Valley Forge National Historic Park

Valley Forge is another of our favorite historic places in a beautiful natural setting, here in the mid-Atlantic region. Set among small rolling hills, meadows and woods, it boasts preserved and restored buildings, cannons, redoubts, an excellent museum and beautiful statues and monuments, including the impressive National Arch, commemorating soldiers lost at Valley Forge. The park is entirely free.

Start at the Visitors Center, which is also the museum. Here you can pick up literature, see life-like displays of soldiers and colonial life, collections of weapons and medical devices (yikes), and read about the struggles of the continental army in the 1770’s. You can also head up to a building just outside the main one to see a well-done film about Valley Forge, explaining why it can be referred to as the birthplace of the American Army. The diseases and violence described may be mildly scary for young children, but most likely not nightmare-inducing.

From here you can follow signs in your car for the encampment tour, which will allow you to enter the soldiers barracks and see a glimpse of how they lived, and check out the redoubts with their accompanying cannons. The third stop is the National Memorial Arch, which is quite beautiful. Take time to read the moving words engraved on the monument.

As you move along the tour you will see other monuments, statues, and living quarters of various figures who were significant in the war, such as Lafayette and Steuben. It’s worth getting out of your car again at Washington’s Headquarters, and perhaps taking a short trail to the Schuylkill River. The last stop you may want to make is at Washington Memorial Chapel, which is in use today. There is a cabin behind it where you can stop in for some coffee and snacks or hot dogs before you head home. There are clean restrooms and picnic areas throughout the park.

We found our oldest child was fascinated by the military history of the place, how the army was trained by General Stueben in ways that are still used today, and the various weapons and strategies that were used. Our second oldest child was fascinated by the diseases suffered by the soldiers, and the intense programs ordered for sanitation and even innoculation long before this became common practice. As for the two little ones, getting to run around in the sunshine in a new and interesting setting was all they needed to have a good time. So, we highly recommend a visit to Valley Forge, where there is something of interest for everyone.

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