If you’re looking for a new family adventure this summer, why not head underground? The Midwest is home to a number of intricate cave networks where kids and adults can get up close and personal with the wonders of the underground world – from rock formations to waterfalls, blind cave fish to Ice Age bones. The best part? These caves stay a cool 54 degrees year-round on average, making them the perfect place to cool off when the temperatures soar.
Let’s Go Underground! Check out a few of our favorite local caving adventures:
Location: 2210 East State Route 245, West Liberty, OH
Blue, orange, white, red and black – these are the colors you’ll find in Ohio Caverns, known for its variety of hues in various formations and features. The caverns are the largest in the state, with over two miles of passageways running in depth from 30 feet to 103 feet. Be sure to see the” Crystal King” while you’re there – a huge, perfectly formed white stalactite estimated to be over 200,000 years old. Visit www.ohiocaverns.com for more details.
Location: 1779 Home Road, Delaware, OH
Want to get an even “cavier” experience in a cave? Explore it by flashlight! Olentangy Indian Caverns offers Flashlight Tours where the main lights are turned off and guests use only the glow of their flashlight to see the cave. Check out the 50,000 square foot Animal Encounter and new Treasure Hunt Maze while you’re there too. Visit www.olentangyindiancaverns.com for more info.
Location: 15248 E. Township Road 178, Bellevue, OH
Seneca Caverns was discovered by two boys in 1872 who were chasing their dog when he suddenly disappeared into a sink hole. Today visitors can see a series of rooms and passageways on their tour as well as Ole Mist’ry River,” a crystal clear flowing stream 110 feet below the surface which is part of the vast underlying water system in the region. Pan for gemstones, crystals, arrowheads and fossils in their sluice while you’re there, too. Check out www.senecacavernsohio.com to get the full scoop.
Location: 100 Squire Boone Road, Mauckport, IN
As the story goes, Squire Boone and his brother Daniel discovered these caverns in 1790. Today, families can walk in Boone’s footsteps, passing stalactites and stalagmites, rushing streams and underground waterfalls. And this year, for the first time since opening to the public in 1973, Squire Boone had unveiled a new tour through this wondrous cave. Guided 1-hour tours leave every 30 to 40 minutes. Find out more at www.squireboonecaverns.com.
Location: 400 East State Road 64, Marengo, IN
This U.S. National Landmark is definitely one to add to the bucket list. Marengo Cave offers easy walking tours that will amaze adults and children alike. The Dripstone Trail tour is 1 mile and lasts 60 minutes. The Crystal Palace tour is 1/3 mile and lasts 40 minutes. Both are guided and are offered year-round. Kids will get a kick out of The Crawl – a winding maze that allows little ones to get a feel for what cave exploration is like without all the water and mud. Visit www.marengocave.com for more info.
Location: 1267 Green Acres Drive SW, Corydon, IN
Explore Indiana’s longest cave. Families will enjoy the Panoramic Views Tour. During this 1 ½ hour tour, you’ll descend 110 feet underground, enjoy a 25-minute boat ride on the underground river and learn about the rich history of Indiana Caverns, all while taking in breathtaking underground views. Above ground, kids can take part in Gem Stone Mining and explore “The Cavern of The Sabertooth,” a crawling adventure where kids set out in search of the Sabertooth Lair. For more details, visit www.indianacaverns.com.
Location: 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Mammoth Cave, KY
Mammoth Cave is one of the largest in the world and is certainly worth the hike to Kentucky. This massive cave sprawls over 400 miles, with 16 different tours for all ages. If you are looking to make this more than a day trip, there are opportunities to enjoy surface hikes, canoeing on the Green River, picnicking, horseback riding, bicycling, camping and more. Advance reservations for cave tours are highly recommended. For more, visit www.nps.gov/maca/planyourvisit/gocavetours.htm.