Virginia offers several beautiful caverns along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shenandoah Caverns, located less that 5 minutes off Rt. 81 in Shenandoah County is one such offering. While some trips merely take you to another place, Shenandoah Caverns has the ability to transport you to another era as well - not so much its famed “bacon” formations inside the caverns, but more for the unique collections of Earl Hargrove, the owner of the caverns. Over the years Mr. Hargrove has created and restored numerous Main Street store window displays as well as colorful, giant parade floats. All of which can be enjoyed by visitors while visiting the cavern as sister attractions Main Street of Yesteryear and American Celebration on Parade.
Your journey begins when you step inside the gift shop/welcome center of Shenandoah Caverns. Here you are surrounded with sights and sounds of a simpler time. The walls are lined with photographs and other memorabilia. You tour gathers near the elevator when it is time to descend into the actual caverns below. At 220 feet as the lowest point, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the elevator ride versus actually taking stairs. The tour lasts about an hour so be prepared to do a bit of walking, and in certain spaces, a little bit of stooping. While on your tour, you will learn about the various rock formations as well as the history of the caverns. Fortunate visitors will be rewarded with an occasional “cave kiss” (someone’s creative way of putting a positive spin on cold water dripping down your back).
Concluding the tour of the caverns is only the beginning of your visit. From there visitors can pass through the gates into Main Street of Yesteryear located in the same complex. Here they will be greeted by colorful animated characters that come to life with old-fashioned “push button” automation that seems so much more endearing than the sophisticated computer graphics of today. Maybe it’s the hands-on experience, or maybe it’s the nostalgia, but it seems to captivate visitors of all ages. As you pass from one animated department store window scene to the next, it becomes hard to realize that you are actually in 2007. As Cinderella’s Magical Night at the Ball and Circus Performers work their magic it is easy to imagine why the old department store window displays captured the hearts of so many over the years and hard to imagine why they became a thing of the past.
The next stop is down the hill to American Celebration on Parade. If you ever wondered where old parade floats go after they retire, this is the place. Entering this building is like entering a fantasyland playground for giants. Each float has been carefully preserved and in some cases visitors are allowed to hop on board, take photos or make them come to life through push-button animation. It seems as if it would take days to explore every nook and cranny. Interesting bits of history are included with each of the 27 award winning floats. Be sure to look up, down and all around as you never know where Big Bird, giant sea horses, astronauts or genies may appear.
When its lunchtime, you can find numerous places to eat off of Rt. 81 or you can enjoy your own picnic lunch right on the ground (just be sure to share with the resident goats who live there). Shenandoah Caverns also has a seasonal Soda Fountain.
Whether you like your entertainment below ground, above ground or from the past, Shenandoah Caverns is the place to visit. In addition, a 4th attraction, the Yellow Barn, which “celebrates agricultural and rural life” will be opening on June 17th to make your visit even more memorable.
Directions: Rt. 81 to exit 269
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:15PM
Admission Charged but includes all attractions.
For more information visit: www.shenandoahcaverns.com