Welcome to Tuesday Travels, a weekly series at Traveling with Baby. This season, my son and I are excited about sharing some local day trips and field trip ideas for families with little ones. This weekly series will also feature travel tips for families with kids-in-tow and related product reviews and giveaways. I enjoy hearing about your traveling adventures, too.
Last Friday, Calvin and I ventured with his cousin M and grandparents to the largest caverns east of the Mississippi at Luray Caverns. They’re located about one hour away from Charlottesville in the Shenandoah Valley with a stunning backdrop of piercing mountaintops.
On a very hot and sticky summer day, the cooler temperatures of the caves were a soothing relief.
First, we descended several stairs to get to the paved walkway. We did bring a folding umbrella stroller, and I wouldn’t recommend anything larger. There are several narrow passageways that won’t accommodate a large stroller.
I also brought my mei tai baby carrier because 1) my toddler is teething and he has been very clingy lately, and 2) I knew he would be more apt to take a nap while being carried than in the stroller.
When viewing the cave, we came across magnificent sights such as the Dream Lake with a perfect reflection of the ceiling on the still water’s surface. We also chanced upon beautiful stone fabric as thins and textured as a piece of silk hanging.
We saw a formation that appeared as though a gushing waterfall was frozen in time.
The self-guided tour included an audio narration available in two versions: a more detailed one for adults including interviews with geologists and personnel with a long history of working in the caverns. There was also a kids version with fun special audio effects.
Overall the content of the kids version included the same facts as the adult version, only it was far more entertaining. I listened to both versions at almost every station, and I definitely preferred the kids’ version. Most of the other cavern travelers commented about how much they enjoyed the kids’ version, too!
The most memorable part of the tour was the stalactite pipe organ. When keys were played, magnets caused hammers to strike various stalactites throughout the cave creating perfect instrument. It’s considered the largest instrument in the world with some of the stalactites as far as 3 acres away.
When under the arch of the Ballroom (where live bands used to play while folks danced the night away), the sounds of the organ were beautiful. They played Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God. It was breathtaking and haunting.
Admission to Luray Caverns for children ages 6-12 is $10. Ages 12 and above is $21. There are some discount options available. Admission provides entrance to the caverns, an audio-recorded self-guided tour, admission to the adjoining Car and Carriage Caravan museum, and admission to the colonial re-enactment village (still under construction when I visited). Tours begin at 9 a.m. and the last tour of the day is at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. depending on the time of year.
–By Dr. Dolly