Back in April I was promoted at work, which required relocation to Page Arizona, where I would work at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. That quickly meant that we had to put our house on the market, plan for packing and moving all our household goods, and plan when we would start the drive across the country with our two dogs. To simplify the whole thing, we drove our dogs down to my parents so that they could stay “in the country on vacation”. This was sad for us but also freed up our opportunities for exploration. One of our first stops, that had been high on the list when we first moved to Baltimore, was PHILADELPHIA!
Clinton and I first drove to Valley Forge, where were learned about the men commanded under General George Washington. The Continental Army, ceasing major operations for six months during the winter of 1777-1778, chose Valley Forge since it was close enough to keep an eye on the British near Philadelphia, but still far enough away to prevent a surprise attack. Recommended by Benjamin Franklin, Prussian Fredrich Wilhelm de Steuben joined the Continental Army and trained them into a formidable force. With his knowledge of advanced training techniques, he drilled the soldiers until even loading and firing was second nature – which at the time was one of the hardest and longest drills to master. The winter was harsh, and everyone camped out at Valley Forge suffered from lack of food and clothes. Soldiers shared inadequate housing, and supplies continued to run low throughout the six months the soldiers lived there – some solders didn’t even have shoes. This test of endurance was not lost on General Washington, who praised his soldiers despite the terrible conditions.
From Valley Forge we got a hotel in Philadelphia. We used Hotels Tonight, which was a really easy app to navigate and get a cool, swank hotel right in the heart of the city. You do pay a fee for parking, but it is valet and you can leave your vehicle past checkout the next day for additional exploration. We also asked to hold our bags in the morning before check in so we could explore the city without luggage! Call ahead to see if they offer this at the hotel you choose, but it seemed to be a common practice.
Getting a hotel in the city is the best idea – it is a very walk-able city. You have either a beautiful city block, full of history, or a National Park, which includes guided tours and other programs to educate visitors on the historical significance of the city. Clinton and I arrived mid afternoon so we opted to walking around and eating at a local German restaurant, Brauhaus Schmitz. Very good, we recommend! We walked up to the National Park Service (NPS) counter to ask about Independence Hall tickets and learned that you had to queue up the morning of and could have up to ten tickets per person. We arrived around 8:30 a.m. and the line was already back close to the entrance door. We did get tickets, though, for a 11:45 tour. We sat in the park for awhile and people watched, and then headed into the general area. There is security but it was quick, and you can join the tour of the Senate and House and learned a great deal. Going into Independence Hall was a must, so we definitely recommend it. Sitting and standing in the areas where our Founding Fathers shaped the beginning of our nation is truly epic.
Independence Hall is actually much smaller than I thought it would be, but that made it even better because you could feel how close you were to some of our amazing Founding Fathers. Forging a nation is no easy task, and listening to the rangers during the tour reflected many of the struggles and lessons learned, or not learned, during this early time period. The tour starts on the outside of the Hall and brings you into the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. Following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, his body laid in rest here for two days. After the capital was moved to Washington D.C. 1799. In 1818, the building was sold to the City of Philadelphia. The building was build originally as the Pennsylvania State House in 1732, many years before the Revolution! Who knew how historic this building was going to be in the early 1700s!
DON’T FORGET TO VISIT THE LIBERTY BELL! There is usually a long line, so we went right from getting our tickets at the visitor center to walking right across the street to see the Liberty Bell. Respect your history, please, and DO NOT TOUCH!
Independence National Historical Park is much more than just the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – it includes the entire area of Philadelphia. Many, if not most, of the buildings are tied to early colonial history in some fashion and it is worth scheduling part of your visit to include walking around the area. Don’t miss out on the wonderful history that is available to you by just sitting and reflecting. What would our Founding Fathers think today?
After learning a ton and soaking up some authentic American History, we headed home. While we missed our pups, it is nice to be able to do this type of stuff before we headed out west!