Coolest Caves in the Midwest for Michigan Families to Visit
Looking for slam-dunk spelunking spots? These 10 great vacation destinations give local parents and kids a truly underground family experience!
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This summer, why not take your family to an attraction millions of years in the making? That's right: It's time to don a hard hat and go cave exploring. (Don't worry – you don't have to have your own hard hat; they're provided for visitors!)
The twisting passageways of many of these caves come from thousands of centuries of groundwater seeping into limestone beneath the surface, dissolving it. Then, as the water table lowers, the passageways remain, revealing narrow tunnels and soaring caverns just waiting to be discovered. (Most of the caves on this list were formed in this way, but not all.)
For your family's next adventure, there are plenty of caves and experiences to choose from – whether your child wants to belly crawl through tight caverns, hike from one shallow cave to another or even take a boat ride right through a cave. Here are some of the Midwest's popular caves – and what you'll find during your visit to these million-year-old wonders.
- Location: Hocking Hills, Ohio
- Phone: 800-HOCKING
- Hours: Open half hour before and after sunset
- Pricing: Free
There's no tour guide needed to find this shelter cave that's perfect for kids who don't want to venture into an underground space. Several trails in Hocking Hills State Park lead you to this massive cave, which spans 700 feet across and just 100 feet in. To add to the appeal of this natural formation, there's a waterfall that goes over the cave's edge. Picnic areas are available nearby.
- Location: Bedford, Indiana
- Phone: 812-279-9471
- Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily throughout summer
- Pricing (2012): $14/adults, $8/children ages 3-15 (very young kids not encouraged on this tour)
Bluespring Caverns was discovered in the 1940s when a farmer's pond disappeared overnight – only to reveal the series of caverns just below the surface. Today, visitors take an 800-foot steep ramp to get into the caverns and to where the boats are docked. A guide then takes you on an hour-long boat ride along Myst'ry River, which flows through the caverns, pointing out rare fish that call the caverns home. There's also an overnight cave experience.
- Location: Dubuque, Iowa
- Phone: 563-556-6451
- Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through summer; check website for other times
- Pricing (2012): $12/adults, $6/ages 4-11 pay, free/kids under 4
Discovered by lead miners in 1868, Crystal Lake Cave was opened to visitors in 1932. The 30- to 45-minute tour includes a trek through 3,000-plus feet of lit passageways, led by a guide who explains the history of the cave. Your guide also lets your kids take a peek at Anthodite, a rare formation of crystals that looks like spidery flowers bursting from the cave walls.
- Location: Maquoketa, Iowa
- Phone: 563-652-5833
- Hours: 4 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily
- Pricing (2012): Free, but you'll be required to watch a brief educational video
These caves only recently reopened to the public after being closed since 2009 to prevent the spread of a disease that kills bats. No worries: White-nose syndrome is only shared among bats; people (your kids included) will be just fine. Unlike other cave destinations, where you take a single tour of one cave, this 323-acre state park includes 13 named caves – although there are more than 40 in the area! Your family can walk through six miles of trails to visit the various caves. Camping sites available.