5 Reasons Luray Caverns is A Perfect Roadtrip Stop
I grew up in Southwest Virginia. It’s beautiful, but finding things to do can be challenging.
I celebrated my “half-life” year this past year. I’m a science nerd, to be sure, but this had nothing to do with radioactive decay. My “half-life” marks the point in my life where I have lived equal amounts of time in “the South” and the Northeast.
Whenever I tell someone I grew up in Virginia, they automatically assume I lived near the beach. Much like New York or Maine; however, Virginia is a gigantic state, and it can take six hours to travel end-to-end. I grew up in a small town in Southwest Virginia, about 90 minutes from Tennessee and West Virginia. While the surrounding area is stunning (Blue Ridge Parkway, anyone?), there’s not a ton to do there, especially if you do not have easy access to large swaths of land. This made planning road trip stops with my three kids (1 – 3 – 6) challenging.
Luray Caverns had been on my list for a while. I am ashamed to admit I had never been to Luray Caverns until my most recent trip south, despite growing up within day-trip distance of it. This year, we finally pulled the trigger and made the trek from I-81 to Luray Caverns. We had a great time, less the typical toddler meltdowns. Here’s why I think you should get off the beaten path and check out Luray on your road trip through the southern Appalachian mountains.
1. The drive to Luray Caverns is scenic.
The drive to Luray Caverns is stunning. It’s also a great lesson in what it means to live in rural Virginia. If you’ve lived in rural (mountainous) Virginia, you’ll know what this means. If you haven’t, well… Drammamine is probably a good idea unless you have a stomach of steel. My husband did not grow up in the mountains. We have a van and 4 of 5 of us get motion sickness. Needless to say, the trip up and down the mountain was a bit of a nail-biter. The day we went, it was rainy, but beautiful nonetheless. It reminded me of everything I love about being in the middle of nowhere. I just wish I would’ve driven myself and saved us all a lot of bickering and a healthy side of anxiety.
2. Luray Caverns is weather independent.
One of the cool things about caves: they’re the same temperature year-round! While I don’t recommend driving the mountain in active precipitation (heavy rain or anything frozen), the outdoor temperature doesn’t matter a bit in your road trip calculus for this stop. Luray Caverns stays at a humid 54 degrees, so it’s a good idea to dress for 60ish plus the feeling of dampness. Long pants, a T-shirt, and a light jacket or cardigan will do the trick! In very hot weather, Luray is a welcome retreat from the hot, humid Virginia summers.
3. There are plenty of spots for a picnic.
I love a picnic. Luckily, so does everyone in my family. Even my husband, who could often be described as “emotionally unavailable,” looks forward to packing our Bento boxes and picnic blanket and sprawling out somewhere beautiful. Luray has ample picnic opportunities. Next to the parking lot, they have a giant lawn overlooking a small pond with ducks, and near the entrance to the caverns, there are covered picnic tables. Either would be a delightful spot for a snack or lunch. The day we went, it was raining and cool, so we weren’t able to take advantage of either. Barring ice-cold weather, plan to pack yourself a cooler and load up on fresh air poisoning before loading the kids back into the car.
Real talk: After a few hours in the car with kids, there is nothing more exciting than getting them out to stretch their legs. Bonus points if it’s an actual hike or walk because that seems to tucker them like nothing else. There might be a little whining involved, but the exhaustion rating is 10/10. I loved Luray for the exercise piece, though I wish I would’ve taken a hiking pack for my littlest. She melted exactly halfway through and didn’t want to be carried and didn’t want to walk. A screaming toddler in Luray? Trust me when I say that shit echoes. Anyway, my other two did great and everyone had a nice little jaunt through the caverns. And if the walk through the caverns doesn’t do them in, there’s a maze and ropes course to check out, as well.
5. A trip to Luray Caverns is educational.
Whether you homeschool, or your kids attend public or private, education is often at the top of all parents’ minds. While I encourage everyone to read “Free to Learn” in order for a serious change in institutionalized education, I also encourage everyone to take adventures with their children. We are constantly learning, you’ve learned something just by reading this blog! But how we learn best is when we are engaged with the subject matter. This is why textbooks are so… drab. Maybe your kids will come out of a trip from Luray as a budding geologist. Or maybe they will come out of a trip realizing they hate being underground. Maybe they find their passion, or they add it to the pile of “no, thank you.” Learning what we like is just as important as learning what we don’t. Whatever the takeaway is, they’ve learned something.
Headed to Luray? Here’s everything you need to know.
LURAY CAVERNS FAST FACTS
|Address||101 Cave Hill Road; Luray, VA 22835|
|Hours of Operation||9 AM – 6 PM|
|Admission||$11.00 – $22.00|
|Picnic Friendly||Yes, tables and lawn space are available|
|Clean Bathrooms / Changing Area||Acceptable, but very small|
|Water Bottle Filler||No|
|Recommended Apparel||Shoes. Plus a layer in summer and minus a layer in winter.|
|Recommended Gear||Stroller or baby-wearing apparatus.|
|Sunscreen / Bug Spray||No / No|
|Breastfeeding Friendliness||Benches throughout the caverns.|
Make it Happen