Summertime Family Fun: Three Great Outdoor Excursions
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So it’s summer. And that means you want to get those kids outside. But you want to do it in a way that is fun and relaxing without putting your family in danger of heatstroke. Oh, and cheap, too. Sounds impossible? Here are three fun activities you can do this summer that measure up on all accounts.
It’s hard to find a better summer vacation than crawling in a cave – easy on the wallet, good exercise, fun for all ages, and cool temperatures to boot.
Phil Roberts is a tour guide at Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Tucson, Arizona. He says caving is completely safe for families of all ages. “But,” Roberts warns, “Parents should realize before they come that there’s going to be a lot of walking.” If your children aren’t old enough to handle that, it may not be the time to take a cave tour.
There’s much to be learned inside the walls of a cave. On guided tours, your family will learn about geology, climate changes, animals and plants who live underground and more. Caves are full of history lessons as well. From explorations to the history of tourism down below, it’s fascinating to hear what your tour guide will tell you.
“Kids like to learn about how caves were discovered and who has been down in the caves over the years,” says Roberts. “And of course, they love to see the formations.”
Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico is one of the most famous cave systems because of its amazing formations. Each year, visitors flock to see formations with names such as “Witch’s Finger” and “Longfellows Bathtub.” Kids love the special “Spider Cave Tour,” where they can crawl through tunnels just their size and explore the cave in true kid-form.
Located in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest cave system. Jim Shoemaker has been taking his kids there for long weekends for the past ten years. “When they were small, we liked to just go into the entrance of the cave and explore on our own,” he explains.; “As they got older, we began to take small guided tours. My kids loved when the tour guides would extinguish the lights so they could experience total darkness. Now they are almost teenagers and we’ve worked our way up to doing the crawling and climbing tours. Which is fun and challenging for all of us!”
Important caving tips for beginners:
- Dress comfortably with good walking shoes. Most caves are cool, so plan accordingly.
- If you plan on taking a tour, get plenty of information ahead of time to see if it’s the right fit for your family. Some tours are more strenuous than others.
- In general, safety isn’t much of an issue. Areas open to the public are well-lit and marked off for safety precautions. If you and your children can follow directions and stay with the group, you will be fine.
- There’s usually limited access to bathrooms in caves. So keep that in mind, especially when caving with little ones.
- You will be walking! Start small and don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to picking tours.
Caves are an amazing natural preservation of history, that can be educational and relaxing for all ages. The National Caves Association has a database of over 80 caving destinations. Search by zip code to find the one nearest you and start planning a long weekend underground for you and your family.