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At Valley Forge, Colonial history meets shopping
Located less than two hours from Baltimore by car, the Montgomery County, Pa., and greater Valley Forge countryside encompass many outdoor recreational activities, historical sites, seasonal festivals, Colonial workshops and wonderful holiday shopping. With the seasons changing, a fall drive throughout this area is certain to be a beautiful one. The 3,600-acre Valley Forge Historical Park is filled with beautiful shades of autumn, so enjoy the ride.
What to do
Valley Forge National Historic Park (Route 23 and North Gulph Road, 610-783-1000): Exploring Valley Forge is easy and entertaining when you stop by the Visitor's Center upon arrival. There you will watch an 18-minute film with an introduction to life during the Revolutionary War encampment in 1777-1778. The center also displays swords, firearms and accessories from the American Revolution. Next, grab a self-guided tour map and be on your way. Follow the key numbered spots on the map at your leisure, and see remnants and reproductions of major forts, statues, brigade huts and numerous cannons scattered throughout. In addition, tour Washington's Headquarters and Artillery Park. Stop and visit the different key areas or perhaps enjoy a picnic lunch in one of three picnic areas. The Schuylkill River Trail runs from Philadelphia to the historic park and is a very popular destination for biking, jogging or just a pleasant walk along the trail.
Pottsgrove Manor (100 W. King St., 610-326-4014): Built in 1752 for wealthy businessman John Potts, this mansion gives the public a view of the way life may have been for the Potts family during the 18th century. Educational workshops and tours of the fully restored mansion are available Tuesday-Sunday. Two coming events include Cooking Colonial Recipes on an Open Hearth on Oct. 16, and a Chocolate Fest on Oct. 30, as guests roast cacao beans to prepare for 18th-century chocolate recipes. From Nov. 23 through the holidays, the mansion will be decorated with holiday greenery and decorations that evoke the 18th century.
Hope Lodge features Whitemarsh Encampment Re-enactment (553 Bethlehem Park, Fort Washington, 215-646-1595): The weekend of Nov. 6-7 comes alive with re-enactors portraying soldiers and camp followers of the American and British troops during the Revolutionary War. There will be a variety of family activities all weekend and Colonial crafts and military drills. Hope Lodge is a Georgian-style estate that was built between 1743 and 1748 by entrepreneur Samuel Morris.
Upper Schuylkill Valley Park (Route 113, 610-948-5170): Visit the park's Wildlife Center and a variety of animals from a black bear to fox and turkeys. The County Working Farm is here as well with cattle and pigs. The Schuylkill River runs through the park, and visitors may fish, canoe and picnic; grills are available.
Lily Langtry's Restaurant and Showplace Radisson Hotel (1160 First Ave., King of Prussia. Valley Forge, 877-783-LILY): Lily Langtry's Victorian-style theater has attracted more than 3 million people since its opening in 1981. This lavish theater seats 500 and offers Las Vegas-type shows with matinee and evening performances. La Femme Magique is playing now through Oct. 24 and features illusions, dance acts and ventriloquist comedy. Winter Wonderland, Oct. 29-Jan. 30, is a revue with holiday tunes from the past and present, ice-skating champions and humor. Lily Langtry offers a dinner and show package, or you may choose to just see the show.
Where to shop and dine
Chapel Cabin Shop (Route 23, Valley Forge National Park, 610-783-0576): Homemade jams, jellies, candies and handcrafted souvenirs are available at this nonprofit shop behind Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Park.
King of Prussia Mall (160 N. Gulph Road, 610-265-5727): This enormous mall includes eight major department stores and 365 shops such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Tiffany's. There are 40 restaurants and food-court eateries, making this a great place to grab lunch or dinner.
Peddler's Village (Routes 202 and 263, 215-794-4000): A short drive to Bucks County brings you to Peddler's Village, filled with 70 unique shops and seven restaurants. You will find a wide variety of souvenirs and gift items among the shops, and Peddler's Village is ideal for holiday shopping. Coming events include the Grand Illumination Celebration, Nov. 19 through the holiday season, as well as the Gingerbread House Competition and Display. Restaurants include the Spotted Hog for hearty meals or Colonial style at the Cock 'n Bull. Giggleberry Fair is 10,000 feet of delight for any child, featuring a large carousel, game room and educational entertainment.
Kimberton Inn (2105 Kimberton Road, 610-933-8148): Just about 15 minutes from Valley Forge is the historic Kimberton Inn. Built in 1796, the inn offers brunch on Sunday and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Owned by husband and wife Jeffrey and Michelle Effgen, the inn features regional American cuisine. The restaurant uses fresh local ingredients, and the menu changes seasonally. The roasted rack of lamb and the North Atlantic lobster and jumbo shrimp tart are two clientele favorites. There are five wood-burning fireplaces throughout this charming restaurant, and the owners decorate lavishly at holiday time. Friday night features live jazz all year long. Three private party rooms are available.
Located approximately 100 miles from Baltimore, take Interstate 95 North to Interstate 476 North, "The Blue Route," then take route I-76 West, the Schuylkill Expressway, to the Valley Forge exit.
Visit www.valleyforge.org or call for a free Visitors Guide, 888-VISIT-VF. Many fall festivals and holiday events are planned for the coming months.