An Afternoon in Concord Center

There's plenty for families to do in Concord Center -- candy shop, toy shop, rowing, books and more!

By Kathryn Camgemi, Contributing Writer July 11, 2019

Steeped in some of America’s most influential history and culture, Concord MA is one of New England’s most quintessential towns. From its bucolic architecture and village green to its white-steepled churches and charming shops and restaurants, this scenic town 20 miles west of Boston has been a popular destination ever since it was incorporated in 1635, thanks to the Revolutionary War and a group of famous authors that shaped American literature. Many of us learned about its history in school, but if you’re looking to discover the Concord of today through a different lens--with children in tow—then come along with us as we enjoy a summer afternoon in Concord.

Hiking with Authors and Fairies

Situated off Route 2 and just beyond the town center, there is a special -- even mystical -- destination that locals call Fairyland. The official name is Hapgood Wright Town Forest, located at the far end of Walden Street and across from Concord-Carlisle High School. Parking is easy, with a small lot right at the trailhead, and it’s never crowded. Enter the forest and you’re immediately struck by the intriguing pieces of art placed throughout. With almost spiritual reverence, the art melds into the surrounding old growth trees, boulders, and glacial basins. This is an ongoing project by Concord’s Umbrella Arts Center, and the installations change throughout the year. As you start down the main path, the tranquil and lush Fairyland Pond comes into view. If you happen to catch it at the right time, the sun filters through the trees and casts an ethereal glow over the pond, giving it its apt nickname. 

Take a right down a narrow side path and you will venture over a babbling brook full of emerald-green ferns and moss-covered stones. Enjoy a break along the pond trail and do what Thoreau and Emerson often did during their frequent visits here -- sit in silent contemplation and admire the varied environment of this unique spot. 

This town-owned property intersects with both the Bay Circuit Trail and the Emerson-Thoreau Amble and culminates at Brister’s Hill. Named for Brister Freeman, a former slave and the second African-American man to own property in Concord, Brister’s Hill is noteworthy for its spring that is believed to be fed by Walden Pond (Thoreau writes about Freeman in his 1854 book Walden too.) The spring then feeds Fairyland Pond. One visit to this enchanting spot and you might just start believing that elemental creatures do, in fact, exist here.

Extreme Grilled Cheese and Muddy Boots, Please!

After working up an appetite at Fairyland, drive the short distance into downtown Concord for lunch. The line is usually long at Main Streets Market & Café, but the food is worth the wait. They have a huge menu with a surprising variety of dishes, from standard burgers and sandwiches to grain bowls and their popular extreme grilled cheese sandwiches. Items that are gluten free are conveniently marked on the menu. 

Later, if you have room for dessert, stroll down the photo-worthy alleyway with outdoor tables and benches and overflowing with gorgeous flowers to Main Streets’ lower café where they serve ice cream, coffee and other food. They have a short but refreshingly different list of rotating flavors that in the past have included the must-try muddy boots and, my son’s favorite, unicorn!

A Candy Shop for Young and Old

There is nothing like a bright, colorful shop brimming with oodles of candy to bring out the child in all of us. Located across from Main Streets Market & Café and down Walden Street, Priscilla Candy Shop offers an unparalleled selection of novelty candies; local and handmade chocolates, including their famous French Roll; a well-curated selection of gifts; and all manner of delightful treats. 

A Massachusetts company since 1936, Priscilla Candy has been in Concord for more than three decades and is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Children will have a tough time choosing between the options here, but whatever they select is guaranteed to be delicious. My son raved about the orange milk chocolates—and the blue raspberry jelly beans!

Whimsical Reads & Who-Dun-Its

Who better to point you in the direction of books than Peter Rabbit himself? Off Main Street and down an alley that conveniently abuts a public parking lot is Barrow Bookstore, a rare and gently used bookstore with its own picture-perfect setting.  A hand-carved signpost highlighting famous fictional worlds, a larger-than-life Peter Rabbit, and charming Victorian garden elements filled with summer flowers warmly greet you here, just like a well-loved book.  

Inside, the aisles are small and narrow with shelves stuffed with an impressive variety of titles. The juvenile section has everything from picture books to chapter books, and some truly vintage ones at that; be sure to check out their selection of Nancy Drew mysteries for a dose of childhood nostalgia! 

A fun interactive addition here that kids and adults will both enjoy is the fingerprint matching game that identifies some of literature’s most awful villains, from Captain Hook to Professor Moriarity and even Alec D’Urberville. Whether you’re perusing books on Concord or New England history, seeking a rare find, or simply looking to add a Magic Treehouse book to your child’s home library, Barrow has a carefully honed collection that is worth a visit any time of the year.

Canoeing Thoreau’s Concord River

If you’re eager to return to Concord’s natural splendor (and perhaps work off a few calories from lunch and treats), drive up the road (Main Street/Route 62) to the cash only South Bridge Boat House and rent a canoe or kayak for a couple of hours. Parking is limited to a few spaces across the busy road, so mind little ones as you get out of the car. 

This leisurely activity is one of the best ways to observe both the Concord of today and the Concord of Thoreau’s time, which he wrote about in his 1849 book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Enjoy the peaceful respite as you glide down the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord rivers and beneath the famous Old North Bridge, site of the Battle of Concord during the Revolutionary War. Keep an eye out for turtles sunning themselves on logs, blue heron scouting for fish, and muskrat and beavers slipping seamlessly through the water.

Toy Shop Delights

Wrap up your afternoon in Concord with a visit to one of the region’s best toy shops. The Toy Shop of Concord relocated to 89 Thoreau Street several years ago.  As America’s first specialty toy store, The Toy Shop of Concord carries a huge selection of reasonably priced LEGO® products, Ravensburger puzzles, board games, stuffed animals, arts and craft supplies, and so much more. 

With its classic green, gold and red façade and brightly decorated interior, the shop is reminiscent of toy stores from a bygone era. Santa and Mrs. Claus even come to visit each year at the holidays! This nod to the past is what makes the shop such an enchanting place to visit. Down every aisle and around every corner, The Toy Shop of Concord is packed full of thrilling toys just waiting to be discovered.

Other Places to Visit in Concord Center

There are plenty of other places to while away a few hours in Concord center (or just a short walk away):

Continue the exploration at home: Spark the love of reading for every member of the family after your afternoon in Concord with the following books that are either about Concord or written by a well-known Concord resident.  


Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson

Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson

Henry Climbs a Mountain by D.B. Johnson

Henry Works by D.B. Johnson

Henry’s Night by D.B. Johnson


Little Women by Louise May Alcott

Little Men by Louise May Alcott

Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott

Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Born and raised in Boston, Kathryn Camgemi now lives in West Concord with her husband and their young son. A writer of both fiction and non-fiction for thirty years, she has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Reader's Digest, among others. She has been secular homeschooling her son with additional needs for four years and strongly believes all children can succeed given the right environment. She writes periodically about their homeschooling journey at  You can also find her at her Facebook page, A Homeschooled Life.

Macaroni Kid Acton-Concord-Bedford-Lexington is a free weekly newsletter and website focused on fun events and information for local families.
We gather together all kinds of local family events and activities each week, and add useful information about classes, family-focused businesses, book and product reviews, recipes, crafts, school and camp guides and more.

Subscribe today to receive our email newsletter every Thursday!