New Hampshire's state capital, Concord is an elegant city that offers fine food, cultural attractions, and is the gateway to the stunning scenery of the White Mountains. Few destinations in the lower fifty offer such easy access to hiking, skiing, and climbing country.
But the city itself has plenty to offer vacationers. There's the history and grandeur of the State House, numerous vibrant theaters, and even the homes of presidents to discover, along with delicious regional produce, museums, craft beer, and a warm welcome.
It's also a city of festivals. From the Granite State Music Festival to the shopping heaven that is Market Days Festival in June, Concord hosts event after event, and there's always something to enjoy.
Built in 1819, the State House is a highlight of any visit to Concord, with its shining golden dome and beautiful interior, but it's just the start of the story. Follow it up with a visit to the home of president Franklin Pierce, then the New Hampshire Historical Society, to find out everything there is to know about the Granite State.
With a rental car, you can use Concord as the perfect base to explore the White Mountains. Head to beauty spots like Franconia Notch, take the railway to the peak of Mount Washington and tour the various waterfalls that dot this stunning region.
Concord loves to throw a party, whether its a shopping extravaganza like Market Days, the State Fair in nearby Hopkinton, or June's Multicultural Festival, which celebrates chefs and artists of diverse backgrounds from the nearby area.
If you love nature, you'll love Concord. It's home to the Susan N. McLane Audubon Center, the famous conservation organization's oldest facility, where you can get to know majestic birds like bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and screech owls.
Every year, thousands of people travel to the Merrimack Valley in search of reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and infinite shades in between as the area's trees start to shed their leaves. There are few better ways to witness one of nature's most incredible shows than by renting a car in Concord and driving down the Merrimack Valley.
If you want to do some serious leaf watching, head to Concord from late October onwards (November to be sure). Hikers and climbers flock to the White Mountains when the snows thaw around early April, while skiing is a big draw from December through March. The best of the town's festivals are in June, while September is another highlight, thanks to the State Fair in Hopkinton.
The closest airport to Concord is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT), around 20 miles to the south. The airport has branches of Dollar, Enterprise, and Thrifty, so it's a good place to rent a car. However, there's a direct bus connection as well that runs all day and costs just $4.
Concord itself doesn't have an Amtrak station, but Durham does, which is around 30 miles east of Concord. Durham-University of New Hampshire station has direct links to Boston, and by extension the entire Amtrak network, and there are connecting buses to Concord, so train travel is a possibility.
If you are coming from Boston, take I-93 northwards straight to Concord. Those driving from upstate New York should take I-90 and then change to I-93, while those coming from New York City should take I-91 and change onto Route 89 at Lebanon.
Concord only has intercity bus connections with nearby Boston via Concord Trailways, but you can reach Boston via a multitude of different carriers, making buses a cheap alternative to driving or flying.
Concord has some excellent city center hotels and charming B&Bs in its suburbs. Some of the best downtown options include the Holiday Inn Concord Downtown and the Fairfield Inn, which is very handy for I-93. If you are looking for a B&B style lodging, the Old Story Farm in Hopkinton is a great option, while the Centennial Hotel is a good upscale option just to the west of the city center.
Downtown Concord - New Hampshire's political center has an abundance of historical streets and attractions like the State House, the Historical Society, and the Franklin Pierce Manse, so there's plenty to see. It's also full of shopping opportunities like Capitol Shopping Center and thriving S Main Street.
Hopkinton - home to New Hampshire's largest State Fair in early September and charming architectural sights like the Contoocook covered railway bridge (the oldest of its type in the USA), Hopkinton is a leafy, friendly part of town and a great place to stay.
Loudon - a couple of miles to the northeast of Concord proper, Loudon is a small town with one major attraction: the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Every year, this small community hosts NASCAR events and the Loudon Classic, the oldest motorcycle contest in the country.
Buses in the city are provided by Concord Area Transit, which runs buses into the Merrimack Valley as far as Manchester, along with suburbs like Loudon. Single fares cost $1.25 and you can buy a 10-ride pass for $10, so it's an affordable way to get around.
There are plenty of local taxi operators, as well as Uber, who offer by far the most economical way to travel around the Concord area (unless you take the bus). Expect Uber cabs to cost around $1.20 for the flag drop, then another $1.20 per mile after that.
Car rental services in the Concord area include branches of Enterprise and Avis, and you can find vehicles for as little as $20 per day. Having a car can be a real help if you intend to tour the White Mountains or stay in Concord's satellite towns, and parking is usually easy to find in downtown neighborhoods.
The best place to head in Concord for some serious shopping is probably Downtown, which is full of independent stores like Bravo Boutique, Capitol Craftsman, and Little River Oriental Rugs. It's a great area to window shop on a sunny afternoon. But if the weather turns rainy, you can always pop into malls like Steeplegate Mall on the road to Loudon. There are plenty of great shopping opportunities, with an added bonus: Concord has no sales tax, making everything extra affordable.
If you need to shop for groceries, the best places to go are supermarkets like Market Basket, Shaw's, and Hannaford, all of which have deli counters, fresh fruit sections, and all the essentials you could need. Prices are usually reasonable, with a gallon of milk costing around $3.50.
Every evening of your vacation in Concord could feature a new gourmet dining option. There are high-quality gastropubs like the Barley House, reliable chains like Common Man Restaurant and Beefside, which specializes in surf and turf meals. If you fancy something fiery, El Rodeo is a great Mexican joint, while Angelina's is the finest Italian in town. Meals won't be too expensive. Expect the check to come to $15-25 with a couple of courses included.