With family "staycations" replacing vacations this recession-riddled summer, Penny Pincher has a one-day getaway that will recharge your batteries without draining your fuel tank: Valley Forge National Park.
Like native New Yorkers who never visit the Statue of Liberty, Penny lived here for years before discovering this 3,500-acre hiking, biking, picnicking, dog-walking, bird-watching, spirit-lifting jewel of a nearby wonderland.
Admission and parking are as free as the herds of white-tailed deer that roam the rolling fields where George Washington and his soldiers spent the deadly winter of 1777-78.
Penny has spent many peaceful days hiking those miles of deer trails with joyful Portuguese water-dog pup, Gracie, leading the way (on a leash, park rules!).
We also hike the wooded trails of Mount Misery, always pausing to watch dozens of pterodactyl-like turkey vultures riding the thermals and roosting in two towering trees near the trail entrance, silhouetted against the sky.
Other hikes: Mount Joy, Valley Creek and a paved trail that connects the famous historical sites.
You can get to this fine family "daycation," open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, by SEPTA 125 bus or by I-76 to Exit 328A; right-merge onto 422 West; take Valley Forge exit to 23 West; turn left at exit ramp; straight to park entrance. *