The most common question at Valley Forge National Historical Park is “Where was the battle?” But there was no battle. Valley Forge was the winter encampment of the fledgling Continental Army in the winter of 1777–78.
Made up of volunteers, George Washington’s army was undisciplined, unorganized, under-supplied and no match for the British. They barely survived defeats over the summer and fall.
While the Redcoats retired to the warmth of Philadelphia for the winter, the Colonials huddled in rough wooden huts. But schooled by the likes of Generals von Steuben and LaFayette, the rabble were “forged” into the Continental Army. When they marched out in June 1778, they were a united group of soldiers able to match the highly trained British.
You can follow a self-drive tour or take a ranger-guided walking tour, a trolley tour, or a bicycle tour. All stop at Washington’s Headquarters, reconstructed cabins, and Memorial Arch. Much of the era’s history lies outside the park grounds. Self-guided “Patriot Trails” offer itineraries designed around different themes. (www.valleyforge.org/revolution)
The park is popular for a lot of other recreation. Hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, jogging, photography and picnicking draw visitors to an oasis in an otherwise highly developed and frequently congested area. It’s not unusual to find an artist painting the landscape or a musician playing under a tree.
The Colonials may have wanted for clothing and supplies, but that’s not a worry today. The King of Prussia Mall boasts over 400 name-brand stores and Philadelphia Premium Outlets has daily bargains. But don’t miss Skippack. The town avoided modern urban redesign and rejects all corporate outlets, chains, and franchises. It’s all independent stores, restaurants and businesses.
The region’s website (www.valleyforge.org) has good suggestions for activities, lodging, food and entertainment.
Continental Army March Out, June 20: Visitors are invited to join in the reenactment of the departure from Valley Forge by the Continental Army.
Restaurant Week, Skippack Village, May 17–21: Chefs create special menus and shops host special events during this annual celebration of food.
General Warren Inn, Paoli: During the Revolution, this was a Tory hangout. The restaurant is upscale and spectacular. You can stay in rooms in the older part of the building, which were used by British officers.
Medal of Honor Grove, Phoenixville: Visit this 52-acre memorial to the 3,450 Medal of Honor recipients.
Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford: The works of the Wyeth Family dare isplayed in a great stone barn on the river (www.brandywinemuseum.org).
For more travel help, go to www.insightguides.com.