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Pitstop at Howe Caverns, NY

How do you break up a seven plus hour drive? Well, a really good audiobook helps, but so do some well-planned pitstops.  So when driving from Rhode Island to Niagara Falls, Ontario, a friend suggested to break up the trip with a visit to Howe Caverns.

Located about 45 minutes west of Albany, not far off of Interstate 90, Howe Caverns is the second most visited natural attraction in the Northeast (Niagara Falls is #1.)  The cave system was first discovered in 1842 by a local farmer, Lester Howe, but has since changed hands many times and is in the process of being expanded beyond what is currently accessible on tours.

Since we left home around 9am, we arrived near Howe Caverns at lunchtime and stopped for a very pleasant lunch at the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe, only about 5-10 minutes away from the caverns in nearby Schoharie, NY.  Since we were meeting up with family coming from NJ, the Apple Barrel offered an ideal location as there was plenty of browsing to do while waiting for the other group to arrive.  The cafe offers indoor and outdoor seating and has a lovely selection of salads, wraps, paninis and burgers (as well as some surprisingly delicious fish and chips!)

Howe Caverns Review

Arriving at the caverns, we did experience about a 30 minute wait for the next available tour.  Since they host 200,000 visitors per year, this is not unusual so plan on spending an extra 30-60 minutes in addition to your tour.  If you have more time, you can also take advantage of their additional attractions such as the zipline, rock wall, ropes course, air jumper and H2OGo ball.

Howe Caverns Review from We3Travel.com

The family at Howe Caverns

Luckily, I researched ahead and found a BOGO 50 percent off coupon, which helped since tours for the whole family can get pricey ($25 per adult, $21 juniors, $13 child).  They do also offer adventure tours and family flashlight tours if you feel like a little spelunking.  But keep in mind that all tours require a good amount of walking (equal to 12 city blocks in addition to a 15 minute boat ride) and strollers are not permitted. Also, it is a steady 52 degrees down below so bring a sweatshirt and consider long pants if you get cold easily and wear comfortable, rubber-soled walking shoes.

Boat ride at Howe Caverns NY | Howe Caverns Review | We3Travel.com

From the boat ride at Howe Caverns

After a short history presentation, we were off with a guide to explore the caverns.  During our 90 minute tour, our guide explained a bit about how the caverns were formed. I wasn’t sure what to expect, imagining small tunnels that open into large caverns and underground lakes (too much of The Hobbit or Harry Potter I suppose.)  Instead, I was surprised by the height of the entire caverns.  Except for the short elevator ride down, you don’t feel closed in or necessarily “underground” at all.  Also, the path, while narrow, is wide enough to accommodate multiple groups passing by each other.

Howe Cavern walls | Howe Caverns Review | We3Travel.com

Cavern walls

Along the way, we were shown highlights like the Chinese Pagoda and the Wedding Chapel (yes, people actually get married underground.) The most impressive of all was right at the end of the tour (no, not the gift shop, although that was nice and fairly affordable), the aptly-named Winding Way.  Here you go single file through a very circuitous path through some beautiful rock formations.

Chinese Pagoda rock formation | Howe Caverns Review | We3Travel.com

Chinese Pagoda rock formation

Winding Way | Howe Caverns Review | We3Travel.com

Along the Winding Way

Winding way | Howe Caverns Review | We3Travel.com

More Winding Way

After our tour and all that walking, we were ready to get back in the car for another four hours to Niagara.  More to come on that part of the trip…

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2 Comments on “Pitstop at Howe Caverns, NY

  1. […] in VT (by request.) Altogether, we logged about 1400 miles over eight days with stops in Howe’s Caverns, NY, Niagara Falls (NY & ON), Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto, Thousand Islands, Montreal, and […]

    […] but either way, it made it more exciting. Before our trip, our only experiences underground were at Howe Caverns in New York and a few steps into the pitch black Thurston Lava Tube at Volcanoes National Park in […]

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