For the Americana
Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Alcott: Some of New England’s most important authors found big inspiration living in one of its teensiest towns. But even before Concord became the literary incubator of the mid-19th century, the quiet Boston suburb was already famous as the subject of Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride—and boatloads of other works about the first battle of the Revolutionary War, which was fought at the still-standing Old North Bridge. A couple centuries later, you’ll see that the 13-star American flag still dresses Colonial porches and faded barns; that locals still cling to their natural and philosophical heritage (Walden Pond is almost sacred); and that the famous authors’ graves at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are adorned with tiny piles of pens and pencils left by visitors. There’s just no such thing as a “tourist trap” here: It’s as real as it gets. And so pretty, too. —A.J.D.
BEDDING DOWN: Concord’s Colonial Inn (48 Monument Square, 978-369-9200; from $209 a night) is the way to go: At almost 300 years old, it’s still just lovely, with enough modern luxury (wi-fi, cable, plush four-posters) mixed in with its period decor to be comfy. Tip: Room 24 has a history of paranormal activity, so you’ll want to book it or avoid it accordingly. Some say the ghost is Thoreau, whose family lived here for many years.
DINING: What else but the Yankee pot roast at the Inn’s Merchant’s Row Restaurant? We also nursed a fireside nightcap at the adjoining Village Forge Tavern (where Revolutionary War supplies were once stored!), and liked Main Streets Market & Café (42 Main Street, 978-369-9948) for brunch. It’s a busy little bistro just around the corner, with a memorable sweet butternut squash chili. Just plan on a wait—there are always customers lined up for their morning cups to go.
STATE FARE: Drink up! Sam Adams—specifically, the seasonals—and Harpoon IPA tee off almost every local beer menu, while smaller local brewing companies—Waltham’s Watch City (256 Moody Street, 781-647-4000), Westminster’s Wachusett (175A State Road East, 978-874-0255)—make frequent guest appearances, too.
PASTIMES: After paying your respects at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Authors Ridge (129 Bedford Street), you can drive over to the Old North Bridge for an iconic photo op of Concord. Not far from the bridge is the Old Manse (269 Monument Street, 978-369-3909), former home to both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne—a worthy tour if only for the love notes etched in a window by Hawthorne and his wife.
DAY TRIP: Just over 15 miles west lies Bolton, and the family-run Nashoba Valley Winery (100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, 978-779-5521), where you can sample award-winning fruit wines (sparkling apple, blueberry merlot, dry pear white) or just pop into the gift shop for a bottle and the try-before-you-buy tasting bar. They’ll let you sip five wines for four bucks.
GETTING THERE: Multiple airlines offer cheap nonstop flights to Boston (one hour and 15 minutes), and from there, it’s only a 20-mile drive. (The MBTA “Fitchburg” commuter rail line also services Concord.)