Down in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley there are a lot of interesting things to see and do. Luray Caverns is one of those places. The caverns are roughly about 1.5 to 2 hours off the beaten path from Washington D.C. It's a great day trip for those who live in the Capital District region and a nice vacation destination for those looking to travel to see what Virginia has to offer.
Once you get to the caverns, the beauty continues as the natural handiwork that resides in these caverns is nothing short of astonishing. All caverns possess amazing features, but the vast size of Luray Caverns is larger than any I've visited. I found it is a bit commercial, in comparison to other caverns that are more "rustic" in layout, but Mother Nature's handiwork is still stunning.
This image was taken inside Luray Caverns during a 2009 visit.
Touring Luray Caverns
Tours used to be self-guided audio ones, but appear to be led by a guide now. As you climb down the stairs the first thing you'll see is the discovery place marked. This sign and the stairs denote the entryway when the caverns were founded by Andrew Campbell, who was the town tinsmith, on Aug. 13, 1878. Then you'll climb down several more stairs (there is a wheelchair lift - but at time of publish Luray Cavern's website notes it is currently out of service) into a larger area where a guide will welcome you, give a short informational talk and then you're on your way.
The caverns' interior has multiple large rooms, many of them higher than cathedrals, simply remarkable. Luray's stalactites and stalagmites have several different forms. One cavern room displays huge draperies, which are also noteworthy.
Another neat thing about Luray is the caverns have the world's only "Stalacpipe Organ" which plays music using the natural cavern formations. Occasionally someone sits and plays live for an audience, but during the majority of the time, visitors are played an automatic sampling of how the organ works. Pretty cool!
The Stalacpipe Organ inside Luray Caverns
The caverns are very friendly for strollers. There are a few places you'll have to fold up the stroller and carry it, but for the most part, touring the caverns is pretty spacious with wide paths to follow. Small pets (carried the entire time) are allowed.
In addition to the caverns, there are also a couple of museums on site, the Luray Valley Museum and the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum (both are included in the price of admission to the caverns). I haven't yet seen the Luray Valley Museum as it was in the process of being built and was *this close* to its grand opening during my last visit, but I did get to see the Car and Carriage museum. It was pretty neat to see the many old carriages and vehicles that date back to early transportation and are in incredible condition.
Another attraction is "Toy Town Junction." This is new - Dr. Richard Worden, a retired minister who received his first toy train at the age of 5 (1941), collected a massive toy and train collection. He has generously shared it with the public. I haven't seen it yet.
Old Buick on display in Luray's Car and Carriage Museum
On the property there's also a Garden Maze which the kids (and adults) love. It's actually pretty hard! The maze is large and you can spend a good amount of time in there finding the clues for the mission and then trying to locate the exit. There is an additional fee to enter this attraction.
(If you are visiting on the weekend, you might want to consider getting your tickets early. According to the representatives at the ticket counter, lines can get rather lengthy and wait times can be long if you come later in the day. I found this to be the case, as when we exited the caverns, the line was at least an hour wait, maybe even two).
While there is a lot to see once you initially arrive, it is a good idea to make getting tickets your priority so this is one less line to wait on when you're ready to tour the caverns. As noted above it is busy. Other caverns I've gone to in the region can get busy, but not like this one.
Admission to the caverns is a little on the pricey side compared to many of the attractions in Virginia (my opinion), but they do offer discounts for AAA members and if you hold a Giant or Martin's grocery card, you can get a 50 percent off one adult ticket with the purchase of another adult ticket. There are a couple of other ways to get discounts, but check with Luray's customer service first as these can change. Tours begin each day at 9 a.m. and do run year-round.
There are lots of other things to do in the area too, so you can truly make a weekend or a day of the trip to Luray Caverns. No matter which direction you're coming from, the ride to Luray is bound to have beautiful sights. In the region, between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, the skylines are breathtaking. Additionally, the caverns are not far from Shenandoah National Park, if you are driving down from the north you can take Skyline Drive and get off on Route 211, getting to Luray is about a 15-minute ride. T
Views of fall foliage from Skyline Drive (Oct. 2014)
Luray Caverns, 101 Cave Hill Road, Luray, VA 22835, USA