After three days sightseeing in Philadelphia, I have to admit that I didn’t think Valley Forge could possibly compare. In fact, we nearly skipped this stop en route to Gettysburg, PA. We were so glad to stayed the course! We ended up spending almost three hours at Valley Forge, and could have used more time.
The way this national historic park is set up, visitors start at the Visitor’s Center, see a short film, then set out to see the rest of the (large) site either by driving tour or bicycle. I supposed you could also walk it, but it would take quite a bit of time. As it is, if you have a few hours, you should drive, and only bike the tour if you have a full half day to devote to it. Note: if you go this option, bike rentals are available in the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center.
We opted to drive, so we picked up a map and headed out after checking out the exhibits in the center. By following the self-guided tour (well marked en route), families see nine major sites, including replicas of the wood-hewn huts inhabited by Washington’s army during the long winter of encampment, Washington’s headquarters in a historic farm house, and canons and other trappings of the war. You also see the inner and outer defenses of the camp, and a few ‘new’ additions from the early 20th century, like a stone chapel and several statues.
The drive is beautiful, but bear in mind: it’s easy to get off-course. Follow the brown tour route signs religiously, and you’ll be ok. The whole loop takes approximately 30 minutes if you drive it without stopping, but you’ll want to stop at at least 2-3 locations. We took two hours.
Valley Forge is a good location for families with kids of any age: the drive between sites is short, and every area has plenty of space to run on the grass, explore a creek, or just run a bit. Living history docents in period costume were present at two of the stops we made (on a summer weekday).
Date last visited:
Distance from the interstate:
Two minutes off I-76
We saw one snack shop by the bike rentals in the main parking area; otherwise, there are plenty of picnic areas. We ate our picnic lunch near the Visitor’s Center because we thought it would be our only chance. Not so: excellent picnic spaces are on offer throughout the driving tour. If we had it to do over again, we would have picnicked at any of many scenic spots overlooking the encampment.
Admission and Hours of Operation:
This national historic site is FREE, and open from sunrise to sunset.
The Visitor’s Center is located at 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA. From I-76, take Exit 328 A and US 422 West, then Valley Forge Exit to Route 23 West. Follow signs.