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The Cheap Family’s Guide to Mammoth Cave in a Day

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Since we moved back to Nashville four years ago, I’ve been wanting to take the family on a day trip to Mammoth Cave. I remember going as a kid and it being so cool. We packed a lunch and headed up on a Sunday with perfect spring weather.

Family Day Trip to Mammoth Cave

There are plenty of activities to make a day of it: biking and walking trails, horseback riding, picnicking and a free self-guided tour.You can also purchase guided tour tickets. (rental fees here)

There are cabins and camping areas, too. Rental fees are here. The cabins looked fun, and we talked about coming back up to stay overnight.

When you make the drive in, there are several places to pull over and take a photo, including the welcome sign.

Free and Guided Tours

When arrive at the visitors’ center, see the customer service representative in the middle of the room, and she’ll give you free tickets to a self-guided tour. With a young family, it’s nice to have the flexibility of beginning your tour at any time, and the free tour is an easy, short tour — perfect for little ones to have their first experience.

There is quite an elevation change on the walk to the cave opening, and there are quite a few stairs leading to the cave, but not too much to make it hard for relatively healthy people.

We could feel a draft of cool air when we got close to the opening here. Year-round temperatures in the cave are 50-60 degrees, so bring a jacket or layer your clothes!

Mammoth Cave Offers Education and Fun

Mammoth Cave offers a great mixture of nature, science and history. This year, 2016, they are celebrating 200 years of guided tours (it’s also the National Parks Service’s 100th anniversary. So it’s a great time to go!) An exhibit inside the visitors’ center walks through that history.

A short film also gives a great overview before you travel to the cave. In it, we learned that Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored (and there are hundreds of miles they believe are still yet to be explored!). It’s fascinating stuff.

Directions to Mammoth Cave Visitors’ Center

Directions are here, and your GPS might give you slightly different directions. The directions we followed were: Exit 48 (Park City Exit). Turn left onto KY-255 and follow 255 as it becomes the Park City Road into the park. Follow Park City Road until it joins the Mammoth Cave Parkway; turn left. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the Visitor Center.

Best Souvenir

My kids loved the colored rocks in a little commemorative green Mammoth Cave bag from the gift shop. The bags, which can be filled to the brim with rocks, are just about $3. So in all we spent $6 on our trip, and they have little treasures to remember it by.

 

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