There are many spots in the United States of historical significance, but few go back to the first moments of our country like Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts. Though Massachusetts isn’t known for having a large number of “headline” national parks, historical parks like this are numerous in the state and are very interesting to explore.
Located between Lexington and Concord, Minute Man National Historical Park preserves the buildings, landmarks and rich history that helped shape the first battle of the Revolutionary War. It also tells the story of how this site became what it is, and the events that unfolded on April 19, 1775.
You’ll only need about a day or so to fully explore the park, but heading here is very much worth the time if you are in the Boston area. We hope our guide gives you a few tips on how to best spend your time and what to see when visiting Minute Man National Historical Park!
MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK HISTORY
To fully understand the significance of what happened on April 19, 1775, it helps to review the events that led up to this day as well as those that followed. (Click here for an hourly historical account of what happened.)
As we learned in history lessons in school, “taxation without representation” started to fuel the frustrations of the Colonists. Faced with high costs of the French and Indian War, Britain found new funding in the Colonies through taxes. This continued for years until they were stopped, with the exception of taxation on tea. This led to the Boston Tea Party in late 1773.
By 1774, unrest and discontent continued, and Massachusetts lost the ability to be self-governed (due to restrictions put in place by Britain). Up to this time, Massachusetts had been constantly training a local militia, made of townspeople. They were able to respond on a minute’s notice, which was why they were given the name “Minute Men.” Additionally, the colonists started to collect and store ammunition.
Upset with the formation of a local militia and supplies to support them, the British sent their army (in 1775) across the Charles River to Concord to confiscate the stockpile of weapons. Learning of this march, Paul Revere made his famous ride to alert the colonists of the plan. Paul Revere was captured early in the morning of April 19, 1775, but not before he and his team had started the communication chain back to Concord.
Notified by Revere and ready, a small group of militia men were at the Lexington Green ready to confront the British Army. The goal was not to battle, but to show the resolve of the Patriots. Shots were fired by the British first as a warning, followed by more that killed several of the militia.
In Concord, the British started to search for weapons that they heard were being hidden. They found a stash and started to burn them. The militia men, onlooking from a distance, thought that the British were burning their homes. Not standing for it, then they grouped up and headed to the North Bridge, which crosses the Concord River.
They were met there by groups of the British Army that were left there to guard the bridge. The British Army first retreated slowly, until they fired shots, killing two of the militia. Major Buttrick gave the order to return fire, thus the first shots of the Revolutionary War. This caused the British Army to retreat to Concord before starting the march back to Boston along what is now called “Battle Road.” On the way there, the British came across plenty of sporadic resistance from the Colonials.
At the end of the day, the British suffered 247 casualties (wounded and killed) and the Colonials suffered 90 casualties.
What followed the retreat was the siege of Boston, which lasted months. Independence was declared over a year later, and the war lasted another eight years.
The park showcases the North Bridge as well as what happened at the skirmishes that followed the first shots on the way back to Lexington.
Minute Man National Historical Park was established in 1959 and contains 967 acres.
WHAT TO SEE IN MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The park sites are spread out over about 8 miles and there are many places to see. It can be hard to know where to start your tour and how to approach it. If you have a decent idea of the history of what happened here, then you really can approach the park in any order you want. However, if you want to have your visit mirror the order of events that occurred on April 19, 1775, then we recommend starting in Lexington before heading to the main Visitor Center. After you get a sense for the park and pick up the park maps, head all the way west to the Colonel Barrett House before returning to the east, step by step.
Whichever way you choose to go, take some time to learn what happened on the day ahead of stopping at any locations, to allow you to truly understand the significance of the spots you stop to visit.
When visiting the park, the stops that we recommend include:
- Lexington Green. This small town green is the site where the first militia men from the Colonies gathered to show resistance to the British Army marching toward Concord. Shots were fired as a warning, then additional soldiers fired on the Colonists due to some confusion amongst the British Soldiers. Eight colonists were killed without any counterattack. The Lexington Green is the easternmost spot in the park. Head east on Massachusetts Avenue and the Lexington Green is 2 miles east of the Visitor Center.
Lexington Green, image courtesy of Kenneth C. Zirkel
- Minute Man Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is a great place to start your tour and learn about what exactly happened on April 19, 1775. This is the main Visitor Center, and includes exhibits describing the battle as well as a theater presentation. This is also the place to find out about any Ranger programs that are offered, which are available in the warmer months of the year. The parking lot at the visitor center is large, and contains several picnic tables as well. There is a short walk along a paved path after you park your car.
Note: the rest of the recommended spots to stop will be covered from west to east, which is the direction that we recommend exploring the park.
