Travel

Our Day Trip Guide to Concord

Where you can retrace the steps of Revolutionary War soldiers and literary greats.


We all need a break from city life sometimes, if even just for a few hours. Our day trip guides highlight all of the gems within a short drive from Boston. Here, we explore Concord.


The North Bridge at Minuteman National Park / Photo via iStock/JayKay57

Concord, Mass.

Distance from Boston: 20 miles
Driving time: 35 minutes

A.M.

Fuel up with a hearty breakfast—and maybe skim a Thoreau poem or two—before hitting the road, because your day is going to be filled with long walks and literary references. Begin the day with an invigorating jaunt around Walden Pond. Aim to pull into Walden Pond State Reservation’s parking lot around 9 a.m. Get there a minute later on a weekend and the lot will likely be full. Scope out the park’s sleek new visitor center for a quick history lesson before hitting the trails. Then, make the two-mile loop around the pond, stopping to inspect the site where Thoreau’s cabin once stood. Put down the iPhone and repeat after us: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”

A few hours of outdoor recreation must be followed by a satisfying lunch. Hop back in the car and head to Concord Center. Pop a few quarters into a parking meter along one of the streets near Main Streets Market & Cafe. The joint is overwhelmingly quaint, nestled inside a former grist mill. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the pulled pork mac & cheese grilled cheese sandwich is at the top of our list.

There will be a few minutes left on your meter by the time you’ve licked your plate clean. Start down Walden Street until you arrive at the doorstep of Thoreauly Antiques. The pun is pretty good, but the shop is even better. It brims with collectibles, ephemera, and charm. Flip through the vintage greeting cards if you get the chance. It’s worth stopping next door in Priscilla’s Candy Shop for a French roll, even if to save it for later. As one of their specialities, the ganache-like treat is dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in roasted cashew pieces. You’ll make it back to the meter just in time.

The site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond / Photo by Madeline Bilis

P.M.

Now that you’ve been sufficiently steeped in antique charm, keep up the time-honored reverence and set out for the Old Manse, a centuries-old house museum that’s been home to both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The guided tour of the Georgian clapboard is excellent even if you’re not a literature lover. The highlight? The Old Manse’s windows. When Hawthorne lived there with his wife, Sophia, they etched poems to eachother into the glass, and you can still see them today. Read the crystal clear love notes, then look beyond the window panes out to the North Bridge. It’s where the “shot heard ‘round the world” rang out, and it’s your next stop.

You can poke around the Old Manse’s footpaths for a bit to see the property’s heirloom vegetable garden, then pick up the main trail that leads to the bridge. You’ve now entered Minuteman National Historical Park, which commemorates the first battle of the Revolutionary War by preserving the storied landscape. A short, easy walk across the bridge and up a gentle hill leads to the North Bridge Visitor Center, a 1911 mansion where you can peep Revolutionary War exhibits, watch a short documentary, and peruse souvenirs. Learn a historical tidbit, then trace your steps back to the Old Manse.

Before freshening up for dinner, cross the street from the Old Manse’s parking lot to explore Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. A cluster of graves on a hilltop called “Author’s Ridge” lets you pay your respects to the greats (like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott) by leaving a pen or notebook.

There’s one more literary reference in store: dinner at 80 Thoreau, a rustic-refined, farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Carolyn Johnson’s New American fare, like the rye tagliatelle tossed with braised duck, peaches, and hazelnuts, is impeccable. Top it all off with a heaping scoop of black raspberry from nearby Bedford Farms Ice Cream, a 19th-century creamery tucked inside a former train depot. If you’re lucky, you can watch the Commuter Rail chug by just outside the back door.

The Old Manse / Photo by Madeline Bilis