Before traveling, I always ask friends for recommendations. A few know exactly the kind of places I like and my pal Mike offered up a great recommendation. He suggested Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia. He’s a man of few words so he just told me to go and didn’t mention why but I trust his judgement so I went.
It was a great suggestion but don’t tell him I said so (I hate for him to get a big head).
Luray is in the Shenandoah Valley, about an hour south of Winchester. The route there cuts through beautiful countryside and small towns with gorgeous views at every turn.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure about going underground on such a beautiful fall day and wasn’t convinced it would be worth the investment. At $28 per adult (discounts for kids and seniors), it’s not the cheapest tour ticket you’ll ever buy but admission also gets you into an automobile museum. Turns out, it was worth the time and money.
The cavern was discovered by three brothers in 1878 and they opened it as a tourist attraction almost immediately after they found and mapped it. It’s been in the same family ever since so they’ve had plenty of time to develop and improve this site. Today, they’ve developed a 1.25 mile underground trail that highlights most of the approximate 80 acre cavern.
The trail takes you through some breathtaking areas and your guide will keep you entertained while teaching you a little about the rocks and history. I’m not all that interested in geology and retained little of what he said but I still enjoyed that part of the tour.
It’s 54 degrees year round but humidity makes it feel like 65. There are a few steep places but the walk is mostly easy.
My favorite place here is called Dream Lake, a spring of water that looks like a mirror. Stalactites (the ones on top) reflect in the water making them look like stalagmites. At it’s deepest point the lake is only twenty inches deep but the illusion is so convincing you can’t tell. The picture above is of Dream Lake. Lovely, isn’t it?
I also liked the Stalacpipe Organ which produces music, using rubber mallets to tap stalactites. The sound is subtle but moving. It’s been there since the late fifties and provides a peak into a different aspect of this cave, beyond just looking at the rocks.
If you enjoy cloud watching, you’ll love looking for shapes in the rock formations here. There’s a lot to see and it looks different from every perspective.
They market this tour for families but I probably wouldn’t take really young kids. There were youngsters on my tour but parents and grandparents struggled to keep the littlest ones focused and quiet. The kids weren’t happy, the caregivers were distracted and the rest of us struggled to hear at times.
However, if you do take little ones, there’s a fudge shop as well as a toy museum you can tour for an extra price.
Some might call this place a tourist trap and I probably wouldn’t argue. They have lots of ways to spend your money beyond the cavern tour. The difference between this place and most tourist traps is that the cavern really is spectacular and they don’t push the other stuff off on you.
Luray Caverns was much different than anything else I saw on this road trip and I think that’s important. Variety is the spice of life so it seems like a good idea to go looking for things to do that you wouldn’t ordinarily choose. You never know when a new interest or hobby will be born!
Want to visit Luray Caverns? Visit their website for information for details!
If you go, be sure to take a pocketful of change. They have a wishing well, pictured above, near the end of the tour where you can toss in your change to benefit local charities. You can bet I threw in a fistful of coin and made a big old wish!