New England is for more than peeping turning leaves in fall; it’s a destination year-round, with rich cultural draws and activities that suit all ages. Case in point: Concord, New Hampshire, where a recent $10 million renovation of the city’s downtown reinvigorated the arts, dining, and shopping scenes. If you’re keen on visiting a slightly out-of-the-way destination that nonetheless tempts with world-class attractions, Concord should be at the top of your list. Let us explain why…
A bit of history
As you might imagine, the capital state of one of America’s first colonies boasts quite a history. The town was incorporated in 1734, though didn’t take on the name Concord until 1765 – so named as a nod to the resolution of a boundary dispute between the town and neighboring Bow, New Hampshire.
Over the centuries, Concord served as a pivotal junction in the northeast railroad, as well as a transport hub on the Middlesex Canal, connecting it with the prominent trading port of Boston. Today, the city is most widely known for its healthcare companies (as well as its culture and history, of course).
Not surprisingly, the importance of Concord to the country’s commercial and trading interests has attracted the attention of several high-profile governmental figures over the decades, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Pierce, and Teddy Roosevelt. These days, the town of some 43,000 residents is a favored getaway for East Coasters who want a taste of history without the crowds of major cities like Boston or Washington, D.C.
The best way to get to Concord is by rental car. If, however, you need to fly into the state, don’t fly into the major Boston airport (Logan); instead, fly into the smaller airport just 20 miles south of Concord, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. The airport is regularly served by major airlines, including American Airlines, United, Southwest, and Delta. American has the most flights in and out of the airport, so keep that in mind as you look for flights.
Once at the airport, securing a rental car is easy enough; half a dozen rental agencies are available, with daily rates starting at around $50/day. If you’re not keen on renting a car, you can always grab a Lyft or Uber to your accommodations in Concord. Prices aren’t actually all that crazy (in non-peak hours); a one-way ride costs as little as $35.
Where to stay
As with any destination, you can always choose a chain hotel for your lodging, but we highly recommend a bed and breakfast (or local hotel). Not only will you capture the character of the building (and a touch of history), but you get a breakfast that’s worlds better than the continental offerings of most big-name hotels.
If you have a rental car, consider the more rural Canterbury B-and-B 15 minutes north of Concord. Shaker traditions and history are prominent in the nearby village of Canterbury, but the area is truly sleepy; you won’t find any pubs or restaurants open in the evenings. Rooms run around $150+ and include a farm-fresh breakfast (including a scrumptious Veggie Frittata); uniquely, each one is named after someone of significance to the city of Canterbury.
Farther to the east is Colby Hill Inn, a treat for Colonial-philes who love to sit in an 18th-century-styled rocker by a hearth and pretend Ben Franklin’s coming for tea. In all seriousness, this B-and-B is a true delight, with period decorated rooms, a breakfast featuring homemade treats made with local/organic ingredients (get yourself at least two piping hot muffins every morning), and a dinner with dishes inspired by cuisines the world over (cases in point: Mussels and Indian Chaat share menu real estate with Dutch Meatballs and Butternut Squash Risotto).
If you’re keen to stay in Concord proper, aim for Hotel Concord on South Main Street. A bit more contemporary in its design, the hotel is nonetheless focused intently on hospitality, with a 24-hour concierge, an onsite gym, and light (but thoughtfully prepared) breakfast comprised of pastries, fresh fruit, and various AM bevies. Interestingly, the building that houses the hotel is also home to O Steaks & Seafood restaurant and Red River Theatres, a three-screen cinema.
What to see/do
Concord’s Main Street is the action hub for most of the town, so if you’re in doubt about where to start your adventures, head there first. Cute, local boutiques can be found all along this thoroughfare, including Gondwana & Divine Clothing Company, Concord Antiques Gallery, Things Are Cooking, and Gibson’s Bookstore.
Also on Main Street are many of the town’s primary art and entertainment attractions, including Bank of NH Stage, Capitol Center for the Arts, and Red Rivers Theatres. In short, if you want a good time in Concord, head to Main Street. (Pro tip: Tickets to local theater and dance performances are often less than $25, so take advantage and enjoy some top-notch talent.)
If you happen to drop by in the spring, summer, or early fall, wander over to the outdoor farmers’ market, which features dozens of local purveyors, farmers, and ranchers and their delicious fare. For craftsier wares, head to the Concord Arts Market a half a block off main street. Another outdoor fixture, this market sports everything from canvas paintings to hand-crafted trinkets, sculptures, and photos.
If you make your trek to Concord in the winter, be sure to bring some warm clothes; you’ll want to take advantage of the cross-country skiing in the area. Trails are free to use (and there are several), while renting equipment is easy-peasy (and as little as $19) at S&W Sports on South Main Street. After the snow melts, grab this handy map and take a leisurely hike along the Merrimack River; you’ll be surprised how quickly you spot wildlife.
Where to eat and drink
When you’re tuckered out from all that culture and activity, take in some of Concord’s best food and drink. We recommend starting with an early-afternoon pint at Concord Brewing Company (our pick is almost always the Safe Space New England IPA – juicy and citrusy), then spoil yourself with a fine new American feast at Granite where the Filet Mignon red wine demi-glace will undoubtedly be calling your name.
Alternatively, you can go to the tourist-favorite Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, but we’d recommend heading east and indulging in some swimmingly good sushi, courtesy of Morimoto Japanese Restaurant (yes to the Octopus and Red Snapper Sashimi).
When your belly is full, soothe your spirits with a cocktail at Whiskey & Wine where the wine list sails the world, the spirits are ripe for sipping neat, and cocktails feed your need for inventive mixology. Craving a sweet or three? Ask for the dessert menu and let yourself go.
We’ve really just scratched the surface of Concord, New Hampshire. For more info, inspiration, and event details, visit visitconcord-nh.com.