Valley Forge National Historical Park
Continuing on our giant road trip; after exploring downtown historic Philadelphia (read about all that HERE), we drove out of the big city towards King of Prussia and Valley Forge.
I know I had learned about Valley Forge in American History and throughout my school years, but to be honest, I couldn’t remember really why it was special, what had happened there, or really when it was relevant! And, being as we were so close, we thought we might as well make a visit out there. It’s a National historical park, by George (Get it? If not, keep reading), so it must be important/cool/worth the visit!
We started at the visitors center, to grab a map, refresh our history, and wait for my brother and his little family to meet up with us.
I was quite impressed when we walked in with the amount of information, number of displays, and overall, how large this visitor center, and the park in general, was! We wandered for close to an hour reading up on what happened at Valley Forge, about the one-and-only George Washington, and about the area. The displays were interesting, easy to read, and displayed a lot of old relics for the kids to look at.
The historical park has over 20 miles of trails for walking or biking (bike rentals are available). There are also trolley tours and ranger-led tours throughout the park. Or, if you’re like us, you can drive the 10-mile Encampment Tour trail around the park, and get out at the multiple stops depicted on the map you pick up at the Visitor Center.
It was a really hot and humid day, and we weren’t sure how much time we wanted to spend wandering through the park, so the self guided auto tour was perfect. We enjoyed the AC between each stop and were able to stop at the places we wanted to.
Let me remind you what Valley Forge is and why it’s significant in American history.
Valley Forge was the headquarters and encampment of the Continental Army from late 1777 to mid 1778, after the British occupied Philadelphia. More than 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children built a city here. It was considered the fourth largest city in America at the time, with 1,500 logs huts and over two miles of fortifications.
General George Washington chose this area because it was only a days march from Philadelphia, with enough room to train, recoup, and strategize. It was also in the perfect area with terrain to form a great defense against the British. But, the army was met with many trials, such as low supplies and diseases. About 2,000 people died during the winter from influenza, typhoid and starvation. One of General Washington’s main objectives while at Valley Forge was keeping his troops encouraged and inspired through the hard times. In June of 1778, the British left Philadelphia and took hold of New York City, so the Continental Army left Valley Forge and reoccupied Philly.
Although the Revolutionary War lasted five more years, Valley Forge is considered very significant because it proved to many that the Continental Army was tenacious, perseverant, and a united front to be reckoned with. Many consider it a major turning point in the war.
The country was beautiful, lush and green. The trees were so dense, we could easily understand how it would be a great area to build a defense. We made sure to stop at the Valley Forge Station and Washington’s Headquarters. The station housed more displays and exhibits about the area, and more specifically, about General Washington and his leadership.
Washington’s headquarters were located in a stone house, where he and his wife lived with a few servants. There were rooms for his office, bedroom, the kitchen, and an extra room for visiting officers.
We were told the staircase banister was the original banister and were allowed to touch it as we climbed the narrow stairs. The first President of our country had touched this banister, and now so were we!
The last stop on our self-guided tour, was the Washington Memorial Chapel.
The chapel is an active Episcopal parish. It opened in 1917 and honors soldiers of the American Revolution. It is simply stunning inside and out!
We found our time at Valley Forge was well spent. A lot to learn and see, and it was fun for the whole family. It would have been cool to rent bikes to tour the park, but with the heat (and some smaller members to our party) it was not doable. Maybe next time!
Tip: Don’t forget your water bottles! There are even water bottle filling stations throughout the park, too.
After exploring Valley Forge, we treated ourselves to lunch at the King of Prussia mall, which is considered the second largest mall in the country! And, it was only 10 minutes from the park!
If you’d like to read about our other stops from this epic road trip, start at A Morning in Gettysburg.