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As soon as you enter the charming town of Concord, it’s as though you’ve gone back in time. Sure, you still have Dunkin’ Donuts on multiple corners and cars zooming around. However, the vibrant nature of this little town just 20 miles west of Boston exudes a certain gravity and the same old-fashioned, transcendental feel so passionately nurtured in the late 19th century.
My first pick for a day in Concord: Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. For those unfamiliar with Louisa, she was the author of one of the world’s most beloved novels, Little Women. Published in 1868, the book is still regularly printed and purchased all over the world to this day.
Flower-lined path leading to the Orchard House
Orchard House is the inspiration for the home in Louisa’s novel and has been lovingly kept as a museum for over 100 years. A visit to Orchard House is not simply for fans of the book. It’s for anyone who wants to pay homage to one of the most influential cradles of American thought, creativity, and expression. The home is modest, and its beauty lies in the juxtaposition of its simplicity with the tremendous power of progressive thoughts born within.
There it is! Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House
The rooms are kept as true as possible to their 19th century design and decoration, and guests can see the lifestyle of families in that time period first-hand. Right behind the house is the school started by the Alcotts, the Concord School of Philosophy. The Alcott family was also close friends with author/philosophers Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson– all regular visitors to Orchard House. The entire family’s direct impact can be seen across the United States as they helped influence the women’s suffrage movement, today’s American education system, and western philosophical thought.
The Concord School of Philosophy
You won’t want to miss a visit to one of Concord’s signature attractions. Orchard House is open year-round and detailed hours can be found here.
Minute Man Statue
After Orchard House, make your way over to the Minute Man National Historical Park. A sacred spot in American history, this park is the site of “the shot heard round the world,” where our nation’s fight for independence began.
As you walk across the North Bridge, you’ll see the famous Minute Man statue. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, also designed the Lincoln Memorial and was actually an art student of one of the Alcott sisters.
While you’re at the park, you’ll also see the Obelisk Monument near the North Bridge. This monument is said to be one of the country’s first tributes to war casualties.
When the summer is over, come back to the Minute Man Park in the autumn to hike the five-mile Battle Road Trail. The fall foliage at this time of year is especially spectacular as the warm hues and crunch of leaves beneath your feet add an extra element of splendor to the historic walk. Find out more information about Concord’s national park here.
Bring a picnic, and spend the rest of your day soaking up the warm, Massachusetts summer rays at Walden Pond! Once called home by Henry David Thoreau, this expansive pond is now a popular spot for swimming, hiking, fishing, and sunbathing.
Statue of Henry David Thoreau with a replica of his log cabin in the background
The sound of children laughing and people splashing about in the sparkling water rings through the air on any good-weather summer day in Concord. However, this isn’t your regular watering hole. Despite the throngs of crowds, the thought-provoking solitude – sought out by Thoreau when he lived in his tiny cabin and wrote Walden in 1854 – is just as present today. It’s easy to escape the regular rhythm of everyday life and get lost in your thoughts here. Immerse yourself in the contemplative spirit of Walden, pick between two of the trails around the pond, and embark on a hike while you enjoy the glimmering water on one side and shady woods on the other. And when you snap out of your peaceful reverie, jump back into Walden Pond for a refreshing dip.
Walden Pond park hours and further information can be found here.
Simply walking around a place where America’s literary and historic greats once roamed is a special experience in itself. As you make your way home after a day well-spent in Concord, you’ll take with you wonderful memories of the rich culture, magic, and beauty of this small New England town.
Feature photo, North Bridge, photo credit: Greg Parker