KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania – There’s no time like the present to revisit and reflect on our American history and the brave people who sacrificed for our independence. Valley Forge National Historical Park is one such place.
Whether you’re a day tripper or a weekend warrior, prefer extended stays or have the luxury of a lengthy vacation, Montgomery County (PA) is a timeless destination — home to a storied shrine of quiet valor – and so much more.
Located 35 miles outside of Philadelphia, you will not run out of things to do but may be challenged by what to choose from: history, 50 golf courses, recreational trails, world-class shopping, vibrant arts, culture, and entertainment.
Anytime I can parlay an educational experience with a golf trip, I’m a happy traveler.
HISTORY: The time spent at Valley Forge National Historical Park was a great start to a memorable visit. Embraced by endless rolling hills and fields of green on a warm spring day, this must-see destination is for history buffs or those interested in revisiting the American Revolution. Today, the meadows that once surrounded the encampment are painted with golden rod and milkweed and a favorite spot for runners, bikers, hikers, and picnickers who utilize the 3600 acres of well used trails.
The VFNHP Visitor Center (renovated and reopened in 2021) offers sights, sounds, and stories as part of the vast exhibits and artifacts. There is a 19-minute movie and a vast selection of books and souvenirs to put things in perspective.
We were greeted by Russell Brindley, a passionate guide at the park (and fellow Rutgers grad), who was as enthusiastic as he was knowledgeable. He provided park notables including the 9-stop tour — easily marked and maneuverable by car (bike or foot) with other guided tours available. Brindley shared a few compelling short stories about George Washington’s Continental Army and what they endured while wintering here in 1777-1778 (regrouping from the Revolutionary War). While no battles were fought in Valley Forge, it was here where the army recovered, trained and some 2,000 men lost their lives to harsh elements of winter (hunger and disease).
Statues, replicated huts (log cabins) as well as the Washington Memorial Chapel and the original headquarters, are located throughout the grounds, while high on a hill stands the United States National Memorial Arch, built to celebrate the arrival of General George Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge.
After a profound step back in time and a profound history lesson, you can embrace an abundance of activities from golfing and recreating to shopping at King of Prussia’s mall, one of the nation’s largest and diverse retail offerings (369 stores). There’s also a Town Center and outlet stores nearby.
GAMING, ENTERTAINMENT & HOSPITALITY: The Valley Forge Casino & Resort, the region’s only full-amenity gaming resort, offers live entertainment, dining and is accommodating and centrally located. It features a 40,000-square-foot gaming floor, plus 100,000 square feet of meeting, conference, and banquet facilities, and two luxury hotel towers. A host of hotels and bed & breakfasts are also worth considering for your stay.
GOLF: There are many choices with 50 courses to consider, according to Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board who shared, “we have more than 300,000 yards of golf courses — 50 of the most historic, beautiful, challenging public as well as private clubs in the Northeast.”
Playing the popular Ravens Claw Golf Club was a real treat. Opened in 2005, the Par 71, 6006-yard championship track is the site of the Valley Forge Invitational and LPGA Symetra Tour. Architect Ed Shearon’s philosophy of course design is all about science, engineering and aesthetics. It’s earned “the Claw” a consistent top 10 rating among the state’s best. It is fun in that no two holes are alike and the layout offers mature woodlands and a variety of terrain from rolling hills and some tight fairways as well as a few uphill dog leg challenges. Putting greens were well kept yet they kept us guessing with a variety of undulation and mounds of rough. On one par 3 we were challenged by a double tiered surprise. Playing two rounds on back-to-back days gave me an appreciation for the course and a chance to navigate a little easier the second time around.
Post round we enjoyed a delicious meal at Sessano’s at Raven’s Claw. Chef and owner Santino Ciccaglioni, a native of Italy who came to the U.S. as a 10-year-old, spoiled us with his award-winning roast pork sandwiches, old-fashioned Italian pasta and other homecooked favorites. Sessano’s cuisine includes deeply rooted traditions and simplicity.
If you’re looking for stay and play packages more than 20 of Montco’s golf courses are open to the public and accommodate golfers of all skill levels and budgets. At Macoby Run Golf Course you can play 18 while taking in stunning views of lush forests and meadows. If you’re an advanced golfer, you can test yourself at the challenging at Westover Golf Club in Norristown.
In Montco, there are private golf courses with impressive amenities like the elegant Philadelphia Country Club, one of the oldest courses in the country which dates back to 1890, or if you are looking for a family outing the Blue Bell Country Club , is a premiere family-friendly country club with an 18-hole course designed by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer himself.
CULTURAL TRADITIONS AND MUSEUMS: Beyond the greens and golf, you can also enjoy Montco’s museums and offerings ranging from fine art to the art of comedy. A few considerations:
• The Berman Museum of Art (located on the campus of Ursinus College) presents innovative exhibitions in an atmosphere conducive to curiosity and exploration—a free, accessible, welcoming space.
• Cirque du Soleil BAZZAR, an iconic and breathtaking show makes its North American debut at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, PA, September 26, 2023, and performances run through October 22, 2023.
• The Bryn Athyn Historic District (National Historic Landmark District) near Philadelphia offers spectacular architecture and gardens with tours and events at Cairnwood, a gilded age, Beaux Arts mansion; Glencairn, a Medieval castle-like museum; and the Gothic-Romanesque Bryn Athyn Cathedral.
• Arts Montco Week & Jazz Festival run September 20 – October 1, 2023, allows you to celebrate all the arts has to offer in Montgomery County with local theaters, galleries, museums, gardens and more while Montco Jazz Fest will highlight the region’s diverse jazz artists and venues.