6 Free Things To Do In Concord, MA
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Less than 500 yards from the center of town, Sleepy Hollow preserves the beauty of the natural landscape just as was intended by the literary greats who are laid to rest on Authors’ Ridge: Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. When this land was dedicated as a cemetery in 1855, it was designed to let visitors enjoy a peaceful walk, away from the stress of daily life. In addition to Concord’s distinguished authors and their families, Sleepy Hollow contains the graves of:
- Ephraim Wales Bull, who developed the Concord Grape.
- Harriett M. Lothrop, who under the pen name of Margaret Sidney
wrote the popular book series The Five Little Peppers and How They
- Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, a pioneering educator who helped
introduce kindergartens to the United States.
- Katherine K. Davis, composer of the Christmas classic The Little
- Asa, Samuel, and John Melvin, three Concord brothers who gave
their lives defending the Union in the Civil War, and whose surviving
brother James placed a monument at their graves in 1908, adorned
with the sculpture “Mourning Victory” by artist Daniel Chester
- Daniel Chester French, the sculptor who created the Lincoln statue
for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and also the Minute
Man statue at Concord’s historic North Bridge.
North Bridge and Minute Man National Park
Stand on the bridge where the Minute Men fired “the shot heard ’round the world” (in Emerson’s words). It’s been rebuilt as it looked on April 19, 1775, and is preserved as part of Minute Man National Historic Park. Two monuments mark the spots where the patriots and Redcoats clashed on the first day of the American Revolution: A stone obelisk erected in 1836, and the Minute Man statue by sculptor Daniel Chester French, dedicated in 1875.
In season (April through October), park rangers (and often costumed reenactors) are present at the bridge to tell visitors the story of the battle. The National Park Visitor Center at 174 Liberty St. features a giant interactive 3-D map, displays of uniforms and weapons, and a gift shop. (The Visitor Center is open seasonally. Check the National Park website for dates and hours of operation, www.nps.gov/mima/planyourvisit/). Each year on Patriots’ Day (the third Monday in April), Minute Men and Redcoats in period uniforms meet at the bridge and reenact the battle. The town also celebrates the day with a gala parade. Come early for best parking!
This historic home was built ca. 1820 by Caesar Robbins, a formerly enslaved African American who served as a soldier in the American Revolution. After his death, the house was home to his son Peter and his family, and to his daughter Susan, a founding member of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society, and Susan’s husband Jack Garrison, also formerly enslaved, and their children. Exhibits and interpreters tell the story of Concord’s African American History, from the colonial period through the abolitionist movement, emancipation, and civil rights. The house is open to visitors Wednesday through Monday in June, July, and August, and Friday through Sunday in September, October (check their website for the current hours and dates, https://robbinshouse.org). The North Bridge and the Old Manse are directly across the street from the Robbins House.
A must for nature lovers, this hiking trail connects the home of author Ralph Waldo Emerson on Cambridge Turnpike with the site where Henry David Thoreau lived for two years on the shores of Walden Pond. The two men were close friends and walked this route often to visit each other. The trail passes through conservation land, and keen observers of plants and woodland creatures will find much to engage them. Highlights include the secluded Fairyland Pond and Brister’s Spring, named for Brister Freeman, a Concord African American who emancipated himself from slavery by his service as a soldier in the American Revolution. (The trail also passes a marker where Freeman built his house.)
The trail is a total of approximately 1.7 miles, shown by trail markers bearing a silhouette of the two famed authors. It’s not paved, and some parts go through wetlands, so wear sturdy, comfortable shoes or boots. In summer, insect repellent will come in handy. A map and detailed information are available at
Concord Free Public Library
Concord’s public library is just a short walk from the Town Visitor Center, at 129 Main St. In the main rotunda you can admire the elegant Victorian design of the original library, built in 1873, while you curl up in a big, cozy chair with a copy of Walden or Little Women (both written right around the corner). The library now boasts a large, modern addition offering a wide selection of video and music as well as books. There’s lots of fun to be had in the children’s room, and teens have their own dedicated space.
While you’re there, ask one of the helpful staff to point out the library’s outstanding collection of paintings and sculpture, including a large statue of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Daniel Chester French, and 5 paintings by N.C. Wyeth illustrating scenes from Thoreau’s life.
Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Great Meadows offers a rich diversity of animal and plant life. Depending on the season, you might see Blanding’s turtles, muskrats, or even great blue herons. It’s considered one of the best inland birding areas in the state. Visitors can hike any of several trails, including the 2.7-mile Dike Trail, and observe, photograph, and study wildlife and plants. Trailside interpretive signs and an observation tower enhance the experience. In winter, visitors can use the trails for snowshoeing and cross- country skiing.