Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vacations with Kids: Howe Caverns

Our family standing on the heart at the Bridal Altar inside Howe Caverns

I just got a comment today that said something to the effect of "Aren't you due for a blog post?"  Yes, I'm somewhat overdue, right? ;-)  We were off traveling in New England visiting the Cobbler's mommy and my sister's family for a week and a half.  Then, upon our return, I developed an inner ear infection.  Fun times...I'm still dealing with intermittent dizziness after a week and a half, but I'm well enough to write today.  There is such a thing as "ear rocks."  Who knew?

If you're planning any summer trips, I can make a few recommendations based on our recent excursion.  This time was our first visit to Howe Caverns.  Red has developed an interest in rocks over the last year so this side trip on our way to Massachusetts was a nod to her latest hobby.  Howe Caverns, which is located in Howe Caves, New York, was discovered in 1842 by Lester Howe.  Over the years the cavern, which lies about 15 stories below ground, was explored and later developed for tourists.  If you're looking for a natural cave tour in which you rough it and climb over rocks and squeeze through crevices, this tour is not for you.  If you want an easy walk on brick pathways in which you get to see rock formations up close and personal, then you'll like this tour.  

A variety of choices are available, but we opted for the Traditional Tour.  The Traditional Tour is about an hour and a half in length.  It included an easy group walking tour with a guide and a short boat ride inside the cavern.  There was some cheese factor involved---like a dated animatronic Lester Howe telling us about discovering the cavern at the beginning of the tour---but once you got down into the cave you really got to see some great formations.   The photos don't do them justice, but here are some shots of what we got to see:
This is a rock formation known as "The Chinese Pagoda"
"The Turtle"
The kids and I touching the one touchable formation in the cave.
Many of the formations were bathed in colorful lights so you could see the details.

The tour didn't come cheap.  It is $23 for adults, $12 for kids 5-11, but Tom Thumb at age 4 was still free.  They do offer a AAA discount which got us a couple of bucks off each ticket.  Even with the prices, we all agreed that it was well worth it for what you got to see.  Red even asked if we could go again next year.  One suggestion---bring jackets!  No matter what time of year it is or what the temperature is outside, the cavern is always in the mid-50s.  I was so glad we had sweatshirts.

A recent addition to the Howe Caverns campus is the Howe Caverns Mining Company.  Is it touristy? Yes.  Did the kids love it?  An emphatic YES.  What you do is you purchase a bag of
mining rough at the register inside and then the kids get to use a water sluice (essentially a stream of water running through a trough) to remove the dirt and clean the rocks.  We bought a 5 pound bag for $8 and the kids had a blast!  Here are some photos:

Red and Tom Thumb each ended up with a small bag of rough gemstones including amethyst, quartz, and fool's gold.  Well, worth the money for our little rock lovers.

Next time you're close to Albany or Syracuse, NY, consider a side trip over to Howe Caverns.    It comes highly recommended from our crew!  More blog posts coming in the days ahead!

1 comment:

Teaching Stars said...

I recently took my girls to some caverns upstate and they LOVED it! Glad to hear you guys had a blast!