Caves are a great place to explore with the family, and they’re especially a cool place to go when the temperatures soar outside. Consider a visit to one of these caves with your family.
Inner Space Caverns – Georgetown, Texas
This amazingly preserved cave in Georgetown, Texas, was hidden for thousands of years until discovered by a construction crew who was working on the nearby freeway. Listen closely and you can hear the traffic over head. Once upon a time, there was a hidden entrance to the cave, where animals left their bones to be discovered later as fossils. An artist painted the animals who left their fossils behind on a man-made wall — see which ones you recognize. You’ll enjoy using your imagination to look at shapes, learning about the cave’s development, and searching for the tiny bats that call this fascinating cave home.
Carlsbad Caverns – Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Inside, you’ll find one of the largest limestone ‘rooms’ in the world. It is just shy of 4,000 feet long and 255 feet high. Carlsbad Caverns has lots of rooms with really cool names. You’ll love exploring the Balloon Ballroom, King’s Palace, and the Spirit World. Enjoy discussions with the kids on how each room was named. The Balloon room was once only accessible by a rope with balloons attached that could float into the cave. The King’s Palace has a formation in the center that looks like a castle. The Spirit World has formations that look like angels. Can you guess how the Bat Cave got it’s name? That’s right! It is home to 17 species of bats, including the most famous residents, Brazilian Free-Tailed bats. Until 1932, visitors had a long climb into and out of the cave, but now elevators take people down to the caverns below. Enjoy visiting the cafeteria and museum, too.
Fantastic Caverns – Springfield, Missouri
This truly fantastic cave is the only one in North America in which there’s a ride! Guests ride in a large tram that is pulled by a propane-powered jeep. Ride along while admiring the formations and see the names painted on the wall by the very first 12 explorers in 1862 — all ladies. One really fantastic moment is when the lights are all turned off and you can experience true darkness in the cave — an experience teens will love. On the ride, you’ll also learn how mushrooms grow in the dark and see a former fungus garden.
Jewel Cave National Monument – Custer, South Dakota
Interested in a little bling to go with your cave visit? Then Jewel Cave is the cave for you! The cavern, lined with calcite crystals, was found in 1900 when explorers found a hole that exhaled cool air. After blasting a hole big enough in which to crawl, they found what is now the third longest cave in the world, with 175 miles of mapped passageways. Visitors see just a small portion of the cave system and have three trails to choose from for touring.
Ruby Falls – Chattanooga, Tennessee
Inside Lookout Mountain, 1,120 feet below the ground’s surface, is North America’s highest underground waterfall, which drops 145 feet. Ruby Falls (named after the wife of the discoverer) has a whole list of curious tidbits. It was the setting for a beauty pageant and as a fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This cave was one of the very first to use electric lights!
Caverns of Sonora – Sonora, Texas
This cavern is formed from 100-million-year-old limestone. Ponder how old 100 million years really is during your visit — dinosaurs roamed the Earth then! While lots of caves have stalactites (hanging tightly from the ceiling) and stalagmites (reaching mightily upwards), these are pink and rose colored. The nearly translucent formations grow in interesting shapes. The most famous is called The Butterfly. Most caves are chilly, but not this one. The temperature stays around 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, with 98 percent humidity.
–Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist
Natalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist, has hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt — business trips with her geologist husband to places like Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, New York and Denver — and family adventures to far-flung destinations like Rome, Paris, Tangier, and Istanbul. When she isn’t traveling, The Educational Tourist stays busy planning the next adventure while being mom to two kids, three dogs, Sushi the fisand a hamster. Follow her adventures at The Educational Tourist.