New York is a state with such a diverse landscape and scope of outdoor activities that it is perfect for families that love to get out and explore. We've visited the mountains, hiked through gorges with waterfalls, and recently we ventured underground to take a tour of a cave! Howe Caverns, located about 40 minutes outside of Albany, is New York's most visited natural attraction after Niagara Falls- and it is a perfect destination for family road trips! Here's all that you can do on a visit to Howe Caverns with kids!
The ride up from our home was filled with beautiful rolling hills, pastures of grazing cows, and took us through several small towns that made me want to get out and explore the stores along Main Street.
When we arrived at Howe Caverns, we hopped in line for the Traditional Cave Tour- which departs from the ticketing area every 10-15 minutes. Every tour starts with a multi-media presentation that outlines the history of how the caves were discovered (we can thank the cows in the pasture who gathered around an opening in the ground where cool air was escaping from the cave below), and how Lester Howe first started exploring the cave and offering tours.
You then take an elevator ride down to the cave level (156 ft below the surface) to start your tour. (Be sure to have a warm sweater/sweatshirt with you- the cave is a constant 52 degrees. Also- no flip-flops or large bags/backpacks are allowed on the tour).
The pathways in the cave are paved in brick and there are handrails throughout. The cave is very humid and water drips from the ceiling (we call those “cave kisses”), so sometimes the paths are wet.
Tours are conducted by well-trained guides who are extremely knowledgeable and do an awesome job of explaining all about the cave formations and the history of the cave. While you cannot touch any of the cave walls or formations on the tour because oils and minerals from your hands will halt the growth process, there is one area specifically set aside so you can touch a stalagmite to see what it feels like!
About halfway into the tour you come to the underground lake where you climb aboard shallow bottom boats to continue your tour as your guide navigates the waterway using handholds built into the cave walls as well as an oar to push along the lake floor.
You'll reach a point where the boat tour ends, and your kids will be dying to know what the cave looks like beyond that chained off area- which you can explore if you take the new Signature Rock Discovery Tour. (We didn't do this tour- so if you ever do it- be sure to come back here and tell me all about it!).
After the boat tour, you head back through the cave towards the elevator and then take another path to see the bridal chamber (yes- there have been 650+ weddings in the cave over the years!), and to visit the winding tunnel which twists and turns its way in a narrow space between the walls of the cave (our favorite part of the tour!).
Once we returned to the surface, we were ready to dig into lunch- and we were very happy with the offerings at the Howe Caverns cafe- fresh sandwiches, salads, and soups, as well as your regular kid-fare of pizza, hot dogs, and popcorn chicken.
We then made our way across the parking lot to the adventure park where we rode the zip lines and climbed the ropes course. There is also a rock wall and an air jumper- but my kids were so excited to check out…
The H2OGO ball! A giant bouncy ball where up to 3 people climb inside the inner chamber while the outer chamber is filled with several gallons of (cold!) water. Then the ball is pushed down the ramp and rolls down the hillside along a “scooped out” pathway. My kids declared this “the coolest ride they've ever been on- unlike anything else!”
Here's what it looked like from my vantage point:
ProTip: the wait for the H2OGO ball can take awhile- there was only one ball rolling the day of our visit, and it takes about 10 minutes per ride to roll down, load the ball onto a truck for the ride back up the hill, and to reset it for the next group of riders.
So for those not riding- head over to the side porch just outside of the cafe at the Main Lodge and enjoy the view from the rocking chairs! Bonus points if you head inside and snag some homemade fudge to nibble on while you wait!
We all had a fantastic day visiting Howe Caverns and highly recommend the road trip to other families seeking a little adventure!
*8 Things to Do in New York City with Tweens is part of a “MomOf6 Loves NY!” series that highlights some our family’s favorite places to visit during a New York road trip!
Looking for some more great New York road trip ideas?
Check out these posts:
- 7 Reasons to Visit Lake Placid with Kids
- 8 Great Things to Do In New York City in with Tweens– In Just One Day!
- Howe Caverns with Kids
- Watkins Glen State Park with Kids
- Corning Museum of Glass
- Minnewaska State Park
- Rockefeller State Park
- Legoland Westchester
*My kids and I were provided complimentary passes to enjoy the cave tour and adventure park, but all opinions expressed here are my own.