Presented in collaboration with our partners at Valley Forge Tourism.
VALLEY FORGE, Pennsylvania – In less time than it takes New Yorkers to escape to the Catskills and Washingtonians to hit the Chesapeake, curious East Coasters can easily drive out to Valley Forge and Montgomery County for a weekend of rest and relaxation. Though the area, just north of Philadelphia’s Main Line, is famous for its Revolutionary War history, Valley Forge is far more than just a lesson in Americana. Farm-fresh meals, Colonial architecture, landscapes reminiscent of the English countryside, and charming towns with wholesome main street mom-and-pops make for a low-key retreat all year long.
Day One: History, Hiking, and Good Wine
There’s no talk of Valley Forge without mention of the hard winter endured here by George Washington’s Continental Army, and there’s no visiting the area without touring Valley Forge National Historic Park where it all went down. The scene here today is totally serene: Picnic-worthy rolling hills, some twenty miles of hiking, running, and biking trails, and fishing along the Schuylkill River and Valley Creek make the park a great place to hunker down for a good chunk of the day. An encampment trail accessible by car that hits all the major landmarks, including the Instagrammable National Memorial Arch and Washington’s Headquarters.
If you’re feeling peckish, grab a sticky bun at Alice Bakery and Confectionary in Ambler, where the short and sweet Main Street greets visitors with an old-school, still-functioning movie theater. Or indulge in a hand-dipped ice cream at Merrymead Farm (you're on vacation!), and meet the dairy farm’s fleet of Holstein cows, as well as their 900-pound pig, peacock, and resident flock of sheep.
When it comes time to refresh, check into Normandy Farm, a 113-room hotel and conference center located on a 288-year-old landmark. The property, which used to run as a local inn before undergoing a sizable renovation, balances old-timey charm (farmhouse-inspired architecture, historic rooms spread across multiple buildings, including the original manor house) with modern amenities, like a full-service restaurant, Farmer’s Daughter, an eighteen-hole golf course at sister property Blue Bell Country Club, and pretty much everything you need to host a wedding, for which they’re locally known.
Have dinner in the picturesque small town of Conshohocken at Savona, a Mediterranean-inspired fine-dining restaurant in a charming old home that once was headquarters for Revolutionary War figure Aaron Burr. As it happens, this is only one part of its claim to fame. Underneath the handsomely set dining room is one of Philadelphia’s largest wine cellars, touting more than 1,000 wines from around the world. Bottles you wouldn’t expect to find in an area where most places are BYOB, like a Hungarian Tokaj and small-batch Portuguese sparkling rosé. The wines pair nicely with a menu of fire-roasted veggies, seafood, and pizzas. A delicious end to the day.
Day Two: Art Walks, Castles, and French Country Fare
After a slow, well-deserved morning, ease into the day at Be Well Bakery and Cafe with a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. (Pro tip: Plan ahead, and get a brownie cookie for later.) Follow that with a stroll along the manicured grounds of Bryn Athyn Cathedral, an impressive Gothic building from the early 1900s funded by the well-heeled Pitcairn family. The family’s former home, a castle-like mansion a few hundred feet away, is now the Glencairn Museum, home to an ensemble of religious artifacts from both Eastern and Western cultures. The museum’s great hall is the only room open to the public, so you’ll need to reserve a tour to explore the family’s crazy collection of medieval pieces and to access the best views of the cathedral from the museum’s top floors.
For lunch, head back to Conshohocken for a lavish spread at Spring Mill Cafe. The 200-year-old property used to be the town’s general store and still retains much the original furnishings. It turned a new leaf as a BYOB restaurant in 1978, when chef Michele Haines began serving French country fare for friends and family in what was then her personal dining room. Now, classics like pâté, cheeses, beet and peach salads, trout almondine, steak frites, escargot, and boudin blanc, most of which incorporate locally sourced ingredients, fill the tables of the beautifully stuck-in-time dining room, patio, and farmhouse next door.
To work off all the good food, walk through the exhibits at Abington Art Center, held both within Alverthorpe Manor (closed Fridays and Sundays), the former home of rare book and print collector Lessing J. Rosenwald, and the 27-acre sculpture park out back. Then double back to Conshohocken for an early dinner at Blackfish, a sophisticated seafood-centric BYOB with a menu that changes with the seasons, before closing out the night with an act at Keswick Theatre, a storied live performance venue with a retro, restored facade from the 1920s. Crash for the night dreaming of simpler times and easy pleasures.
Then try to take some of that spirit back home.
Plan Your Trip
From New York City: The drive takes about two hours. Amtrak Acela Express operates a train to Valley Forge hourly.
From Philadelphia: The drive is around 40 minutes via I-76 or about 80 minutes by train.
For information on getting around, interactive maps, and more, visit valleyforge.org.