Valley Forge National Historic Park
No battle was ever waged in Valley Forge during the freezing winter of 1777-1778. However, as every school child knows, that year went down in history. George Washington slept here: it was his winter encampment and command headquarters for some 10,000 plus cold, hungry and disease-racked soldiers who were determined to preserve and protect the fledgling American colonies in their bid for independence from British rule.
This was the American Revolution and if it were not for the bravery of Washington and his troops, we might be speaking with a British accent today. Instead, General Washington and former Prussian army officer, Baron Friedrich von Steuben, used the winter to train and develop the Continental Army into a more mature and professional fighting force that would eventually win freedom for the American colonists.
Today, Valley Forge National Historic Park has 3,600 rolling acres that pay tribute to our country’s modest beginnings. Though you can drive a self-guided tour route, a better option is to take the trolley tour with stops at the most significant points in the park. Or ask about the cell phone tour at the Visitor Center.
John James Audubon’s First American Home
From 1803-1806, a three-story stone farmhouse at Mill Grove was the first American home for John James Audubon, world renowned artist and naturalist. Audubon is best known for his detailed and realistic portrayal of North American birds, having used dead specimens and wire armature for modeling his subjects in realistic poses.
Today, his home is a museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places: birds and wildlife are still abundant on the 175 acres of his original home. Whether hiking the trails by the Perkiomen Creek or admiring the major works of Audubon – including his Birds of America – a visit here is a must.
Wharton Esherick Museum
Located a short distance from Valley Forge National Historic Park, Wharton Esherick Studio Museum is conveniently nestled amongst majestic trees along a quiet country road. The quirky home was a studio and residence for Wharton Esherick (1887-1970), a printer, painter, sculptor, and furniture maker. Today, the property and home are a National Historic Landmark.
Esherick is also known as the “Dean of American Craftsmen” because of his innovative designs with utilitarian objects, particularly with wood. Original furniture pieces show his progression from the Arts & Crafts style – depicted by decorative surface carving – to the free-form curvilinear style of his later years. It is easy to see his inspiration and flowing design in many modern pieces of today. Though students of art and architecture are primarily drawn to this place, the public is also welcome. Advance reservations are required, but are well worth the effort for this hidden jewel.
Art on the Green – Chanticleer
Chanticleer is a 35-acre garden that mixes woodlands, verdant lawns, water gardens, and a variety of flowers, grasses and herbs for a most delightful and unexpected interaction with nature and art. Though not as well known as Longwood Gardens, this quixotic pleasure garden is a favorite with families, photographers, and nature lovers who have discovered this secret respite.
Be sure to check out the many artistic benches interspersed throughout the grounds. Besides offering relaxation and contemplation, they represent the handiworks of employees, volunteers, and local artisans.
King of Malls
No visit is complete without a shopping stop at the King of Prussia Mall. Billed as the nation’s largest retail shopping complex, you best wear comfortable walking shoes to traverse the myriad aisles and corridors of this gigantic complex. King of Prussia has over 400 shops and restaurants plus eight major department stores under one gigantic roof.
If You Go:
Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau
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