This 970-acre park preserves the scene of the first Revolutionary War battle at Concord on (all together now) April 19, 1775. After the skirmish at Lexington, royal troops continued to Concord in search of stockpiled arms (which militia members had already moved). Warned of the advance, the colonists prepared for a confrontation. The minutemen crossed the North Bridge, evading the "regulars" (soldiers) standing guard, and waited on a hilltop for reinforcements. The British searched nearby homes and burned any guns they found. The colonials saw the smoke and, mistakenly thinking that the troops were torching the town, mounted an attack at the bridge. The gunfire that ensued is remembered as "the shot heard round the world," the opening salvo of the Revolution.
The park is open daily, year-round. A visit can take as little as half an hour for a jaunt to the North Bridge (a reproduction) or as long as half a day or more, if you stop at both visitor centers and perhaps participate in a ranger-led program. The rangers suggest beginning your visit at the Minute Man Visitor Center, which is closed in the winter. Alternatively, start at the North Bridge Visitor Center, 174 Liberty St., off Monument Street (tel. 978/369-6993; www.nps.gov/mima), which overlooks the Concord River and the bridge. A diorama and video program illustrate the battle, and exhibits include uniforms, weapons, and tools of colonial and British soldiers. Park rangers are on duty if you have questions. Outside, picnicking is allowed, and the scenery is lovely, especially in the fall. The center is open daily from 9am to 5pm (11am-3pm in winter) and is closed January 1 and December 25.
To go straight to the bridge, follow Monument Street out of Concord Center about half a mile until you see the parking lot on the right. Park and walk a short distance to the bridge, stopping along the unpaved path to read the narratives and hear the audio presentations. On one side of the bridge is a plaque marking the grave of the British soldiers who died here; on the other is Daniel Chester French's famed Minute Man statue.