For years, driving back and forth between our bases of Nashville, Tennessee and Indianapolis, Indiana, we’ve passed Mammoth Cave National Park. We never stopped, though. Either the kids were too little to appreciate or enjoy the cave or we were pressed for time, trying to get from Point A to Point B. This summer, we planned a trip to Nashville and found ourselves with plenty of time to get there and back. Finally, a stop at Mammoth Cave was in order.
Our visit was fantastic. The drive into the park is beautiful. I’ll admit, I got a little hitch in my throat when we came to the entrance and saw the sign for Mammoth Cave. I have many fond memories of posing for just such photos as a child.
We took the Historic Entrance Tour, which was roughly 2 hours and described as a difficulty level of moderate. Eli, who is almost 6, did just fine. He really enjoyed it, but I would say a tour of this length and difficulty is probably the max you would want to attempt with the 6 and under crowd. There are many tours to choose from, ranging from short and easy to long and strenuous. We want to try them all! Advanced reservations are not required, but they are recommended. We reserved our tour the day before, and already several other tours we were interested in were sold out.
Obviously, it is difficult to take good photos 250 feet underground, but Elena snapped a few in the area of the cave known as Frozen Niagara. It was so cool, even as an adult, to see formations you’ve only read about or seen in pictures.
It certainly made an impact on the kids. Inside the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop, you can purchase a Passport To Your National Parks. It’s a perfect souveneir (only $8.95). The Passport is a guide to all of our nation’s National Parks, organized by region. Along with a full-size map of the National Park System, each region has a map, text, photos, and a listing of all the parks in that region. Just like a real passport, there is space within each region to get your Passport canceled. Most National Parks have stations at the visitor center where you can stamp your Passport with the name of the park you visited as well as the date. The kids were so psyched to to get their Passports canceled and are already making plans to visit every National Park in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky … this summer. Next summer, according to them, we’ll hit the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the giant sequoias. I’m game!
I can’t believe it took us this long to begin exploring our great National Parks system with our kids. Have you made these national treasures a part of your family’s vacations already? If so, what are your favorites?