Little Women (1868), Louisa May Alcott's best-known and most popular work, was written and set at Orchard House. Seeing the Alcotts' home brings the author and her family to life for legions of female visitors and their pleasantly surprised male companions. Fans won't want to miss the excellent tour (the only way to explore the house), copiously illustrated with heirlooms. Serious buffs can check ahead for information on the extensive schedule of special events and seasonal and holiday programs, some of which require reservations.

Louisa's father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a writer, educator, philosopher, and leader of the Transcendentalist movement. He created Orchard House by joining and restoring two homes on 12 acres of land that he bought in 1857. Bronson and his wife, the social activist Abigail May Alcott, and their family lived here from 1858 to 1877, socializing in the same circles as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.

Their daughters inspired the characters in Little Women. "Jo" was Louisa's alter ego; Anna ("Meg"), the eldest, was an amateur actress; and May ("Amy") was a talented artist. Elizabeth ("Beth"), a gifted musician, died before the family moved to this house, which has been open to the public since 1911.