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Lexington and Concord: In the Footsteps of Patriots

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For the American history fan, the cities of Lexington and Concord are on the bucket list. Most well known as the locations which saw the first shots of a revolution, they also were the home of America’s greatest minds as well. The breadth of the history available to those who come to Lexington and Concord is vast. Enjoy war history? This is the place to come. Enjoy great American authors? This is the place to come. Enjoy quaint American towns? This is the place to come. It’s got pretty much everything for everyone, including you.

Minute Man National Park

Depending on how you arrive in the area, traveling to Minute Man National Park may take you through Lexington. For us, we settled on the quicker highway route and ended up at Minute Man first on our travels. After parking, the visitors center is a pleasant walk through the woods and a clearing. Beyond this pleasant little walk, the visitor center is packed with great historical information and guidance to the area.

When you first go in, I encourage you to watch the short presentation. It runs nearly continuously during the day and give you a great introduction to the battles of Lexington and Concord. The production has that wonderfully quaint quality that you seem to find only at state or national parks.

The Old North Bridge is a center point in the history of Lexington and Concord
The Old North Bridge over the Concord River

Beyond the visitor center, the park stretches out along the road. You can stop and visit places like Paul Revere’s capture site, many of the still existing homes along the way, or Hartwell Tavern. In fact, for the ambitious among you its possible to even hike the entirety of the “Battle Road”. This trail runs through the park and follows the route that the British and Colonials fought along from Concord to Boston.

The Old North Bridge

The Old North Bridge has its own visitor center and beautiful grounds. We took the opportunity to have a picnic lunch here and enjoy the gorgeous fall weather. From the Visitor Center you’ll be able to see the Concord River and the bridge itself.

While the Old North Bridge is no longer the original, standing on the side the Colonials defended can truly put you back in time. Its easy to imagine standing upon that bridge, preparing yourself for a fight and not knowing the outcome. I stood there and wondered if those men understood just what had begun.

The Old Manse is a historical home in Lexington and Concord
Home to Hawthorne and Emerson

Just across the Old North Bridge lies The Old Manse. This home not only bore witness to the first shots of the Revolution, but served as the home for some of America’s greatest minds. The grounds also provided me with one of my favorite pictures from this trip. It has a small dock on the Concord River which you can access and even launch a kayak from. I used it to grab a perfect image of the bridge over the calm waters of the Concord.

Homes of Great American Minds

Boston and the towns surrounding it have served as the home for many of America’s greatest writers and thinkers. During the time of the revolution it was men such as John Hancock, Sam Adams, and others who lived on this land. In later years this area served as the inspiration for Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

It is these later authors who still have a great impact on the area. They were all contemporaries in some fashion, and in many cases, they actually lived in or spent time in the homes of each other. These homes are some of the best attractions in the area. Most are preserved and able to be appreciated in much the same state as when they were last lived in.

The Orchard House located near Lexington and Concord
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House was preparing for their 150th anniversary

The three most prominent are the Wayside, the Orchard House, and the Old Manse. Wayside and Orchard House are next to each other, a simple walk down the road. The Old Manse is a bit further away, but has a history linked with that of the American Revolution. Though I wished to tour all three, our timing meant that we only took the guided tour of the Orchard House.

For any fan of Little Women, the Orchard House is a must. Of all the things to do near Boston, this was the one my wife insisted we do. I’m quite happy we did because the guided tour was so full of great information about Louisa and the Alcotts. Fans of the book will be able to link many of the locations to this house and its items as well. I enjoyed the brief look into life back then and the connections the Alcotts had to the great minds of the day.

The Towns of Lexington and Concord

The towns of Lexington and Concord are precisely what you would picture a small New England Town to look like. Both are fairly compact and filled with small shops and local eateries. Concord’s location near the Old North Bridge, Old Manse, and many of the other homes in the area means you might not spend much time in Concord proper. Even with all the time we spent nearby, we still didn’t get a chance to visit Walden Pond, the Concord Museum or Sleepy Hallow Cemetery.

Memorial at the Lexington Battle Green
Memorial at the Lexington Battle Green

I did make sure to have us stop for a bit in Lexington. Unlike Concord, the City of Lexington and its associated battle took place in what is now the heart of the town. The Lexington Common, where the battle took place, is open and accessible. It was a surreal feeling to know that I stood where the first blood in the revolution was spilled. However, unlike the Freedom Trail, the overwhelming push of time didn’t feel so apparent. You could stand in the center of that green and imagine the Minutemen exiting Buckman Tavern across the way to meet the oncoming British.

While there are fewer sites to explore in Lexington, both of the towns offer plenty to those in love with history. There is simply so much which surrounds them and that they contain. It felt easier to become connected to the past in these two towns than it did surrounded by all that modern Boston offers. No trip to Boston can be complete without taking time to visit Lexington and Concord.

An Eye Towards History in Lexington and Concord

As one of the major parts of my “heritage tourism” experience while in Boston, these cities didn’t disappoint. Neither of them pretend that they are something they are not. The history they offer isn’t hidden away from your eyes, but something proudly displayed. When you travel here, you’ll need to come with an eye towards experiencing and enjoying that history. It lies in so many little nooks and crannies, yet also in the woods and open spaces that surround you.

Lexington and Concord were some of my favorite parts of my trip to Boston. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, then check out my time in Salem. If you’ve only got one day in Boston, then I’ve got a guide for that too! Want to follow along with my travels live? Then check out my Facebook for updates and “micro-blogs” or Instagram for daily photos! Subscribe to my blog today and get updates as soon as they post!

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve been to Boston twice for a business trip and haven’t had a chance to visit Lexington and Concord area. I’m overdue for a visit. I would love to visit the Orchard House and learn more about Louisa May Alcott’s life story. In addition, I appreciate how you were able to explore Lexington and Concord on your own. It looks doable to walk around and explore the attractions. To be honest, I’ve forgotten about the history of the Lexington and Concord battles so I would need a tour to relearn the history.

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