"Gem of a city"
Small, friendly, prosperous but unpretentious city of 40,000 approximately an hour outside of Boston, with a healthy mix of urban and outdoorsy amenities. Locals consider Concord to be the borderline where the north-of-Boston sprawl ends and "true NH" begins. The areas north, east and west of Concord are scenic and rural; the areas south of Concord are suburban and/or urban. Concord itself has a laid-back, artsy hometown vibe and a strong sense of community. People are neighborly and friendly, the professional community is outgoing and supportive, there's a lot of city pride, all of the neighborhoods are safe and family-oriented, people - even rich and insanely accomplished people - aren't snobs, and the city feels much smaller than it actually is. Still, the downtown boasts an impressive collection of fine dining, hipstery coffeeshops, artistic venues (including Capitol Center for the Arts, the Audi and the Red River Theater, which might be northern New England's best indie movie theater) and boutique shopping options. Just about every big-box store in existence has a Concord franchise, but the city is so small and spread out that traffic/parking is never an issue. Most of the downtown neighborhoods are pretty, well-kept, and have nice landscaping and Victorian architecture. Recently, the city has undertaken substantial efforts to conserve its open spaces. This means that there are hundreds of acres of undeveloped forest on the city's outskirts and a striking number of farms still in operation within city limits. The neighborhoods outside of downtown are upscale and suburban, but most of them are within a short walk to these open spaces. So overall, I think that Concord has struck the perfect balance between urban and rural living. I love this city. I grew up here, lived in various places around the world, and Concord is by far the nicest place to live that I've ever encountered. It's not perfect. The city is geared more towards families. Not that there aren't a lot of options for single young professionals in town (and, in the opinion of this ex-New Yorker, the single young professionals in town are, on average, wayyy better-looking than their Manhattan counterparts), but most Concordians are nuclear family-oriented, which might make the rest of us feel like a guest in somebody else's house, even though - again - people couldn't be nicer. A lot of the population is made up of baby boomers on the cusp of retirement - Concord is kind of like Mecca for old hippies with some money - so that's going to change the community's dynamics over the years. (Concord's boomers are quality, quality people, though, and eager to pass the torch to the younger generation; I just foresee a large retiree community soon, which will change things). Even though all political walks of life coexist in peace here, Concord is a staunchly liberal city, kind of like Northampton MA without a college. Now, every hardcore Republican I know who lives in Concord loves this city with a fiery passion, but conservatives ought to know that they'll be a minority here. The city is pretty once you get off of the main drags, but the views from the highway are UGLY. The elementary schools and Concord High are terrific; the middle school has been poorly run for as long as anyone can remember (it seems to be the dumping ground for burned-out elementary and high school teachers biding their time until retirement). Finally, even though there are a lot of employers in town, many of them don't hire at the entry level. Concord tends to be where professionals move after a few years of proving themselves elsewhere. All that said, though, the younger generation has really stepped forward over the past few years, and there's been an amazing resurgence of activity and city pride. We've saved an impressive number of our historical landmarks (including the City Audi and the CCA), and newcomers seem to feel just as strongly about preserving what we have here. Outdoor concerts, new businesses, and athletic events like Concord's famous pond hockey tournaments bring out the whole community. It's not a place to go clubbing or to see/be seen/judge/be judged according to the latest fashion trends, even though there are some decent bars and other opportunities for low-key gatherings. The people in this city are incredible. Just the nicest, smartest, free-spirited bunch of people you could ever hope to meet. If you're lucky enough to get a job in this area, I recommend Concord over any other city in NH (other than maybe Portsmouth) and any suburban/small town as a place to live. Concord isn't the most tourist-oriented town, although there's certainly a lot to do (the Capitol Center and Christa McAuliffe planetarium spring to mind), but it's centrally located to the lakes, mountains, ocean and Boston. It's a great place and comes with my highest recommendations.