Our family has been in Branson, Missouri, this week taking in all the sights. Yesterday, we took a tour of Talking Rocks Cavern.
We timed our arrival such that we had a thirty-minute wait before the tour began, but there were plenty of things to keep us busy in the meantime. While Dad and the older kids admired all the amazing rock specimens in the gift shop, the younger kids panned for some semi-precious stones outside.
There were handy charts posted to help in identifying any prize stones…
… and a map to let us know where in the world each kind of stone can be found.
The site also boasted a small putt-putt golf course…
… a playground where younger kids can practice climbing through tunnels…
and an enormous checker set that several of our more competitive children enjoyed.
Had I known they had such a large and lovely picnic pavilion, I would have packed a lunch.
Thanks to the all the rain we’d gotten earlier in the week, the grounds were lush and green, with large pots of beautiful flowering plants all around.
Back inside the gift shop, hand-painted wall murals near the tour entrance gave us a brief history of the caverns, which were discovered in 1883.
Our personable and knowledgeable tour guide, Chuck, gave a more detailed account of the early exploration of the caverns and the subsequent development of public tours, punctuated with photographs and artifacts that made the history come alive. What’s more, he patiently answered all our questions — and even posed a few himself, as well.
Then it was time to descend into the caverns. We’ve toured caverns all over the country, and this one had some of the most stunning formations we’ve ever seen.
We especially liked the draperies and the hanging strips of “cave bacon.”
At the bottom of the caverns, Chuck turned out all the lights so we could experience total darkness. Then we enjoyed the light and sound show which gave Talking Rocks Cavern its name.
If you go, be sure to try out the “speleo box” before you leave. This was the highlight of our entire vacation as far as our boys were concerned. Don’t let the simple exterior fool you — this is one of the most challenging “obstacle” courses any of us have ever completed.
As explained on the rules posted on the side of this large wooden box, there are more than 100 feet of tight, twisting, turning tunnels built into this structure.
All six of the kids went through it — some two or three times — but it took them about ten minutes to finish each full trip.
That’s especially true of the older, bigger kids who had to try various strategies to squeeze around tight corners.
Dad was too tall and too heavy to attempt the course, so he just cheered the kids on from the outside. Technically, Mom fell within the height, weight, and age limits, but since she was dressed in a skirt (and needed to take pictures for this post), she sat out, too.
Our family given free admission to Talking Rocks Caverns as part of a US Family Guide blogger promotion in exchange for this review (although we more than made up for it in gift shop purchases). Nevertheless, all opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.