This year, Kim’s annual girl’s getaway weekend fell on the Memorial Day holiday, and so right now she and the gals are in Ocean City, MD enjoying some much deserved R&R. That means I’ve got the kids for another day trip adventure! Last time Kim was away the six of us went to Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia to obtain their NPS Junior Ranger badges. On our way there I saw signs for Luray Caverns, which looked to be just about 10 miles further south of Cedar Creek. I remember going to Luray Caverns in grade school and being awestruck by the huge stalactite and stalagmite formations. So I made a mental note on that trip to do the caverns on a future trip! Today we executed on that plan.
According to the signs around the site, Luray Caverns is the largest and most toured caverns in the Eastern United States with a 1.25 mile underground pathway that snakes through the caverns as deep as 165 feet. We spent just over an hour touring the caverns and taking pictures which all of the kids agreed was amazing.
After the caverns we spent about 1/2 hour in the adjacent carriage and car museum, and then we shot over to Skyline Drive, a famous road that winds along the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.
While Luray and the entire area have some interesting history, on this trip we decided to “zone out” a bit and simply take in the sights and snap photos of everything we can see. The history of Luray Caverns is pretty interesting and includes a significant legal suit in the late 1800s over ownership of the caves just after their discovery. You can check out the Wikipedia article on the caverns for more backstory.
If you’re considering a trip to Luray we highly recommend it, just know that the actual caverns only take at most 1-1/2 hours to complete with kids. Depending on how long you have in the area, there’s plenty of other things to see including nearby Shenandoah National Park.
Our Luray Caverns Trip in 100 Photos
The entrance to the cave is through the visitors center and down a stairwell. It was hard to capture a clear shot in the stairwell given the lighting and motion. The one below on the right is the best I could capture.
Upon entering the caverns the view is immediately stunning.
After we departed the entry way, we basically walked and took pictures all along the route. The caverns are indeed beautiful.
The formation in the picture below the guides called “The Fish Market” because it looks like fish hanging on a line.
This picture below was perhaps our favorite spot in the caverns. While it looks like a collection of stalactites and stalagmites, it’s actually just stalactites reflecting off a still pool of water. Quite stunning.
Rodriguez decided he needed to get at least one shot sitting in the caverns, even though the lighting wasn’t great!
For the next few photos I changed the white balance setting on my phone to capture some more of the red hues. It was difficult to capture exactly how the caves look and since I was shooting with my Google Pixel phone I didn’t have a lot of tuning options.
The formation in the shot below is called “Pluto’s Ghost.” It is named because it is white and fairly central in the caverns. When the original explorers were navigating the caverns they kept coming across this formation and described it as a “ghost” because it appeared to follow them around.
I briefly switched back to a light white balance setting to pick up the shot below. Pluto’s ghost is in the background.
The formation below was one of our favorites – looks a bit like a large sandy landscape.
Below on the left is a stalactite that fell from the ceiling approximately 7,000 years ago (according to our guide). They can tell the age of the fall by how much mineral deposit has grown on top of it.
Another one of our favorite places. These look like natural Roman columns holding up the ceiling.
Below is The Great Stalacpipe Organ. The organ makes sound by vibrating various stalactites throughout the cavern. It was built in the mid-1950s and they still have it play a song for guests. According to our guide, the organ vibrates stalactites over a 3.5 acre area making this the largest instrument in the world!
We especially enjoyed these formations because they look like Coral Reefs, which reminded us of our first snorkeling trip in the US Virgin Islands this past February!
After about an hour we reached the end of the tour and finally found a slighter lighter spot to take a group picture. All agree that the drive was totally worth it!
The Carriage and Car Museum
In addition to the caverns themselves, Luray also has an antique carriage and car museum that is pretty impressive, housing carriages from the 1700s through early automobiles of the 1930s. Impressive random fact (according to the steward at the museum): all of the autos feature entirely original parts and all of them will still start and run!
A Few Pictures from Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive runs along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains inside of of Shenandoah Valley National Park. It’s about 30 minutes from Luray Caverns and a friend from work recommended we hit Skyline while we were in Luray. I wish we could have made more of the $25 entrance fee, but we did end up spending about an hour on the road stopping at lookouts and snapping a few pictures. Even our mascot Rodriguez the Hippo got in on the actions for a few of these.
Rodriguez is pondering the deeper meaning of life. And tacos. Because he loves tacos.
The weather started to turn sour towards the end of the day, so we stopped taking outdoor shots. But one more notable milestone from this trip. Kronk put on his 22,000 mile. He’s getting so old!