Valley Forge National Historical Park
A Destination of Historical Proportions
Chances are, you know Valley Forge National Historical Park for its role in the American Revolution. And certainly, that's its primary claim to fame.
But there's so much more to these 3,500 acres.
Discovering the many joys of Valley Forge is like peeling the proverbial onion:
Visitors come to delve into its stirring history, but they quickly come to appreciate an oasis of natural beauty, especially in fall when the park becomes a canvas of red, orange and yellow.
Their kids experience the honor of wearing a Colonial uniform and the discipline of marching in formation, except that in these ranks, giggling is permitted.
Photographers quickly fill memory cards with hundreds of postcard-worthy shots, capturing the brilliant foliage that surrounds stately monuments and colorful fowl on their yearly migration routes. Artists capture its vistas in every medium from watercolor to crayon. Open-air musicians play in counterpoint to songbirds.
Fitness fans don running shoes, cross-country skis or cycling outfits to pit themselves against its 20 miles of trails. They quickly discover that the same hills and overlooks that General Washington used defensively now provide a workout that leaves them panting.
Modern patriots enjoy a rigorous schedule of speakers and panel discussions that frame the actions of our Continental Army in today's terms. They come away with the sobering reminder that although our struggle for freedom occurred more than 200 years ago, its defenders are no less active in the 21st century.
Members of the military trace their roots here, spending time at the original stone headquarters that General Washington used to plot strategy and hone tactics. The site has been accurately described as "the first Pentagon."
And people come just to escape. Office workers settle on a bench during a lunch hour and find respite in a quiet moment with a book. Mothers with strollers soak up the sunshine. Dog walkers pause beneath massive trees, remove their shoes and sit for a while, finding peace in an unexpected nap, both human and canine.
The multifaceted Valley Forge National Historical Park is accessible in many varied ways. Formal tours are available by themed trolley, bicycle and even on foot. A team of trained naturists is on hand to explain not only what flora and fauna you're experiencing but also what the significance is. Children are engaged at all levels: They can sing Happy Birthday to General Washington each February and involve themselves in conservation efforts each summer. Shoppers can find unique gifts and souvenirs at The Encampment Store within the Visitor Center, which also houses hands-on exhibits and artifacts. The calendar overflows with chances to see, hear, touch and taste encampment life, thanks to reenactors who accurately present Continental Army life down to the smallest detail, but without a trace of stuffiness: Be prepared to smile from beneath a tricorne hat you've been asked to model, hum along to the sound of a fife or plug your ears against the roar of cannon fire.
Easily accessible from the Valley Forge exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Park is located at Route 23 and North Gulph Road in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It is open from dawn to dusk year-round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The Visitor Center and other park buildings are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and details about special park events, please call 610.783.1099 or visit www.nps.gov/vafo.
Washington's Headquarters: Open for touring 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, March through December. Open weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. January and February, and on President's Day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
Train Station: Open for touring 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, March through December and during President's Day weekend (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.