Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Overview

The winter of 1777-78 was actually mild by Pennsylvania standards, but for 12,000 poorly-clothed rebels it was hard enough.  Following a retreat from Philadelphia, General George Washington’s army arrived at Valley Forge on December 19 to keep British soldiers from scouring the countryside for winter provisions.  Soldiers quickly set about building log cabins and cutting firewood, establishing the fourth-largest city in the colonies. 

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed cabins, National Memorial Arch, Washington’s headquarters

Must-Do Activity

The Encampment Tour is a 10-mile driving route that takes you to reconstructed cabins, earthwork redoubts, and General George Washington’s headquarters which contains 80% original artifacts.  Primarily due to a lack of food and hygiene, approximately 2,500 soldiers died at Valley Forge, many from typhus, influenza, and pneumonia.  This represented about 7% of the army’s total fatalities during the Revolutionary War.  Those that survived the hardships became an elite fighting force; however, many of them would spend the remaining years of the war waiting for orders that never came to attack British-held New York City. 

Best Trail

A paved trail follows much of the driving tour route and is popular with joggers and bikers.  The Schuylkill River Trail goes all the way from Valley Forge to Philadelphia.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The National Memorial Arch was dedicated in 1917, one more reason this beautiful park is frequented by local joggers.

Peak Season

Summer.  Although it would be more authentic, you may not want to visit this park during the cold and snowy winter months.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but freeway traffic in this Philadelphia suburb can be congested during rush hour.

Camping

French Creek State Park (next to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site) offers a campground 25 miles northwest of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Explore More – What was the name of the Prussian general that led the troops through months of drills?

Independence National Historical Park

Overview

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to Independence National Historical Park, one of the most popular units in the National Park Service (NPS) System with approximately 5-million visitors annually.  The “City of Brotherly Love” was the site of many important moments before, during, and after the American Revolution.  Independence Hall is a World Heritage Site where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776 and the U.S. Constitution was created in 1787. 

Highlights

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, City Tavern, Carpenters’ Hall, Ben Franklin’s grave

Must-Do Activity

We do not recommend watching the two films at the NPS visitor center, but plan to arrive early as the free timed tickets to tour Independence Hall are all claimed first thing each morning.  It is free to enter the Liberty Bell Center to see the famous cracked bell.  While waiting in the security screening line, you will be on the grounds of the house used by the country’s first two presidents, Washington and Adams.  Less busy is Carpenters’ Hall, where the First Continental Congress met in 1774.  Nearby non-NPS sites include the National Constitution Center, Benjamin Franklin Museum, and new Museum of the American Revolution, all of which charge an admission fee. 

Best Trail

Walk the streets of Philadelphia past Ben Franklin’s grave, Betsy Ross’ house, the reconstructed City Tavern (where you can grab a bite to eat), and the Todd House (the home of Dolley Madison and her first husband).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Less iconic than the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Washington Square is a small park that contains to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except for parking (there is an underground parking garage at the NPS visitor center) and visiting some museums and historic buildings (like Betsy Ross’ house).

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited.

Camping

None in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but there are options in its suburbs.

Explore More – When did Philadelphia serve as the nation’s capital?

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Overview

Rather than blast a canal through the mountains, this unique railroad carried sectioned canal boats 36 miles up and over the Alleghenies on a series of 10 inclined planes run by stationary steam engines.  It only ran between 1834 and 1854 before becoming obsolete when the Pennsylvania Railroad provided continuous service to the Ohio River Valley.

Highlights

Museum, film, Engine House 6, Lemon House, Skew Arch Bridge

Must-Do Activity

After watching the film in the visitor center, follow the boardwalk through a stone quarry to Engine House 6 Exhibit Building to see a life-sized model of a stationary steam engine and its cable system.  Continue on to Lemon House on Cresson Summit, built around 1832 to serve as a home and tavern. 

Best Trail

From the Engine House 6 Exhibit Building, you can walk a trail through the forest or the mowed incline less than half a mile down to Skew Arch Bridge, or you can drive there.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Skew Arch Bridge was the only road bridge purposely built along the portage.  The “skew” comes in because in 1833 the bridge design was changed to accommodate a bend in the Huntington, Cambria, and Indiana Turnpike Road.  The arch is 22 feet tall and demonstrates the excellence of stone masonry at the time as it was built without mortar.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/alpo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Prince Gallitzin State Park offers a campground with showers 20 miles northwest of Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Explore More – What is Staple Bend Tunnel famous for being the first example of with railroads in the United States?

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Overview

In a nondescript field in rural western Pennsylvania, a battle began what some historians consider the first worldwide war.  In April 1754, a young George Washington led British troops, Virginia militia, and their American Indian allies on a mission to push the French out of the western frontier.  After Washington’s troops ambushed and scalped French officers, an angry retaliatory force pinned him down at the hastily constructed Fort Necessity.  Washington surrendered on July 3, 1754, starting a global conflict that became known as the Seven Years War (or the French and Indian War).

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Highlights

Museum, reconstructed fort, Mount Washington Tavern

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service manages an excellent museum and a re-creation of the small fort.  There is a playground, too, perhaps to entice children to come learn that little actions can have big consequences.

Best Trail

Make a side trip to nearby Jumonville Glen, where a short loop trail guides visitors through the forest where the initial ambush on the French occurred.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The reconstructed Mount Washington Tavern, a stagecoach stop on the historic National Road.  Construction of the National Road began in 1811 and businesses like this one soon popped up to serve travelers.

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Peak Season

Open year round, except Jumonville Glen and Braddock’s Grave are only open in summer.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fone/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Ohiopyle State Park has running water, as do several private campgrounds nearby.

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Archaeologist using a metal detector to look for artifacts from 1754.

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Not many National Park Service sites have a playground like Fort Necessity National Battlefield.

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The free National Park Service museum details the battle and its global ramifications; there’s young George Washington.

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Inside the Mount Washington Tavern.

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Ambush site at Jumonville Glen.

Explore More – Despite its name, the Seven Years War actually lasted how many years after fighting took place on four continents (as well as in the Philippines and Caribbean islands)?

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