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A certain skirmish that took place in the late 1700s has long been Concord’s claim to fame.
For those of you who snoozed through history class, Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts were indeed the site of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, which launched the American Revolutionary War and changed world history.
Nowadays, you are much less likely to find militias roaming this scenic Middlesex town (except during April!).
Concord does, however, have a terrific cultural district, which intertwines the area’s rich legacy with its historic former residents and sites.
Before you explore, here’s a guide to what awaits in the Concord Center Cultural District.
A monument to the Old North Bridge battleground in Concord, MA
Some background for visitors: Concord is 20 miles west of Boston. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the city and is also accessible through public transportation via the MBTA Commuter Rail.
Once you get there, the Concord Visitors’ Center has maps at the ready, which will come in handy.
If you’re able, there really is no better time to visit than during Patriot’s Day weekend, a holiday only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (which was a part of MA until the mid-1800s).
During the third Monday in April, as well as the weekend preceding it, Concord turns the clock back to capture its revolutionary spirit.
A parade leaving from the town center, special activities at the Concord Museum and a battle reenactment at the Old North Bridge are just a few of the festivities that commemorate Patriots’ Day.
The view from the Old North Bridge
Even if you can’t make it for Patriots’ Day, the Old North Bridge, which is a part of Minute Man National Historical Park, is absolutely still worth seeing.
The park’s 900 acres host exhibits, tours and talks throughout the year. For simple pleasures, it’s a great walking space, too.
To take in a little more local history, head for the Concord Museum.
Inside, you’ll find a variety of installations and collections that bring the town’s history to life in an immersive way. Literature fans can also see David Thoreau’s belongings and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study, items that really can’t be found anywhere else.
History awaits at the Concord Museum
So too does Mr. Emerson’s study!
Of course, Thoreau and Emerson were not the only famed authors to make their homes in Concord during the 19th century.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, who penned The Scarlet Letter and numerous other well-known works, lived in Old Manse. Louisa May Alcott, who gave us Little Women, resided in the Orchard House; both of these locations offer tours throughout the year.
The Orchard House is still very well kept indeed
To get your hands on literary works past and present, The Concord Bookshop is a great place to go. The independent store has been around since 1940, and along with its huge selection, also hosts events every so often.
If you’re interested in enjoying the local arts scene, there’s a whole lot to that, too. The Performing Arts Center is home to the Concord Players, Concord Band and Concord Orchestra, all of which know how to put on a good show.
The Umbrella Community Arts Center, which has classes, performances and events of its own, is another fun place to check out.
Those willing to venture just a bit outside the Concord Center Cultural District’s borders ought to take a trip to Walden Pond State Reservation, too.
Walden Pond in late September
Walden Pond was the inspiration for famed transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau’s most acclaimed book, which was titled (you guessed it) Walden.
Today, the reservation is a nationally recognized landmark, one that remains ideal for a pleasant day outdoors. There is a fee for on-site parking ($10 at most), which tends to get gobbled up quickly when the weather is nice.
Near the cultural district, there’s opportunity to dine as well. Bondir is a good spot, as is 80 Thoreau. Early morning cobwebs can be shaken off at Haute Coffee.
For overnights, the Colonial Inn, the Hawthorne Inn and the North Bridge Inn are right nearby.
The Colonial Inn during winter
If you would like to learn more about the 23 cultural districts in Massachusetts, including Concord’s, just click here.