Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Activities Close to Home: Mammoth Cave

Today is Day 2 of my series "Activities Close to Home."  (Read Day 1 about the Louisville Zoo here).  Not being able to afford a bigger vacation this year, my family has been going on adventures a little closer to our home in Central Kentucky.  Some guidelines we tried to go by in choosing our adventures included:
  • Distance from our house (had to be within a 2 hour driving distance)
  • Family friendliness
  • Cheapness
Now Mammoth Cave is actually a few minutes past our 2 hour driving distance guideline, but it was too cool to pass up this summer!  Not to mention my cousin lives about 30 minutes from that area, so we were able to visit with family the night before. Along the way to the cave, there were other caves to tour and fun kid stops such as Dinosaur World in Cave City.  Plenty to do for a long weekend if you have the time!  You also have your choice of camping out or staying in a cabin or a hotel in the area.

Along the way towards the visitor center and hotel, there are plenty of beautiful trails to see.  If you like biking or hiking, this looks like a great place to check out!  As the kids get older and have more endurance, I would definitely like to come back here for both!

Our view on a trail after the cave when I spotted a deer but missed it in the photo.
We parked on the side where the hotel is, which was perfect for us because they have food and we were very hungry!  It was around 10:30 central standard time, pretty close to our lunch time since we are used to eastern standard time.  Thank goodness the hotel had the coffee shop open that also served sandwiches and lunch items.  The coffee shop looks just like an old fashion diner and had lots of charm and caring waitresses.  Everyone at our table ordered sandwiches and fries, and I have to say... the fries were awesome... I loved them... I wish I could have some right now!  It is almost like they are battered before frying, and it was delicious!  I cannot express enough to get some of those fries if you stop and eat here!!  The price for lunch, including tip, for all four of us was $31.00, not bad considering the atmosphere and yummy food!

After eating it was time to head to the visitor center.  I did not know what to expect since I did not really even look at the website and did not book any tours in advance.  And when I walked in it looked a little overwhelming, not at all what I was expecting.  There were tons of people, a museum area, and a waiting line to book a tour.  There are huge screens letting you know when tours were leaving and if any tickets were left for that tour.  The next tour that had not sold out was about 4 hours away, way to long for us since we were driving back home that evening.  Luckily, we noticed they were selling self guided tours.  It was not a long walking tour, just one that was in one of the largest areas in the cave, which worked well for us since our 6 year old was not ready for a tour that was miles long.  We bought our tickets (relatively cheap) and then checked out the museum before heading out.

The museum was bigger than I expected.  It was great at showing geological features of the cave as well as the history.  I love history and I am always excited to learn more about places we visit.  The kids were surprisingly into the history and science of the cave.  They had a sitting area to view a video about the cave and history, which was a little longer than I liked since I was ready to get out to the cave already, but the rest of my family was intent on sitting and watching the entire video.

Finally, it was time to head to the cave.  We walked back out the back (the side the hotel is on) and found a small sign pointing us on the right trail to the self guided tour.  When we got to the cave entrance, there were guides there to give us some details.  As we neared the entrance, the cold air of the cave was felt quickly.  Take a jacket if you are bothered by constant chilly air (something I had wished I remembered for Cara)!

The trail in the self guided tour are very wide and easy to walk.  There were two guides we met on our walk through the cave to give us interesting facts and to answer any questions.  Both guides we met that day were very personable, and one was a great storyteller.

Damien and the kids in the cave

The kids and I outside the visitor center

I cannot wait to be able to visit Mammoth Cave again!  Next time I will be better prepared by reserving a tour that fits our family at that time.  Perhaps we will be able to stay at one of the cabins also!

Mammoth Cave Pros:
  • Other area attractions close by.
  • Great food before heading to the caves at the Mammoth Cave Hotel.
  • Beautiful biking and walking trails.

Mammoth Cave Cons:
  • Unless you want to wait around a few hours for a guided tour, you need to reserve your tour online or in advance.

Mammoth Cave Tips:

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