Over 35 million visitors flock to Philadelphia annually to visit its historic attractions and its countryside. A fraction of those travelers will venture 30 minutes northwest of Philly to visit Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and the unique niche attractions found in its’ off-beaten paths.
Located in Montgomery County (the first of America’s sixteen), Valley Forge is well known for the Valley Forge National Historical Park, the site of the third winter encampment of George Washington's Continental Army in 1777. The park receives 1.3 million visitors a year who explore its’ grounds and monuments by foot, bike, or guided trolley tour. Its' 28 miles of hiking trails make it a popular recreational stop for locals and visitors.
Although an important part of U.S. history, this Philadelphia suburb offers more for families than tales of the American Revolution.
For a cozy stay with warm family-style attention, you’ll have to bypass the chain hotels and conference centers. The Woodside Lodge at Spring Mountain in Schwenksville is a relaxing retreat with a history of its’ own.
Located near the Perkiomen Creek, this 1920s manor has been newly restored into a bed and breakfast with 9 suite-style rooms, a restaurant, bar, and banquet facilities.
Owners Rick and Gayle Buckman are an amazing pair. Very hands on with the lodge and their nearby mountain, Spring Mountain Ski Area, you will find them everywhere around the property doing whatever needs to be done. Yet, even with their myriad of responsibilities, they are warm, approachable and quick to please. Their Lodge is not only a getaway for visitors but a weekend hangout for locals where many of the patrons know each other’s names.
The Lodge's two-room suites, located on the second floor, all have their own bathroom and fireplace. A bunk room is available for larger families and there’s even a suite onsite with a bit of a haunted past.
The Lodge is an ideal choice for accommodations if you’re also in Valley Forge for some mountainside fun.
Spring Mountain Ski Area offers skiing, tubing, snowboarding, geocaching, rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, and zipline/canopy tours. The zipline/canopy tour will test your fear of flying and summon your inner Indiana Jones.
Area Attractions For Families
It may take a little bit of driving and a lot of GPS consulting, but there’s no shortage of unique activities in the Valley Forge area for families to do.
Elmwood Park Zoo
Starting off as the more straight-laced of the bunch is the Elmwood Park Zoo. Located in Norristown, the zoo was established in 1924 and is one of the oldest zoos in the country. Each year Elmwood Park Zoo welcomes 150,000 visitors. Housed on 16 acres, it’s a walkable zoo in a park-like setting. It makes a great alternative for families with younger kids who may feel overwhelmed by the size of the Philadelphia Zoo.
Elmwood Park Zoo is open all year round from 10 am - 5 pm daily. Admission prices start at $10 for seniors 65+ and children ages 3-12; $14 for adults 13-64; children 2 and under are free. The zoo has one of the biggest open air eagle exhibits in the country. The bison, river otters, exotic chicken breeds, squirrel monkeys, giraffes, cougars $6 pony rides, low admission rates, and free parking all work together to consistently attract visitors.
If you’ve ever wanted to introduce your kids to the comedy of the Three Stooges or learn more about them for yourself, the Stoogeum is where you want to visit.
The only Three Stooges museum in North America, chances are you’ve never heard of it or seen it advertised in any magazine or on any hotel rack card. And that’s the way the owner likes it.
Located in Amber, PA this 3 floor 10,000 square foot museum sits tucked away in an office complex and displays 10,000 items related to the Three Stooges. The display items represent only 1% of the total collection, all owned by Gary Lassin, the husband of Three Stooge’s star Larry Fine’s grand niece.
The museum welcomes a small number of guests, approximately 20-30 per week - many of them tend to be researchers. Most visitors come by word of mouth. It’s a unique but odd place. Although photos are forbidden, you’ll find all types of Three Stooges paraphernalia such as gum ball machines, posters, bowling pins, matchboxes, nesting dolls, shot glasses, halloween pins, paintings, pinball machines, and zombie dolls.
American Treasure Tour
Continuing on your journey into the odd and unique single-person private collections in Montgomery County, you’ll land in Oaks, Pennsylvania. Here you’ll find a large warehouse, the site of the American Treasure tour, the newest attraction in the Valley Forge area.
The 1.2 million square foot warehouse is a makeshift museum of antique and kitsch items from American pop culture. A popular spot for senior tours, school groups are also fascinated by the pre-computer technology that they see here such as century-old jukeboxes and nickelodeons. Children are also fascinated by old cars they see onsite such as a Stanley Steemer, a Ford Model A, a WWI Nashquad truck, and a 1954 Corvette.
Guided tours run for 1-2 hours and are available by appointment only.
The Audubon Center at Mill Grove
Parent to a naturalist child interested in birds of North America? Be sure to make your next stop, the Audubon House located in Mill Grove. This three-story house was built in 1762 and is the first home in America of John James Audubon, artist and naturalist who set out to document all types of North American birds.
Mill Grove is a 175-acre bird sanctuary with a large variety of bird species. On the grounds, there are four miles of maintained trails, owls in an outdoor aviary, bird watching tours, and in the summertime, guided canoe tours down the Perkiomen Creek where adults and children can learn about the ecosystem.
Inside the museum, guests can choose between a self-guided tour or a 45-minute guided tour to see a recreated bedroom, work room, bird taxidermy room, and kids' activity room.
For more information on any of the Valley Forge sites listed, please click the links in the article.