Adventure Mecca in Cave City

An Adventure Mecca

Cave City, KY does family-style quality time

I’d never been in such a hurry to slow down. The big city’s bright lights were in our rearview mirror. Ahead, Cave City’s adventures beckoned, and I couldn’t wait to experience what Cave City had in store for my family.

“We’re officially on slow time now,” my husband, Kyle, announced as we crossed from Eastern to Central Time zone. We’d only gained an hour, but the level of anticipation increased tenfold.

Scootering and skimming around Mammoth Cave

“To give it gas, pull back on the throttle,” instructed Jack, owner of the newly opened Mammoth Moped Rentals. Kyle and I were behind the handlebars of 50cc scooters. Emma and Max were behind each of us, arms wrapped around our waists. Mammoth Moped is the only scooter rental operation in Kentucky. Fortunately for us, its fleet of scooters, trikes and mountain bikes was conveniently located at the entrance of Mammoth Cave National Park. Armed with a map featuring Jack’s hand-drawn routes, we hit the road. A few minutes later, we were experiencing the ride along the roadways shaded by dense tree canopy. We loved riding through the heart of the national park. We parked at the Visitor Center and embarked on a tour of Mammoth Cave, the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States, walking the same paths of other cave enthusiasts during the past 200 years.

“Ready to see the church?” the park ranger asked while leading us to one of Mammoth Cave’s entrances. If the kids were surprised to hear the word “church” they didn’t show it. They were as full-speed ahead as you can go on a sold-out single file tour into the mysterious underworld known as Gothic Avenue—home to the church, the rotunda and more colossal caverns. The cave’s dark interior was illuminated with lights to guide us along the pathways. Around every corner, there was a surprise—stalagmites, stalactites, columns, gypsum, streams, fossils embedded into the rock wall and even cryptic 19th-century graffiti.

Mammoth Cave warranted its name and a return trip to explore the other 10 miles of the 11 guided tours in the world’s longest cave, with more than 400 mapped miles.

Riding, sliding and colliding at Kentucky Action Park

The next morning, we pretended to be cowboys at Kentucky Action Park’s Jesse James Riding Stable. “Giddy-up!” Max gave Zipper more slack in his reins. Meanwhile Emma, who’d already embraced “slow time”, was happy to let Flipper graze along the trail. Granted, I had a feeling that when our ride was over, she’d be first in line at the alpine slide, directly across the park. I was wrong.

After returning the horses to the barn, we rode a chair lift to Kentucky Action Park’s highest point.  The farm and forest views alone were worth the trip up, but the main attraction was the ¼-mile-long slide. “Whoaaaaa!” Kyle cried as his six-foot-five frame careened down Kentucky’s only Alpine slide built into the hillside. Gravity was the only gas our sleds needed. The kids and I quickly followed in their dad’s wake of adrenaline.

In addition to boasting Kentucky’s only alpine slide, Kentucky Action Park has the south’s longest twin-zipline. So, of course, we had to try it. We stepped into harnesses and started our tree top experience.

“Let’s race!” Emma shouted when she reached the two parallel lines stretching for more than half a mile. Max, still on a high from crossing the swinging bridge first, readily agreed. He didn’t realize Emma, who had at least 20 lbs. on him, had a huge advantage. Similarly, Kyle beat me across by a landslide.

All creatures great and small

Prior to this trip, patience wasn’t Max and Emma’s virtue. But the next day, they discovered its usefulness at Dinosaur World Kentucky. First, we entered the fossil dig where they strategically sifted through a sea of sand—searching for real shark teeth, ammonites and brachiopods. Next, they were elbow-deep at the sluice box, gently rinsing away dirt and sand concealing gemstones. I was glad they got to keep their finds as souvenirs, since the real fossils in the gift shop were huge. The dinosaurs’ sheer size didn’t fully hit us until we followed a pathway leading into a forest filled with 150 life-size replicas of the prehistoric creatures. The longnecks towered over the foliage, Pterosaurs hung from trees, and the T-Rex was so lifelike I momentarily feared for the birds and squirrels living nearby.

We saw more wildlife at the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum where a 14,000 square foot museum housed glass-encased dioramas and rare exotic taxidermied animals from around the world. Peacocks, flamingos, lions, tigers, bears, buffalo, marine life, and even the rare snow leopard were all represented at Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. It was like all the world’s leading taxidermists’ collections had been combined into one.

Emma especially loved the enormous butterfly and insect collection. “Max! Check out this beetle with a human face!” Emma cried. “Just a minute,” her brother said, taking his time to finish reading the placard by the stuffed lobster. They were each fascinated at every turn.

Getting great gas mileage

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and our getaway proved that saying right. Time really flies in Cave City, even in a different time zone.

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