Visit Virginia's cool caverns and escape summer's heat — if only for a few hours! Children thrill to the eerie worlds created by dripstone stalactites and stalagmites!
Some tour guides will even turn off all the spotlights for a minute just so you can experience complete and total darkness. This might be a little bit spooky, but just hold onto your child's hand for comfort!
The Stalacpipe organ features normal keyboards but the stalactites are the pipes.
Luray - Luray Caverns are the largest caverns in the eastern USA and a National Landmark. Some of the most spectacular creations were formed just one drip at at time, such as Giant's Hall, vast expansive chambers decorated by predominately golden columns, 10-stories tall. The gold colors come from iron and clay soils seeping from the ground along with the calcium carbonate "drips."
Just some of Luray's other impressive formations include:
Titania's Veil — primarily all white, and formed by pure crystalline drips
Frozen Fountain — a massive, somewhat rounded white flowstone
Empress Column — a golden column is formed when a stalactite and stalagmite meet. This one is huge!
See the world's largest musical instrument at Luray Caverns, too!
The Stalacpipe Organ is played from a regular-size organ, but its organ pipes are the stalactites themselves, spreading over 3.5 underground acres, and wired with little rubber mallets.
Quicksburg - On I-81 between New Market and Mt. Jackson, see Shenandoah Caverns, the only caverns in Virginia with elevator service to its 17 underground rooms!
One of the most breathtaking sights of the underworld is its Rainbow Lake with iridescent drip formations of bright colors! Little girls especially feel like fairy princesses here!
Just some of Shenandoah's remarkable formations include:
Diamond Cascade — a huge calcite crystal formation, sparkling white
Beyond the Veil — gorgeous orange-colored straw-like drips
Grotto of the Gods — where the giants certainly must live.
Drapery formations look like loosely draped material hanging from the ceiling and walls. And what's really impressive is the drapery Bacon Formations, which look like giant strips of bacon stretched out on the walls of a giant's kitchen! Your kids will love this place. And don't forget to look for Pixie!
Natural Bridge Caverns
Natural Bridge - Natural Bridge Caverns are the deepest caverns on the East Coast and go 34 stories underground. The temperature is a constant 54 degrees, so bring your sweater!
Open March - December, these caverns boast a Collosal Dome seen at left, as well as a Flowstone Cascade and Wishing Well.
New Market - Through the years, many expeditions have failed to find an end to the complex network of underground passageways called Endless Caverns, which are mapped for more than 5 miles! Discovered by two adventurous boys and their dog in 1879, these caverns are home to a fossilized wooly mammoth's tooth, too!
Fairy Land — a colossal room filled with separate chambers dripping with magic
The Lodge Room — another giant room just discovered in 1991.
Fresh Bacon Slices — Yummy!
Grottoes - Grand Caverns offers a breathtaking panorama of subterranean beauty! These caverns were rated #2 in the nation by Parade magazine's science editor on various physical aspects, such as room size, paths, ratio of growing formations to dormant formations as well as overall beauty!
The Rainbow Room showcases the caverns with colored lights.
Dixie Caverns & Pottery Inc.
Salem - Directly off I-81 at Exit 132, Dixie Caverns were also discovered by a dog followed by farm boys in 1920!
See the spectacular Magic Mirror Room where the magnificent stalactites are reflected in the mineral pool below. Other spectacular sites include:
The Turkey Wing — a huge, golden and smooth formation aptly named!
Fairy Land — with crystallized thin stalactites suspended over massive stalagmites.
Rock Shop — see all sorts of rocks at the shop above ground!
Front Royal - Located at the northern entrance to Skyline Drive, Skyline Cavernsis famous for its Anthrodites — Orchids of the Mineral Kingdom — that radiate spike formations resembling flowers. These must be seen to be believed!
Other cool formations include:
The Shrine — where many couples get married — and Fairyland Lake.
Crystal Caverns at Hupp's Hill
Strasburg - Considered the oldest documented caverns in Virginia, the Hupp family discovered Crystal Caverns in the 1750s. It's been said that escaped slaves hid in the caverns on their way to freedom. Crystal Caverns has the largest concentration of calcite crystals than any commercial cave in the Appalachian Region.
Other attractions include:
Frozen Falls — like a waterfall crystallized in time; haunted tours and candlelight tours of the Caverns.
Middlesboro - Gap Caverns is located in Cumberland Gap National Park and features the tallest stalagmite in the world! Located beneath Pinnacle Overlook, the tours are given by lantern light!
Also, see Sand Cave at the park, which features a beautiful ceiling of about 21 colors! You will be enchanted.
Written and contributed by Virginia Toursim
The photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.Based on a work at commons.wikimedia.org & Traveldudes.org.