Cave tours, if you go on a lot of them can sometimes feel like you’re taking the same tour over and over again. All the tour guides have the same lame jokes and tone as if they’re dads trying desperately to connect with their audience. Each cave has its own little difference, but for the most part a rock just looks like a rock. And damn do I love every single Cave tour I go on. The mystery of going somewhere deep within the ground. The coolness of the air, the damp smell of a thousand year old rock dripping with water. It’s the knowledge that even unmoving rock can grow, all wrapped into usually an hour long tour with some perky twenty-something-year-old crying for help through each cheesy joke.
Of course cave tours aren’t for everyone, but if you have any inclination of going on one, some tips and key destinations will make the experience surprise free and enjoyable.
- Bring a sweater. Caves tend to be around 50 degrees year round, so make sure no matter if it’s the middle of the summer to have a sweater.
- Don’t touch the walls. The oils on your fingers can cause the rocks of the caves to deteriorate and not grow anymore.
- Caves are well lit for safety, but once a tour the tour guides will turn off the lights so guests can experience complete darkness. My eyes tend to trick me into thinking there is a secret light somewhere when they do this. Those who don’t do well in complete darkness, or have claustrophobia may have troubles with the minute that they keep the lights off for.
- Tight corridors and slick stairs in most caves are to be expected. Always hold onto the railing when there is one for stairs and some downhill slopes can be slick.
- If a tour guide says duck, then do so. Unless you’re like me who’s so short a lot of times when there’s a low ceiling, there’s no reason to duck. It’s still best to keep an eye on the height of the ceiling, for hitting your head isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world.
Tours across the U.S:
Now if you don’t like walking up steep slopes then this cave isn’t for you. The tour starts below the mountain where the cave is carved within. Below is the restaurant, ice cream parlour, and gift store, but the real fun is above. The guides will almost taunt you as they climb the steep slope like a mountain goat and then wait for you as you pant your way to the top (The slope truly isn’t that steep, but my dramatic ass remembers it this way. The sixty year olds on the tour were okay with the trek, taking one break on a bench that was on the path). Once inside you’ll be met with rock formations that will amaze the eyes as all the sweat from the trek up freezes within the cave. This was one of my most memorable and favorite cave tours just because of the mile hike up and the rock formations within.
Personally, not as good at the Shenandoah Caverns listed below, but I felt that this Cave tour had to be listed since it’s put on every cave list I’ve ever seen and puts so much effort in advertising. With wide corridors paved in brick, it almost feels like the pathway to an underground city you’re walking through. The Toy Town Junction (A museum full of old toys and trains for everyone’s inner child), Luray Valley Museum, and Car and Carriage Caravan Museum is included with each cavern tour ticket.
Two times better than Luray caverns, Shenandoah caverns is handicap accessible and features rock formations shaped like bacon. Now I know this has nothing to do about the tour itself, but the cafe’ inside of the gift shop have amazing milkshakes. Along with the tour tickets it also gets you inside American Celebration, which is in the building behind the Statue of Liberty. Inside American Celebration is tons of Rose Parade floats that move if you press the buttons. This location tends to be less crowded than Luray and is backdropped in front of the splendour of the Shenandoah mountains.
Journeying down the steps to the entrance of Mammoth Cave it’s like being swallowed into the maw of a dragon. Large rooms, larger than any other caves attest to the title of the cavern. Stories of the Civil War and travelers staying within the confines of the cave can spark up the imagination of an underground city.
Featuring 32 miles of cavern tunnels, Cumberland caverns has pools of clear cavern water along with waterfalls that will thunder through the caves. There is a lot of ducking and wandering, but the adventure is splendid. For the more adventurous there are night time tours, which I don’t know if they would be truly any different than the day time tours since it is a cave, but the thought of being in a cave at night kind of creeps me out enough to want to do it one day.
Mark Twain Cave, MO:This tour brings the classic Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to life. Nestled beyond Mark Twain’s Boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri, the cave is the inspiration behind Tom Sawyer and Becky’s entrapment in the cave and the bandits who hid out there. The stories of real life bandits who hid there are enthralling and is the perfect cave for history and literature buffs.