Destination: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Destination: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
By Rochelle Caviness - December 28, 2005
For many, the words Valley Forge, evoke images of a rag-tagged army huddled in makeshift shelters as they struggled to survive through the harsh winter. This army, known as the Continental Army, was lead by General George Washington. This poorly equipped and trained Army made its winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the winter of 1777-78. Located less than twenty miles from Philadelphia, during the Revolutionary War this was an isolated, and heavily wooded area that was named for an old iron smelting forge. Hunger was a constant companion during most of their sojourn, as was cold. Yet despite these privations, this transient army overcame the might of the British Army to win independence for the American colonies.
Today, Valley Forge is a thriving community that beckons not only history buffs, but also tourist of every ilk. Valley Forge is well situated for use as a base camp from which numerous day trips can be made. Valley Forge not only offers a plethora of attractions from gardens and museums to historical sites and guided tours, but it is within a short driving distance of Philadelphia, Lancaster (Pennsylvania Dutch / Amish Country), the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Daniel Boone Homestead, Hershey Park, and a host of other venues. As well, Valley Forge offers diverse dinning and lodging opportunities. Expansive shopping options are also available, including a visit to the King of Prussia Mall which features more than 350 shops.
Many of the venues located throughout Valley Forge and surrounding areas are accessible to visually impaired travelers, and offer visitors of all ages a wealth of educational and entertainment options. The following is just a handful of the sites you'll want to be sure to visit while in Valley Forge...
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Wether you are a history buff, or just a curious visitor, one place that you cannot miss while you are in Valley Forge is the Valley Forge National Historical Park. Covering around 3,600 acres, this park is open year-round and offers visitors not only unique recreational opportunities, but also the chance to come face to face with history. Self guided tours of the park are available, and in the summer, guided bus tours are available. Bus tours are also currently being offered in September and October, on weekends only. In the park you can visit a number of restored buildings, including General Washington's headquarters building. In addition, the park features several museums, statues, and monuments. Park Rangers are stationed at many of the main attractions, providing verbal commentaries on the history and importance of the Continental Armies winter encampment in Valley Forge. Costumed interpreters can also be found throughout the park on a periodic basis. In addition, audio tours of the park can usually be purchased at the Park's Welcome Center.
In addition to providing visitors with a unique glimpse into the history of the Valley Forge encampment, the Park also offers more traditional, outdoor recreational opportunities. For example, you can walk along several paved, multi-use trails that can be easily navigated using a mobility cane, you can also take a nature walk, go boating or horseback riding, have a picnic, or wile away a few hours fishing while in the park. One of the more unique trails that you'll find in the park is the Schuylkill River Trail, a 22-mile, paved bicycle pathway that runs from Valley Forge all the way to Philadelphia. In addition, be sure to visit the Valley Forge National Historical Park's main welcome center. There you'll find hands-on exhibits, and information about the park. Before visiting the park, or upon arrival, be sure to ask if any special events are planned during the time of your visit, sensory rich, special activities or programs are offered throughout the year.
Other historical venues associated with the Revolutionary War, as well as the Civil War, are scattered throughout the region, including:
One could easily arrange an entire trip centered just upon these historically significant military sites and associated museums.
- A Sampling of nearby Revolutionary War Sites:
- Brandywine Battlefield Park
- Paoli Battlefield & Memorial Historic Site>
- Fort Mifflin
- Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
- A Sampling of nearby Civil War Sites:
- Gettysburg National Military Park
- National Civil War Museum
- Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia
- General Lee's Headquarters in Gettysburg
Wharton Esherick Museum
Originally known as the Wharton Esherick's Sculpture Studio, this phenomenal artist's studio is now a museum that is open to the public. Esherick was well known for his eclectic wood sculptures that helped to elevate woodcrafting to a recognized formal art form, rather than simply being lumped into the folk art category. One of the highlights of this museum is that they actively encourage patrons to touch the art work! Reservations are required before visiting the museum, and, each tour is personalized to meet the needs and interests of the visitor - giving you a perfect opportunity to ensure that your visual needs are met, and that you get to truly experience the museum. The Wharton Esherick Museum can be reached at 610-644-5822, or via the above link.
Gardens and Arboretums
The area in and around Valley Forge is chock full of a variety of gardens and arboretums that offer visually impaired visitors both a sensual and aromatic treat. Just doing a rough count, there are more than eighty gardens and arboreta open to the public in Valley Forge and the surrounding areas. All of these gardens provide visitors with the opportunity to take relaxing strolls through their premises, to enjoy a variety of sights, sounds, and scents. In addition, many of these gardens have water features that present unique auditory morsels for your enjoyment, and some have sculptured gardens that contain living sculptures that can be touched. For example:
This list just barely scrapes the surface of all that there is to see and do in Valley Forge and the surrounding areas. Before embarking on your Valley Forge adventure, do you homework. There is so much to do in the area that you'll want to peruse as many brochures and guidebooks as possible to pick out those site you want to visit, and to organize your schedule. Remember to call, or email, ahead to make sure that the times and directions listed in the guidebooks are accurate, and be sure to ask if the attraction offers braille or large print maps and guidebooks, self-guided audio tours of the site, or if it would be possible to arrange for a guided tour of the site if one is not normally available. You'll find that most venues will go out of their way to accommodate special needs requests, especially if they have advance warning, so that they can arrange for the needed staff to be on hand.
- Jenkins Arboretum offers self-guided walking tours and features native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. It also attracts a diverse example of wildlife, and upwards of 90 different types of birds have been identified on the property.
- Butterfly gardens are located at both the Tyler Arboretum and the Historic Bartram's Garden. The 650-acre Tyler Arboretum also features an extensive trail system, and the 45-acre Historic Bartram's Garden is the oldest botanical garden in the United States and features the original Bartram homestead.
- At the Ambler Campus of Temple University you'll find a 187-acre arboretum. Stop by the campus' Administration Building first and they will assign a guide to you to accompany you through the arboretum.
- The Gardens at Morris Arboretum features a range of botanical examples from Japan, contemporary sculptures, and a 92-acre Victorian era garden.
- Longwood Gardens includes not only outdoor gardens, but also four indoor conservatories where flowers are in bloom year round.
- And, at the Grange Estate in Havertown, you can visit a host of historic building than take a guided tour of an 18th century garden. Here you'll also find a herb garden featuring 50 aromatic herbs.
For More Information
For more information about all that Valley Forge has to offer, from nightlife and lodgings to tours and activities in the area, or for help in planning your trip, visit the website of the Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau, or call them at 1-888-847-4883.
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Garden Tours - A Treat for the Senses
A look a few of the many gardens that you can tour in North Louisiana, including the American Rose Center.
History - It's Alive!
A visit to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. A living history museum that demonstrates what farm life was like during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.
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