Need to beat the Central Texas heat? Try going underground, to the glorious subterranean world just beneath our feet. Caverns have everything you’re looking for in a summer activity. Educational for the kids? Check. Engaging for the grownups? Check. A constant 68 to 72 degrees? Oh my, yes.
Inner Space Cavern
Inner Space Cavern was discovered in 1963, when state highway personnel began drilling test holes in advance of constructing IH-35. The cavern opened for public viewing in 1966.
Details: Basic tours are an hour and 15 minutes long and start with a tram ride into the cavern. Tours start every 20 to 30 minutes, with no reservation required. No tripods, strollers, wheelchairs or food or drink allowed inside the cavern.
Location: 4200 S. I-35 Frontage Rd., Georgetown
Admission: $14.95 for children 4 to 12; $20.95 for adults. Children 3 and under are FREE.
Hours: Hours vary, so check the website. For spring break 2019, hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Extras: A Hidden Passages tour is available for visitors over age 7 looking for a more rugged experience. An even more challenging Wild Cave Tour for visitors over age 13 provides a demanding, off-trail experience.
Natural Bridge Caverns
In 1960, four college students asked to examine the area around a natural rock bridge on private property. The students had been told that the area contained at best a couple of small caves, but they discovered over two miles of passages.
Details: The Discovery Tour covers 3/4 mile in an hour and 15 minutes. Tours depart about every 40 minutes. The tour includes stairs. Strollers are allowed but not recommended.
Location: 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd., San Antonio
Admission: Ticket prices vary by date. A general estimate is around $12-18 for children ages 3 to 11; $18-26 for adults. Children under 3 are FREE.
Hours: During the summer, tours are available beginning at 9 a.m., and the final tour leaves at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. depending on the date. Check the website for exact hours.
Extras: The Hidden Passages Tour provides access to a second cave. The Lantern Tour is offered only at 9 a.m. each day and allows you to explore by hand-held lantern. The Adventure Tour leads visitors on a physically demanding exploration involving climbing, crawling and rappelling. Also available on the cavern grounds: a zip line canopy challenge, a maze, and gem and fossil mining.
Longhorn Cavern, on the grounds of Longhorn Cavern State Park, has a long history of visitors, going back at least as far as the Comanche Indians. More recently, the cavern has been used as a gunpowder cache during the Civil War, as a hideout for local outlaws and as an events venue.
Details: The basic daily tour covers 1.25 miles and takes about an hour and 20 minutes. The tour includes stairs. Plain bottled water and regular flash photography are allowed. Strollers are allowed, but not recommended. No food, flavored drinks, flashlights, video cameras, tripods, monopods or tobacco products are allowed.
Location: 6211 Park Rd. 4 South, Burnet
Admission: $12 for children 2 to 12; $15 for teens 13 to 19; $16 for adults. Children under 2 are FREE.
Hours: During the summer, hourly tours are offered Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend). During the rest of the year, tours are offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and hourly on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Tuesday after Labor Day through Friday before Memorial Day).
Extras: The state park includes a picnic area, a historic building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and nature trails. Special tours available by reservation only include a Wild Cave Tour, Geology Tour, Photographic Tour and Paranormal Tour.
Unlike other caves in Central Texas, which were formed by water eroding limestone, an earthquake along the Balcones Fault Line created the Wonder Cave. It has been open for tours since 1903, when tours were conducted by candlelight.
Details: The basic daily cave tour takes about an hour and a half. Tours depart every 15 minutes. Wheelchairs and strollers are not allowed.
Location: 1000 Prospect Street, San Marcos
Admission: $7.50 for children 3 to 5; $13.95 for children 6 to 12; $19.95 for adults.
Hours: Regular hours are weekdays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. SPRING BREAK hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Extras: Your admission includes access to a 110-foot observation tower, anti-gravity house, train ride, wildlife petting park, mystery mountain and waterfall.
Based on artifacts found in the cave, cave operators surmise that the Lipan Apache discovered it in the early 1700s. It was opened for public tours in 1932. Cascade Caverns stays a little cooler than most, at 64 degrees, but the high humidity keeps it comfortable, so you won’t need a jacket.
Details: The basic daily tour takes about 45 minutes to an hour. The tour includes stairs. Photography is allowed. No smoking, eating or drinking is allowed. Bottled water is okay. Strollers are not allowed.
Location: 226 Cascade Caverns Rd., Boerne
Admission: $12.95 for children 4 to 11; $19.95 for adults. Children under 4 are FREE.
Hours: Hourly tours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Extras: Adventure Tours are available for visitors over age 16. The cavern sits under 103 acres of campground, with facilities for tents and RVs.
This cave got its name from a contest for local school children. The winning entry asserted that the cave was “too pretty to have a name.”
Details: The basic daily tour takes about an hour. Photography is allowed. The tour includes stairs.
Location: 325 Kreutzberg Rd., Boerne
Admission: $10 for children 6 to 12; $20 for adults. Children under 6 are FREE.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Labor Day through Memorial Day.
Extras: The campground on site has facilities for tents and RVs.
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by Sherida Mock