Area's Lush Vistas and Natural Oases Put the Great in the "Great Outdoors"

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Warmer days are here, accompanied by summer sunsets that stretch well into the after-work hours. It's time to toss that TV remote (everything's on reruns anyway), grab your sneakers and get yourself outside. The Valley Forge and Montgomery County area offers varied, engaging and often free reasons to ditch the family room in favor of flora and fauna.

The 3,500 acres of Valley Forge National Historical Park include 19.5 miles of designated, marked trails for hiking, jogging or biking. The Joseph Plum Martin Trail - named for an American Revolutionary diarist who enlisted in 1775 at age 15 - is a 6.6-mile loop past the Valley Forge icons: the Muhlenberg Brigade, the National Memorial Arch, Washington Memorial Chapel, and the von Steuben Monument overlooking the Grand Parade.

If it's waterways that float your boat, glide over to the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, where canoes, paddles and life vests are available for a leisurely jaunt down the nearby Perkiomen Creek. The trip is cool, calm, beautiful - and yes, even educational, as you're paired with a naturalist pointing out highlights. Fear not, landlubbers; full instructions are given prior to launch.

The Concerts at the Manor series at Abington Art Center presents first-rate entertainment in an open-air setting. Upcoming programs include the music of early rock and roll, blues, top forty, reggae, Latin-jazz and salsa. Kids Fest! features hands-on art workshops, lawn games, food, an art exhibition, and music to get the young - and young at heart - dancing and singing!

Sleeping under the stars combines adventure with a unique way to beat the heat. The campgrounds at Green Lane Park are fully equipped and put outdoorsy folks within a few paces of the opportunity to fish, hike or enjoy an open-air concert or movie.  To experience a fuller "back-to-nature" camping experience, adventurers can share a blanket with a bison and jammies with a giraffe at the Zoo Snooze events at Elmwood Park Zoo. Packages include admission, dinner, activities, s'mores by the campfire and breakfast in the morning.

Montgomery County has a robust network of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The Perkiomen Trail winds for 20 miles on a pathway that once held the tracks of the Reading Railroad, commonly used in the former century to bring Philadelphians to the cooling waters of the Perkiomen Creek. The Perkiomen Trail connects seamlessly with the Schuylkill River Trail, where the natural beauty of Valley Forge National Historical Park surrounds walkers, bikers, roller-bladers and picnickers.

If the beach is too far for a weekday hop, but you still crave fruity drinks in a tropical setting, slip out of that coat and tie and into your Hawaiian shirt for the Tiki Bar at Spring Mountain. You can dine on alligator kabobs - and grill them yourself, along with other beef, chicken and seafood dishes. Combine the main course with a salad and baked potato, and you've got a great al fresco meal. The signature drink is the Hurricane (they'll ring the bell when you order one), which, like the storms that lash the Caribbean, can pack a punch. There's music, too, including live performances on Thursday nights. Owner Jim Finegan describes the atmosphere: "From the Right Coast on the Bottom Side, this is the outdoor dinner party, buried in the woods of Montgomery County."

If all those Open Spaces/Fun Places leave you tuckered out (or your nights in a sleeping bag have you craving crisp sheets and a feathery pillow), treat yourself and the family to an overnight in one of Valley Forge's 8,100 signature hotel rooms. As part of the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau "Weekends Rule!" promotion, available accommodations range from ultra-plush to family-style.

The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ltd. is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that aggressively promotes the Valley Forge area and Montgomery County as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 300-plus member hotels, restaurants, attractions and services. The Bureau's website,, serves visitors, meeting planners, tour operators and residents. Follow our new blog, The Pursuit.

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