Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, is an area steeped in history, but it’s equally rich in shopping, culture and recreation.
The pivotal encampment site of George Washington’s fledgling army during the winter of 1777-78 is now the scenic 3,500-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park and the area’s flagship visitor attraction. Miles of trails, monuments to the soldiers and Washington’s original stone headquarters are among its many highlights. A children’s “Join the Continental Army” programme in the winter lets the wee ones experience what life was actually like for the soldiers, complete with drills, marches and training with wooden muskets. Annual events like the March-in and March-out showcase America’s beginnings and feature re-enactments, costumed interpreters, and cannon and musket firings.
Other area historic sites include artist/naturalist John James Audubon’s first home in America – John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove – where the Frenchman perfected his unique painting style and created his famous Birds of America volumes. The estate is much as Audubon found it at age 18 – a haven for birds and wildlife set along the lovely Perkiomen Creek. It’s one of the region’s premier birding locations.
The Valley Forge area is also a fashionista’s fantasy, featuring the nation’s largest retail shopping mall – King of Prussia, Philadelphia Premium Outlets and many Montgomery County “Main Streets.” The latest designer trends, bargains, vintage and specialty items await.
Before discovering King of Prussia Mall’s 400 stores, stop first at the Me-Ality™ booth at the Plaza for a free 10-second fully-clothed body scan. It’ll reveal your true garment sizes at many mall stores and provide a printout with suggested styles to help alleviate dressing room drama. Anchored by seven department stores, among them Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s, the mall is also one of the only area outposts for upscale designers Kate Spade, DKNY, Hermés and Betsey Johnson.
Already the nation’s largest retail mall, it’s in the midst of two expansions – adding 122,000 sq.ft. of new retail space for up to 10 more stores by year’s end and a separate 140,000-square-foot expansion to add 40 more retailers and restaurants and connect the mall’s two wings, the Court and the Plaza.
Save big-time on name brands like Ann Taylor, Coach, Nike, Sony, Le Creuset and more at nearby Philadelphia Premium Outlets. The 150 outlet stores offer savings of 25% to 65% every day. Shoppers will also find something really special, arty, vintage or unique on one of Montgomery County’s numerous Main Streets. In Souderton-Telford, it’s some of the best locally produced foods, including Asher’s Chocolates, The Great American Popcorn Works of Pennsylvania, Bakers on Broad and Hendricks Farm and Dairy Store. Enjoy an award-winning play, an indie film, live music and “Art in the Storefront” works by local talent on Ambler’s Main Street. And in the quaint historic village of Skippack, find antiques and home goods in the shops and restaurants, once 18th and 19th century homes and buildings. Along the prestigious Main Line of Philadelphia, in Ardmore, visit the art galleries and chic shops of one of America’s first shopping centers, Suburban Square.
Outdoor recreation abounds in the Valley Forge area with 55 miles of interconnected biking and hiking trails, 40 public golf courses and zip-lining, skiing and snowboarding at Spring Mountain Adventures.
A menagerie of museums includes the world’s only one devoted to the Three Stooges – The Stoogeum. This multi-level, state-of-the art facility features Stooges’ costumes, props, personal effects, games and more. An 85-seat theatre and plasma screen televisions showcase vintage movie clips of the trio’s legendary comedic antics.
Brand new to the area is the recently opened Valley Forge Casino Resort, the product of a $1 million plus renovation of the former Valley Forge Convention Center Plaza. It offers 50 table games and 600 slot machines; eight food and beverage outlets; 486 guestrooms among two hotels; a giant ballroom; new nightclub; pool and fitness centre.
Woodside Lodge, Valley Forge’s first boutique hotel, recently opened adjacent to Spring Mountain Adventures. The remodelled nine-room 1920s-era country manor offers seven two-room suites, a first-floor disabled-compliant room and a bunker room that sleeps eight. Chef Michael Kenney, once a private chef to actor/comedian Will Smith and members of the band Aerosmith, oversees an intimate full-service restaurant, bar and event space for up to 100.
Historic Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Centre, in Blue Bell, now showcases Modern Farm Cooking at its on-site The Farmer’s Daughter restaurant. The menu of Chef Mtele Abubaker features locally grown and sourced ingredients in a seasonal menu of small plates and more. In its expansive bar and fireside lounge, all cocktail mixers and infusions are created in-house from local fruits and vegetables.
For more information about Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, visit www.valleyforge.org