- Colonel Barrett House. The Colonel Barrett House was the initial destination of the British Army, as they were convinced (from intelligence) that there was a stash of weapons and ammunition at the house. They were correct in that he did house weapons, but by the time they arrived at the house, local militia had already removed the majority of the stash. The Colonel Barrett House is located on Barretts Mill Road, about 6 miles to the west of the main Visitor Center.
Colonel Barrett House, courtesy of the National Park Service
- North Bridge Visitor Center. The North Bridge Visitor Center contains exhibits about the battle on the North Bridge. Stop in here first before walking the grounds and heading to North Bridge.
- The Muster Field. Heading down from the North Bridge Visitor Center is the Muster Field. This pretty field was a place where the Colonials gathered to discuss the unfolding events. It was here that they decided to take a stand, group together and head to the North Bridge below.
- North Bridge. North Bridge crosses the Concord River and is the site of the “shot heard round the world.” This is where Colonial militia men returned fire to the British, thus sparking the war. At the North Bridge you’ll find the Minute Man Statue as well as the Grave of the British Soldiers, where three of the soldiers that died in the first battle were buried.
After visiting the North Bridge Area, head to the east. You can park at various parking spots along the way and access the spots that are of interest by a short walk. Refer to the map for locations. Battles happened along the way, and some significant ones to point out include:
- Meriam’s Corner. After the skirmish at North Bridge, the British Army began their march back to Boston. They hit resistance at Meriams Corner when the Colonials ambushed them.
- Brooks Hill. After getting surprised at Meriams Corner, the British continued east before seeing about 500 Colonials set up on top of Brooks Hill. Having the high ground, the Colonials were in good position as the British Army attacked. Rather than fighting it out, the British headed north to avoid the resistance.
- Bloody Angle. As the British continued their march, they came across two sets of militia. Both militia from Reading and Woburn lie waiting, ready to trap the British.
- Parker’s Revenge. Just north of the Visitor Center is the site of Parker’s Revenge, where Captain Parker’s group took the high ground and mounted an attack against the British.
- Fiske Hill. On the eastern side of the park, Fiske Hill is where the Colonials mounted one more attack against the British.
Along this route, you should also check out the following:
- Hartwell Tavern. Originally gifted to Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell for their wedding, this home became a tavern in 1756 and continued to operate until 1787. The tavern is an impressive structure, as it also served to help them raise 14 children.
- Paul Revere’s Capture Site. Check out the monument where Paul Revere was captured at the end of his midnight ride.
One great way of seeing all the sties as well as getting some exercise is to take the only hike in the park, which is the 4.6-mile-long (one-way) Battle Road. This starts at Meriams Corner and ends at Fiske Hill. The elevation gain is about 250 feet. You can read about the sites and what there is to see in this guide on the Battle Road.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK?
This area is rich in history, but also with plenty of public lands to explore. Here are a few ideas:
- Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to explore on foot or in the water, anytime of year. Birding here is especially good! The refuge is located 8 miles to the south.
- Boston National Historical Park. Interested in learning more about the American Revolution? The Boston National Historical Park preserves and shares information about the battle for independence. This includes interesting sites along the Freedom Trail. The Boston National Historical Park is located about 20 miles east of Minute Man National Historical Park.
- Great Brook Farm State Park. Great Brook Farm State Park has over 20 miles of trails and features Native American sites and artifacts from English settlers in the 1600s. It’s also a dairy farm with free tours! Great Brook Farm State Park is located about 9 miles to the north.
HOW TO GET TO MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The park is located close to Boston in Concord, Massachusetts. Here are the directions from Boston to Minute Man National Historical Park. The drive will take about 30 to 50 minutes (with traffic).
Plan ahead, as it’s in a very busy area, but it’s away from the hustle and bustle of Boston so it’s navigable as long as you aren’t heading out here during rush hour.
ENTRANCE FEES AND REQUIRED PASSES FOR MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
There are no fees for the Minute Man National Historical Park.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
You can visit Minute Man National Historical Park any time of year. However, it’s best to come when the weather is a bit warmer, so as to really have good access to the landmarks. It’s also quite beautiful here with the flowers in bloom.
VISITING MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK IN THE WINTER
The park is open year-round, and you can definitely come in the winter. If there is snow on the ground, then bring your snowshoes or cross-country skis for a particularly unique experience. You won’t have much in the way of crowds at all.
ARE PETS ALLOWED IN MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK?
Pets are more than welcome to come in the park, but they must be leashed and are not allowed in the buildings.
RELATED INFORMATION ON FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Also in Massachusetts that you should check out is the Cape Cod National Seashore. Our blog covers all you need to know in detail!
- After your visit, send us your favorite images and we can turn them into a custom, vintage travel poster, which includes vintage filtering and your custom wording!