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, several of them right here in Ohio, 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! Below are just a few of our favorites:
Location: 2210 East State Route 245, West Liberty, OH
Known as “America’s Most Colorful Caverns,” here you’ll find stunning rock formations in shades of blue, orange, white, red and black. 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 ohiocaverns.com for more details.
Location: 1779 Home Rd., Delaware, OH
Want to take your cave experience to the next level? Explore 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 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 it 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 that is part of the vast underlying water system in the region. Pan for gemstones, crystals, arrowheads and fossils while you’re there, too. Check out senecacavernsohio.com to get the full scoop.
Location: 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway , Mammoth Cave, KY
Mammoth Cave is one of the largest cave systems 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 nps.gov/maca/planyourvisit/gocavetours.htm.
If you want give your kids a cave experience, but you’re not quite ready to tackle the real thing, Cincinnati Museum Center’s replica limestone cave will do the trick. This popular attraction re-opened in March after the completion of the museum’s restoration efforts, and it is now better than ever. Part of the Museum of Natural History & Science, the cave is two levels (a total of 500 feet) packed with twists and turns, waterfalls, pooled water, tight corridors and cave formations like stalagmites and stalactites. You can even feel the chill as you explore this immersive cave experience. Read all about CMC’s Cave here.