Lost River Cave is a really interesting place for outdoor family fun. Located in Bowling Green, KY, this destination is less than a 90 minute drive from most areas in Middle Tennessee. It is a perfect distance for a day trip. But remember, there is lots to do in Bowling Green so you may want to consider a longer stay.
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You will begin your tour at the visitor center. This is where you will purchase tour tickets. Tours are done at the top of the hour. Hours vary depending on the season so make sure you check the schedule before you arrive. The visitor center is home to the gift shop and restrooms. Make sure the kids take a potty break close to the tour time. Once you head into the cave tour, no bathrooms will be available for about 45 minutes. The porch of the visitor center is a great spot to just relax if you don’t want to take advantage of the other activities available at Lost River Cave.
If you have lots of time before your tour, start the fun at the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. This area is intended for kids from age 2 through 12. Parent supervision is required but you can see the entire area from any spot inside so kids can safely explore while mom and dad watch.
This was definitely my kid’s favorite part of Lost River Cave. We spent about 30 minutes playing in the various sections. There is lots of stuff to climb on and they have a kid size bird nest!
Interested in a game of checkers? Or learning to play an instrument? Both of these and much more are available in the outdoor classroom. One word of warning. There is a section of the classroom called the “Fox Hole”. It is a large pipe that goes under a hill that kids can crawl through. Your kids will probably love exploring it but check it out before they go in. The area was a little damp when we visited and the pipe was very muddy.
You should leave yourself at least ten minutes to get to the starting spot for the underground tour. As long as the area is open, you can return to the outdoor classroom and the surrounding nature trails after you have finished the cave tour.
Once your tour group is assembled, guides will divide you into smaller groups and lead you down the path toward the cave. On the way, the group will stop to see natural areas and hear some great stories about the Lost River Cave. It’s a beautiful walk but be aware that parts of it involve stairs so it’s not stroller friendly. Along this trail, you will also find a butterfly habitat. The habitat is only open during the summer months.
Once you reach the actual entrance to the cave, your guide will tell more stories while you wait for your group’s boat to be available. There is a fantastic area right at the cave’s entrance that used to be a nightclub (really!) and is now available for parties or weddings.
As you prepare for the boat tour, you will be asked to wear a life jacket. Several sizes are available. The area where you walk down to load the boat can be tricky. It is a cave. So the floor is rock and is damp and slippery. The employees do a great job trying to keep everyone safe. The boat itself is a long aluminum boat with three rows of bench seating. Once you have loaded the boat, the guide will begin the tour inside the cave. If you have toured caves before, you may be surprised at how small this cave actually is. Parts of the cave ceiling are so low that we had to bend completely over in our seats just to keep from hitting our head.
The promotional pictures of the Lost River Cave may give you false expectations. It is really, really dark inside the cave. Your guide will have a light to point out different parts of the cave but the full illumination you see in the brochure is not what we experienced.
My older kids (ages 12-15) really enjoyed the boat tour. My youngest (age 10) was not so enthusiastic. The darkness was very scary to her. The water level is only about knee deep inside the cave but she was still terrified. If you have younger kids who love exploring, they will probably love the tour. But a fearful, anxious kid is not going to be happy in Lost River Cave. I learned this lesson the hard way. :( The entire tour lasts about one hour but the time in the boat is only about 20 minutes.
If you have a really adventurous kid, consider the Kid’s Discovery Cave Crawl. This is separate from the boat tour and must be reserved in advance.
Family Fun Facts
Hours : Summer (May 16 – September 30) 9AM – 5PM (Visitor Center opens at 8:30AM)
Winter 10AM – 4PM (Visitor Center opens at 9:30AM)
Cost : Adults (12 and over) $16.95
Youth (4 to 11) $11.95
Child (3 and under) $4.95