated objects from Concord’s past are on display, including Revolutionary War artifacts, staged period rooms (some with furniture dating back to the 1600’s), one of the 1775 lanterns from the Old North Church, the desk where Thoreau wrote Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” and even a flawless recreation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study.

concord museum objects

Revolutionary War weapons and one of the lanterns from the Old North Church are on display at the Concord Museum, as are tributes to Concord writers like Emerson and Thoreau, plus period furniture displays.

Aimee Seavey

After filling our heads and marveling at the museum’s current exhibit on sculptor Daniel Chester French (the artist behind the Minute Man at the Old North Bridge and the Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C., among other things) we made one last stop for provisions at the nearby Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord. It’s a little hard to find, but this bakery (a 2010 Yankee Magazine Editors’ Choice for Best Multigrain Bread) is worth seeing out. My coffee and take-home loaf of wheat bread were the perfect end to a busy day, and my mom’s cappuccino and take-home pastry were equally impressive.

nashoba brook bakery

Coffee, pastries, breads, sandwiches, and more await at Nashoba Brook Bakery in nearby West Concord.

Aimee Seavey

Despite a long day, other Concord treasures like Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and a side-trip to Walden Pond would have to wait. The sun was getting low, and it was time to head home. Thankfully, the magic of Concord’s past is a lively and treasured part of its present (and surely future), and that, coupled with its 4-season appeal, ensure many future visits.

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Comments
  • Hi Eileen. Thanks for your comment! In my post I referred to the current bridge as “a replica,” but in case folks would like the full story, here’s how the Minute Man National Historic Park site explains how old the bridge is: “The North Bridge that visitors walk over today is actually a recent (summer of 2005) restoration of the last bridge built on this site in 1956. The 1956 bridge is the fifth bridge to occupy this hallowed ground since the time of the battle in 1775. The bridge that was there in 1775, the ‘battle bridge,’ was taken down in 1788.” Hope this helps! Thanks!

    Reply
  • I’m sorry, the original bridge was totally replaced in 1956, they moved it to it’s current place. There is some of the original bridge in the Concord Museum!! Sorry for the misinformation. It was fun growing up in Concord,and it doesn’t hurt to know the Head of the Concord Minutemen!!! Great Artical.

    Eileen O’donnell

    Reply
  • i grew up in Concord and enjoyed the article brought back good memories. Aimee hit all the important highlights.

    Reply
  • Hi Cindy. Other than the cheese shop, which, as I wrote at the time of my visit, was closed on Sundays, I’d suggest checking the websites of any shops, restaurants, or museums you’re interested in to get accurate information on when they are open. You may also want to check the Concord Chamber of Commerce website. Enjoy your visit!

    Reply
  • Are most of the shops in Concord closed on Sundays? Would it be worth our while to visit on a Sunday?

    Reply
  • I would love to see some of your recipes formulated for 2 people.
    For a small crock-pot, or a small casserole for the oven.
    I do make various kinds of muffins ( about 12).
    I am an 81 year old Walthamite and I love your wonderful magazine.

    Reply

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