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Not a Fan of Winter Weather? Go Underground at Howe Caverns

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2019-01-26 19:24:00

If you find watching the snow fly more miserable than magical and you’d like to get away from the elements, a trip to Howe Caverns may be the perfect winter escape for you. Situated in the Schoharie Valley, between Central New York and the Capital Region, this unique spot allows visitors to explore otherworldly underground cave formations and learn about a storied history as deep as the caverns themselves. Plus, it stays a constant 52 degrees year-round, making it a perfect place to escape for a few hours on a snowy winter afternoon.
Howe Caverns is the largest cave in the Northeast that’s open to the public, attracting around 160,000 visitors each year, and is second only to Niagara Falls for the title of most-visited natural attraction in New York State. The 6-million year old cave system was carved by natural forces into 65-million-year-old limestone, and it’s been drawing visitors since it was discovered in 1842. Today, tours guided by specially trained staff bring visitors 156 feet—15 stories-- below the earth’s surface and into a whole other world, where they tell the tale of the natural forces that shaped the cave as well as its nearly two centuries of history as a tourist destination for visitors from around the world.
There are plenty of tours to choose from, but probably the most popular is the traditional 90-minute walking tour, which takes you through the main cavern, under giant boulders and through huge ‘galleries’ carved of stone, with fascinating cave formations throughout. You’ll follow the path of the underground river that runs through the caverns, known as the River Styx; and knowing that this unassuming stream carved out the palatial cavern you’re traveling is fascinating and mind-boggling. There is also a boat ride on the Lake of Venus, where the walls of the cavern surround you, so you can get a closer look at the fascinating stalactites and stalagmites as they pass by you.
If you’re looking for a different twist on the traditional tour, there are options for you, including a Lantern Tour, a two-hour excursion that lets you step back in time and explore the caves by lantern light, and the Family Flashlight Tour, a popular version for those with kids in tow. On the other end of the spectrum, the ambitious  Spelunking Tour is designed for adventurous visitors who want to don coveralls, gloves, boots, knee pads and a helmet and embark on a winding journey—often on hands and knees--through the Mystery Passage, across a dry underground stream bed and up to the Great Rotunda, a natural dome that stretches 107 feet high. Reservations are required in advance for all of these specialty tours. Private tours are also available by appointment.
Back on the surface, you can visit the gift shop, or bring the kids to the on-site HC Mining Company or the Rock Fossil Shop to sift for gemstones and other treasures. The cafe is open during the Summer but is closed in Winter except for pizza and a very limited menu being available during school break weeks. Make a weekend of it with a stay at the Howe Caverns Motel; there are also a variety of special packages available for unique weekend getaways. As always, make sure to check hours and admission information before you head out; there may be a closure if a blizzard is whipping through.

Cave lit up walkway photo credit Howe Caverns
River reflection walkway photo credit Howe Caverns
Lake of Venus photo credit Howe Caverns
Spelunking photo credit Howe Caverns

posted at: 2019-01-26 19:24:00, last updated: 2020-03-17 20:13:41

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