A Day of History and Nature in Concord, Massachusetts, including Thoreau’s Walden Pond

My husband is a high school Literature teacher, and it has long been on my bucket list to visit Walden Pond. When I had an out-of-town relative visit who was also interested in transcendentalism, we decided the time had come to see the pond. I did not realize how many things to do in Concord Massachusetts there are, not only related to the distinguished group of authors who lived here in the 1800s, but also to the reason they came here- nature.

A visit to Walden Pond, Massachusetts
The calm waters of Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau came to live on a friend of his, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, property on Walden Pond. He wanted to disconnect himself to some extent from society, although he still took the two-and-a-half-mile walk into Concord each day. From this experience, Thoreau wrote the novel, Walden. He was active and influential in the New England transcendental movement. By visiting Concord, you can have a personal, transcendent moment. You can steep yourself in nature, while also taking a figurative walk into a town filled with historic colonial houses, a classic town green complimented with churches and good food. Continue reading for an itinerary for spending one day in Concord, Massachusetts.

The interiors to many things are closed, or attendance is limited, due to COVID. Please check individual websites for more details.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” H.D. Thoreau, Walden

To get us in the mood for all things Thoreau, we listened to the Walden audiobook on our drive to Concord. I am an Amazon affiliate, so I make a commission on anything you buy through this or other Amazon links.

Things to Do in Concord, MA

The town is relatively small, so perfect for exploring in two days. It sits about 20 miles north of Boston, so it is also a great day trip from Boston.

As you can see, everything that you want to see within about ten miles.

Concord’s Colonial Inn

If you want to stay overnight in Concord, stay at the historic Colonial Inn. This inn is over 300 years old, Thoreau lived here while attending Harvard, and arms were stored here for the American Revolution. Even if you don’t stay here, be sure to stop in for a yummy breakfast.

North Bridge and Concord Battleground

On April 9, 1775, the first battle of the American Revolution took place at this bridge. The British came to seize the arms the Minute Men had been stockpiling in Concord, but they lost this battle, and the revolutionaries won their first fight.

The Old Manse

You can walk a trail from the Old North Bridge to this Georgian clapboard house where both Emerson and Thoreau lived.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Author’s Ridge contains the plots of Thoreau, Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I doubt there are more famous American authors in any other place together. If you want to see more Hawthorne history within a day’s drive, visit the House of Seven Gables in Salem. View a cemetery map and more history here.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchid House

things to see near Walden Pond, Massachusetts
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchid House

Alcott wrote the beloved book Little Women the story of four very different sisters growing up in this very house. Although the house interior is currently closed, you can stroll through the gardens and peer into the windows. Check their website to take a virtual tour of the house or see when it will be open again.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s House

Emerson was the leader of the transcendental movement. His house is closed during COVID but check for reopening here.

The Wayside: Home of Authors

Three authors, Alcott, Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney, lived in this house that is a site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The Alcotts helped at least one slave move through the network here.

Concord History Museum

This museum is also closed right now, but one day… check for opening here.

Walden Pond State Reservation

nature at Walden Pond

There is a large parking lot that requires cash payment ($8 in state, $30 out of state.) For now, when they are full, no one else can enter the park. There are no other options for parking, and we need to do our part in containing overcrowding. We tried to come around noon and had to wait two hours to be able to go back and park, so plan accordingly.

There are so many things to do here that you can spend a day just here. We plan to return to do just that.

The park is a lot like Thoreau’s time here. The part of the lake near the parking lots is very built up, with stairs, buildings, and people (like his daily visits into Concord). If you spend time hiking around the lake, you will enter the solitude that Thoreau enjoyed.

The Bookstore

Who is the real Thoreau?

For a literature-lover, this place is a treasure with many author-themed items as well as local snacks.

Visit Historical Recreation of Thoreau’s Cabin

What to see on Walden Pond
The model Thoreau Cabin at Walden Pond

This cabin is located right behind the bookstore and has a statue of Thoreau. When things are open, you can tour it.

Hike Around Walden Pond

Take the 1.7 mile Pond Path around the pond and enjoy views of the water and woods. The path is uneven, narrow, and has a little elevation to it, so it is not appropriate for strollers. This kettle pond is very clear blue and has many birds to see. Many other paths veer off of this primary and more populated path.

See the Original Cabin Site

Although the cabin isn’t intact, the Pond Path goes by the original site where there are parts of the foundation still present. If you would like to leave Thoreau a tribute, follow tradition by adding a stone from your home to the cairn started by Mary Newbury Adams in 1872.

Swim in Walden Pond

Right near the parking is a swimming area complete with lifeguards. The water is fresh, clear, and calm and the beach long, so this is a very great place to cool off. There is also a roped off area if you are a serious swimmer and want to swim laps.

Day Trip From Boston to Concord, Massachusetts

Getting from Boston to Concord Using Public Transportation

Make your way to North Station in Boston. Take the MBTA Fitchburg commuter rail line to Concord Station. The ride will take around 40 minutes.

Driving from Boston to Concord

If there is no traffic, the ride from Boston to Concord, Massachusetts, takes around half an hour.

So when are you going to plan your trip to Concord, Massachusetts? Are you more excited about the nature, colonial history, or literature history?

For more Essential New England experiences, visit my New England bucket list.

Explore literary and colonial history, as well as calming nature in the home of Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott, Concord, Massachusetts. Read on for things to do in Concord to help plan your visit.  #artistridge #USHistory #historicaltravels #NewEnglandtravels #ConcordMassachusetts

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6 thoughts on “A Day of History and Nature in Concord, Massachusetts, including Thoreau’s Walden Pond”

  1. What an interesting place. I love the photo with the mask change, so quirky. Looks like a great place to visit for literature lovers!

    Reply
  2. Looks so calm a soothing place. Great to know that the historic event of the first battle of the American Revolution took place at North bridge. Better to time the visit to be able to see Ralph Waldo Emerson’s House and the museum. Very helpful tips. Love the pic you used for the pin. 🙂

    Reply

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