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. 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!
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House
Kids who loved the movie Little Women, or the book it was based on, will enjoy discovering the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote her classic novel. Orchard House is open to visitors year-round, and guides in period dress take visitors through rooms of original furniture and personal possessions, while they tell the stories of Louisa and her family, who inspired the March family of Little Women.
Orchard House features free parking on site, a shop, and rest rooms. Visit https://louisamayalcott.org for hours and admission prices.
Walden Pond State Reservation
Even kids who aren’t old enough to read Thoreau’s classic Walden, or Life in the Woods will find outdoor adventure at Walden Pond and the surrounding Walden Woods. This site is now a Massachusetts State Reservation, open year-round. Visitors can hike on several trails (wear appropriate footwear) or take a swim at the public beach. There’s a public boat ramp, too (gasoline engines are prohibited). There’s also a replica of Thoreau’s house, and a Visitor Center staffed by park rangers, with exhibits, rest rooms, a book and gift shop, and a short film by Ken Burns.
There is a charge for parking at Walden Pond State Reservation. Visit www.mass.gov/locations/walden-pond-state-reservation for hours and parking rates.
South Bridge Boat House
Explore the rivers where native people fished, Minute Men fired “the shot heard ’round the world,” and authors found creative inspiration. From April 1 through November 1, the South Bridge Boat House rents kayaks and canoes—paddles and life jackets included. You are welcome to bring children of all ages. If you’d like to see the rivers without the effort of paddling, you can also book a lunch or dinner cruise.
Free parking is available on Main St. opposite the Boat House. For prices and more information, visit www.southbridgeboathouse.com.