Philadelphia Trip Report: 2 amazing autumn adventures

Ellie in Valley Forge National Park

Our alarms woke us at 2:30 am and we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of bed, hoping that our 3 hours of sleep would be enough to fuel us on our trip to Philadelphia.

The reason for this trip was to see my partner’s daughter perform in a play. (For this reason, we never made it to downtown Philadelphia on this trip and just stayed around the Bryn Mawr area.)

It would be a quick trip, just one night, and we didn’t have anything planned outside of seeing the play and spending time with family. (So it came as a surprise that I was able to knock 2 things off my travel wishlist!)

Day 1/2: Arriving in Philadelphia

Other than the flight being absolutely frigid, our journey from Orlando to Philadelphia was smooth and forgettable, as was the process of picking up our rental car.

The play was at 2, and we were in our vehicle by 8:30, so we had some time to burn beforehand. I was ravenous, so we started our day with a plant-based feast at the full vegan restaurant, Cheezy Vegan.

Although Tim isn’t much of a breakfast person, he ordered a side of scrapple–a Pennsylvania meat item I’d never heard of–and shared my ultimate biscuit dish with me. This dish came with 2 biscuits, 2 patties of fried chicken, scrambled eggs, bacon, a pile of sausage gravy, and a side of potatoes. I also indulged in a deliciously rich peppermint hot chocolate, which felt absolutely necessary in the cold climate we’d been thrown into!

Plant-based breakfast at Cheezy Vegan in Philadelphia

We enjoyed our food and were definitely a little disappointed that this place wouldn’t be open the following day.

With our bellies full, we headed to the hotel to see if there was any possibility of checking in early and napping for the rest of the morning. Unfortunately, our room wasn’t ready, but a quick look at the map revealed that we were about 10 minutes away from Valley Forge National Historical Park.

I blasted the National Treasure soundtrack as we drove through the beautiful tree-lined streets that were erupting in a rainbow of fall colors. Although I’d heard of Valley Forge in history lessons (and of course in National Treasure), I hadn’t remembered it was just outside Philadelphia!

Once at the Valley Forge visitor center, we were just in time to see the orientation film, which gave us a refresher on the history of the site, where George Washington and the Continental Army were encamped for a winter during the Revolutionary War.

We stayed in the theater afterward to watch a 5-minute short film about the plant and animal life at the park.

After leaving the theater, we went back to the visitor center to form a plan. We didn’t have time to go on the 90-minute trolley tour that wouldn’t start for 30 more minutes, but we got some advice about what sites to stop and see if we drove ourselves around the 10-mile Encampment Tour Route.

The first stop was the soldier hut recreations at Muhlenberg Brigade.

Soldier huts at Muhlenberg Brigade in Valley Forge National Park

When we first saw them, I wondered aloud if any part of these structures were original. My question was answered by a display inside one of them: as soon as the Continental Army cleared out, the local farmers swooped in to disassemble the huts and reuse the timber.

Another portion of the signage touched on the environmental impact of the war, a subject that had also been explored in the orientation video at the visitor center. The land and watershed were utterly devastated by what quickly became the 4th largest city in the colonies at the time. After the war, restoration efforts began and still continue to this day.

On the sustainability front, I was impressed at everything that was being done to address the challenges to the habitats here and work on restoration. I also thought they did a good job at not white-washing history, using more modern terms like “enslaved people” instead of “slaves” and acknowledging the less comfortable side of history like the fact that many enslaved people served in the Revolutionary War instead of their owners who would rather force someone to fight in their place.

Back in the car, we drove on and slowed down in front of our next destination just long enough to grab a quick picture. The National Memorial Arch was built in 1917 to commemorate the Continental Army’s arrival .

National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge National Park

We followed the route to Washington’s headquarters, where we did get out to explore.

George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park
  • George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge National Park

We walked around inside the cramped quarters and then headed back to the car. The drive to our final stop in the park was absolutely gorgeous. When we’d first planned this trip to Philadelphia, I hadn’t even considered the fact that we’d be here during fall foliage!

  • Fall foliage atValley Forge National Park
  • Fall foliage atValley Forge National Park
  • Fall foliage atValley Forge National Park

The final stop on our Encampment Tour was the Washington Memorial Chapel.

Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge National Park

We got out briefly to admire the architecture before exiting the park, grateful for the unexpected adventure!

From there, we had a lovely afternoon and evening watching Tim’s daughter perform brilliantly and spending time with family.

We ate dinner at HipCityVeg and enjoyed it so much that we returned for brunch the following morning. I absolutely love HipCityVeg. I’d first heard about it when I started my personal low impact journey and someone in a zero waste group posted about this cool sustainable restaurant in Philadelphia. The menu is fully plant-based, and all of the food packaging is compostable.

I’d visited HipCityVeg on a day trip to Philadelphia in 2018, but I think the menu has grown and more locations have popped up since then. We had dinner at the Radnor location and brunch at the Ardmore location. I highly recommend the smokehouse burger, which was so delicious that I tore into it before remembering to take photos–both times!

HipCityVeg vegan restaurant in Ardmore, Philadelphia

After we said goodbye to the family, we checked into our hotel room and indulged in some much-needed sleep.

Day 2/2: Departing Philadelphia

This morning, I stayed in the hotel and ate snacks for breakfast while Tim went to grab breakfast with the family. Bad luck struck when the rental car battery died, and he spent all breakfast waiting for AAA to save him.

Fortunately, the car was soon running again, and that was when we grabbed brunch at the Ardmore HipCityVeg location. We still had several hours before we had to head back to the airport, so Tim took his daughter out for her birthday, and I walked over to the Haverford College Arboretum.

When I’d purchased my membership to the American Horticultural Society, I went through and marked all the participating locations as “want to go” on my Google maps. I wouldn’t have remembered the Haverford College Arboretum as a place I wanted to go had I not pulled up Google maps to look at the area and realized that a travel wishlist location was nearby.

Haverford College Arboretum

I arrived at campus right at noon, not knowing what to expect and bracing myself for maybe just a small cluster of trees. The reality was so much better! The arboretum really spanned over much of the campus, with a 2.2 mile nature trail going roughly around the perimeter. Many of the trees were labeled, and there was even a subsection devoted to pine trees, called the Pinetum!

The fall foliage was absolutely gorgeous, and the sunny scenery was enough to make the chilly temperature bearable, although my hands and lips did eventually go completely numb.

  • Haverford College Arboretum
  • Haverford College Arboretum
  • Haverford College Arboretum
  • Haverford College Arboretum
  • Haverford College Arboretum
  • Haverford College Arboretum

When I departed campus after a little over 2 hours, I felt like I had really seen something special and was so grateful that my impromptu stop here had proved so fruitful. There’s a lot more I could say about this arboretum, but I’ll elaborate in a separate post!

With a 5pm flight time, I reunited with Tim at about 2:30 and we immediately headed back to the airport to return our rental car and hop on our airplane home to Florida.

Ellie on an airplane

It was so nice to travel with my partner and to spend time with family, and the fall foliage and opportunities to explore the outdoors were such nice surprises on top of an already wonderful trip!

However, I prefer Florida to anywhere else most of the time, and I was so grateful to get back to Orlando (and to shed my thick winter layers!) and resume my adventures in Florida naturalism!

💕

What are your favorite spots or some of the places you’d like to visit in Philadelphia? Let me know in the comments below!

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