A mere 30 minutes – give or take depending upon traffic – is all it takes for travelers at city center to transport themselves to the very place where America felt its first pangs of birth as a new nation on April 19th, 1775. Minute Man National Historical Park, 970 acres of land in and around the towns of Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord, commemorates and brings to life the very first military clashes between Colonists and British Regulars in what would be America’s 6-1/2 year long fight for independence before the British military finally surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781.
Under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Minute Man National Historical Park was established in April of 1959 as “a Historic Site created to preserve, selectively restore and interpret portions of the Lexington-Concord Battle Road”; it was re-established in September of that year as a Historic Park. Since its inception 54 years ago, the National Park Service has torn down all of the modern buildings and maintained the 50 colonial structures within its boundaries while also restoring the colonial landscape by repairing and restoring the existing stone walls to their original state and clearing the fields to make the area resemble the colonial period.
Since opening, the park has seen close to 44 million visitors from all over the world with an average of over 1 million visitors a year, putting the park in the National Park Service’s top 100 most-visited sites.* Visitors of all ages and nationalities come to the park year-round to view the site of “the shot heard ’round the world” at Concord’s North Bridge; tour The Wayside: Home of Authors where Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family once resided; or traverse the 5-1/2 mile Battle Road Trail which covers part of the route taken by the British Regulars on their march from Boston to Concord and back.
Paralleling Route 2A in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord as well as Lexington Road in Concord, the Battle Road Trail connects historic sites from Meriam’s Corner in Concord to the eastern boundary of Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington. Much of the trail follows original remnants of the Battle Road while other sections leave the historic road to follow the route of the Minute Men as the trail crosses over and through farming fields, wetlands, and forests.
Before heading out to explore the Battle Road Trail or elsewhere in Minute Man National Historical Park though, it’s always a good idea to begin your visit with a stop at Minute Man Visitor Center near the Eastern Entrance of the park. Located on Route 2A a half-mile west of Exit 30-B off of Interstate 95/Masschusetts Route 128, the center is a great source for orientation programs, information, exhibits, and maps that will serve to enhance your visit.
After parking in the Visitors Center lot, follow the boardwalk beyond the informational plaque and kiosk offering information on special events that may be happening and the various programs available at the park then continue along the paved path past a small pond, outdoor program area, and several picnic tables until you get to the Visitors Center.
Inside you’ll find numerous exhibits giving an overview of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the events on that long ago Wednesday that changed the whole of history.
Walking through the doors, one of the very first things that is going to catch your eye – and keep it – is a very large mural by artist John Rush that depicts Colonists and British Redcoats fighting along the Battle Road. Specially commissioned by the National Park Service, the original 30″ x 80″ oil on canvas painting was digitally enlarged to its current 15 x 40 foot size for dramatic use in the Visitors Center.
Not to worry if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking at, there’s a handy reference guide located below the mural that describes the key points of the painting.
Along with the eye-catching, larger-than-life mural, there are other exhibits that are interesting to both young and old alike.
To the right of the main doors when you enter the center, you’ll find a life-size horse jumping over a stone wall as it carries Dr. Samuel Prescott through the night to warn the Colonists that trouble is on the way from Boston. Nathaniel thought that it had to be one heck of a wild ride and wished he’d been there in person to help Dr. Prescott awaken the countryside rather than just catch a ride on the exhibit!
Nearby are three patriots who are part of the “Countrymen and Adversaries” exhibit and who played key roles in the American Revolution:
In addition to the static exhibits, the Minute Man Visitors Center also offers visitors the chance to watch “The Road to Revolution” – an award winning, multimedia theater program which is sure to give everyone who watches it an excellent introduction to the historic events of April 19, 1775 beginning with Paul Revere’s historic ride. Considered to be one of its kind in the National Park System, the 25-minute presentation is a must-see for everyone visiting the park!
Like many other good visitors centers, Minute Man Visitors Center has a well-stocked bookstore complete with a cancellation station where you can get your Passport® To Your National Parks book stamped and, should you have any questions about anything in Minute Man National Historical Park, there are Park Rangers available to answer them and offer any other assistance as needed.
How to Reach Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, MA with its Visiting Hours
Located at 250 North Great Road in Lincoln (the address you’ll want to put in your GPS), the Minute Man Visitors Center is open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. from late March through early November and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. early November through early December – except for Thanksgiving Day when they’re closed. There is no fee to park or to watch “The Road to Revolution” though groups of 15 or more, must make reservations in advance by calling (978) 381-7832 or by e-mail.
The grounds of Minute Man National Historical Park are open year-round from sunrise to sunset but be aware that parking lot gates close promptly at sunset. For full details on the park’s Operating Hours & Seasons, visit the park’s website where you’ll also find Things to Do as well as other helpful information to plan your visit to one of the United States’ most important places in its history.
Oh, and did we mention that the British come back every year in April to once again be beat back by the Colonial Minute Men? No? Well they do! They do!