Side Trip in Shenandoah: Luray Caverns

We went to Shenandoah for the Blue Ridge Whiskey and Wine Loop, but we stayed close to one of the biggest tourist destinations in the area. In fact, our hotel turned out to be ridiculously close (under ten minutes) to Luray Caverns. Mr. Os, decided to get up early and get coffee, then offered to walk the dogs while I went to check it out. (He said his $24.00 entry would be better spent on grapes, and he preferred to read about it in my blog with a nice glass of that wine).

So off I went, properly caffeinated, into a misty wet morning. The history around the formation of the caverns goes back to continental drift. Simply put, Luray Caverns is a series of underground limestone sediments. After years of shifting tectonic plates between the Americas and Africa, the older rock began to tilt upwards in the Appalachian Mountain area, creating these caves.

They were officially discovered in 1878, by Andrew Campbell. Upon entering the caverns, Mr. Campbell fell, extinguishing his lantern in the process. After regaining his footing, he found the lantern, re-lit it, and saw this:

When Andrew Campbell stumbled into the caverns, this was the first thing he saw.
When Andrew Campbell stumbled into the caverns, this was the first thing he saw.

I guess I should break this post into two different areas. As far as the natural caves, they were terrific, impressive, and interesting to look at.

This is my favorite shot from Luray Caverns. Really interesting stuff for the science geeks in all of us.
This is my favorite shot from Luray Caverns. Really interesting stuff for the science geek in all of us.

However, in terms of the people charging for a peak at this natural wonder, my first impressions were very negative and unfortunately had a lasting impact on the rest of visit.

I arrived at 8:40 for a 9:00 am tour. There was a bit of line and only one person to sell admissions tickets. She was not equipped (in any way) to deal with a large party and that couldn’t remember how many people were actually in the group. Yep, you read that correctly. They didn’t know if they were a party of 13, 14, 15… Nine? Then they didn’t know how many adults, children and seniors were in the party. There were plenty of staff at the caverns so i’m dumbfounded why someone couldn’t step up and open another register for those of us who could articulate how many people were in our party. “Me, party of one…cash.”

When it was finally my turn to purchase a ticket, I asked the cashier, an older woman who I’ll refer to as “M”, if I would be able to get in the 9:00 a.m. tour. After all, Mr. Os was dog sitting and we had a loop to get to! She replied, in a rather syrupy Southern accent, “well i don’t know. it just depends.” On what, she didn’t say, or if it was a 50/50, 70/30, or “slim chance.”. Frankly, I would think it’s a yes or no question.

As I mentioned, it costs $24 for an adult ticket to Luray Caverns. Although the ticket includes a one hour tour, entrance into the car and carriage caravan and Luray valley museum, i thought it was too expensive.

Most people go to Shenandoah for the Caverns and make wineries a side bar excursion. I would recommend the reverse. Go for the wineries and make this a morning activity. It is interesting but unless you’re a geologist it’s a two and a half hour excursion at best, if you ask me. That said, it’s a unique experience and a good way to break up two days of wineries. Or maybe just a fun way to work up a thirst…and the need for a good glass of wine.

Author: Judi Kennedy

Wanderlust. A professional aunt, fitness enthusiast, dog owner and avid reader the rest of the time.

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