Watching a timeless book brought to life for a new generation, and then visiting their actual world.
In late 2019, a remake of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was released in theaters. This critically acclaimed movie performed well and received award nominations. But as the Boston Globe noted in an article, there was a heavy emphasis on filming entirely with New England locations, including scenes based in Europe. Given our teen-age daughters and interest in history beyond wars and politics, this was a good film for the family to see. But we were able to turn it into a broader adventure.
We started by seeing the movie itself. Running at a couple of hours, we saw an early show so that we’d have the rest of the day free. Although I'd personally rather see a remake of some John Wayne western, this was still entertaining and well-produced and worthy of your time if you’re interested in history, female-based stories, or even just a family-friendly movie. But we didn’t stop there, stringing together other events.
The presence of the Alcott family is pervasive, as many of the belongings belonged to the family, and there are walls with May’s drawings, and the small desk at which Louisa wrote her famed book. The tour guides are friendly and guide you through the rooms with casual explanations about the rooms, time period, and family members’ lives. Overall, it was about a 45-minute tour, which was well-paced to avoid being rushed or bored.
As we were in Concord, we visited the nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, with its famed Authors Ridge, where Louisa is buried along with other famed writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The signage makes it easy to find this part of the cemetery, but the property as a whole is beautiful and worthy of spending time wandering and reading the old headstones - yes, even if you begin carving out a reputation with your kids' friends as "the dude who likes to take his kids to cemeteries".
Had we not already been to the nearby Fruitlands museum in Harvard (which also built out the picturesque downtown as another set for the movie), where the family also spent some early and difficult years, we would have added that to our itinerary. Sadly, we also weren’t able to visit the Old Manse in Concord, within walking distance of the Old North Bridge, site of the famed American Revolution battle (and a place you can get to via kayak in warmer weather). The Old Manse was yet another location for the movie, but as we were visiting in winter, it was closed at the time with a reduced operating schedule. Guess we’ll have to return in the spring!
Instead, we made the quick drive into downtown Concord. It offers a beautiful downtown, with small shops and restaurants to explore. We chose an early dinner at the historic Concord Colonial Inn.
This regal building offers great food, with different rooms ranging from ones requiring more formal attire and reservations to the casual catering to walk-ins, and also front porch dining in warmer weather. So, if you should go, check it out ahead of time to plan accordingly.
Overall, we spent a day immersed in a road trip that didn’t require much time on the road. It was a way to watch a good movie as a family, and to then explore the reality laying beneath the movie. While the movie very much brought the story to life, the following adventures were a way to see that reality in a hands-on way. Costs were minimal and the full itinerary would be more than you could do in a day. That also allows you to adjust the specific pit stops and costs to suit your preferences. It ultimately was a great way to breathe life into another part of New England’s history and an unusual way for you to experience a slice of that local past.
Hidden New England
Our region has plenty of interesting attractions off the beaten path. Some are brief visits, others longer. Either way, this is a good source of places that are overlooked but absolutely worth visiting!