Located just 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the historic military camp site used by General George Washington and his men during the Revolutionary War. Because of its close proximity to the city, Valley Forge makes for an excellent day trip out of Philadelphia. National Park Service provide a number of great tours which bring to life the hardship faced by the soldiers stationed there. In addition, the Valley Forge Casino offers a fun escape for those less interested in a history lesson.
History of Valley Forge
In the winter months of 1777-1778, the American Revolution was at its lowest point: the army was losing the war, supplies were being blockaded, and morale was at an all time low. Because of the lack of food, supplies, and adequate medical care, thousands died of disease that winter. In fact, nearly 2,500 out of the 12,000 that first encamped would not survive the winter.
The army was saved by 2 things; Washington’s insistence that the Continental Congress see the state of his troops for themselves so that they could get adequate supplies, and by an unlikely German military officer. Baron Frederich von Steuben was a Prussian military man who offered his services to the Continental Army. Although he didn’t speak a word of English when he first arrived, he understood the situation that Washington was in and took immediate action. He began drilling the soldiers, teaching them how to use their weapons, showing them military discipline, and how to be a professional soldier. Baron von Steuben turned Washington’s rag tag army of patriots into an efficient, professional army that was capable of defeating the British. Because of his service to the American army, there is a statue of him at Valley Forge.
Prayer at Valley Forge?
Many people associate Valley Forge with the painting, "Prayer at Valley Forge," by Arnold Friberg. Though there is no historical evidence to suggest that Washington did not pray at Valley Forge, there is also no evidence to suggest that he did. The notion that Washington knelt in the snow and prayed for the safety and survival of his troops during those cold winter months only gained popularity after Friberg's painting was done in 1975.
Accommodation in Valley Forge
- Valley Forge Hampton Inn & Suites -- An affordable option near Valley Forge Park.
- Hyatt House -- A great, mid-range option is Hyatt House, which offers clean rooms near shopping and the turnpike.
- Valley Forge Casino -- If you're looking to splurge, consider staying at the Valley Forge Casino. It offers luxurious rooms and lots of fun activities for the whole family.
Getting to Valley Forge
Valley Forge is most easily accessible by car. It takes a little over an hour if driving from Philadelphia. The National Park Service website has great directions.
Things to do in Valley Forge Park
National Park Service offers a huge variety of programs and events at Valley Forge, most of which are FREE! Click here to view the full list. If you aren't interested in taking a tour, guests are welcome to do a self-guided drive through of the park as well.
Tip: Admission is free, but if you would like to learn a little more about the history of the area, consider renting an audio guide from the Visitor's Center for $15.
Things to do around Valley Forge
Valley Forge Casino is one of the biggest draws to the area. The casino features slots, game tables, an extraordinary nightlife, and a luxury resort. There are many different entertainment options for those who don't gamble, as well as a relaxing spa.