Luray: Caverns, Hiking, and Small Town Fun
January 1, 1970
by Sarah Paterson
A Rural Getaway
Out of all the states in the United States, Virginia has always been my favorite. I have long been fascinated with it, something about the rolling hills, mountain tops, and of course the gorgeous changing of the leaves has always called to me. When I got married, it seemed natural to choose Virginia for our honeymoon. With a small budget, we picked our destination and found Luray. Luray, Virginia is most well-known for the gorgeous caverns that share the town’s name but has much more to offer than just the caverns. It is a small town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley that offers a rural get away from the big city of D.C. which is only around 90 miles away. It’s the perfect weekend getaway with a mixture of relaxation and sight-seeing. I highly suggest staying in a bed and breakfast, which is the best way to experience the town. It’s so much more personal than a hotel.
The Cavern Attractions
Luray wouldn’t be Luray without the gorgeous caverns. The caverns are their claim to fame and with good reason. The caverns are magnificent, filled with many different types of structures. Just a short drive from the hub of town, the Caverns are located with a gorgeous backdrop of the mountains. The caverns feature several different attractions besides the caverns themselves. With two museums, a garden maze, gem sluicing, and a rope adventure course, there’s something for everyone. The garden maze was my personal favorite. Running around the twists and turns, searching for the clues on how to get out. The maze held a few surprises including a fountain with benches, a hidden bridge overlooking the maze, and of course lots of flowers. After some time, and a lot of dead ends, we finally made it out!
Inside the Caverns
The caverns were relatively busy because it was the weekend, and we had to wait for a short time before we could go in. It wasn’t that long of a wait, and the waiting room had the history of the cavern up on the walls which were pretty interesting. The waiting room also had the typical photo opportunity for the cavern to make some extra money, which I’m a sucker for and ended up doing. Finally, it was our turn to descend into the caverns. I’ve always loved nature, and have been interested in the incredible things that are made naturally. The caverns blew me away. All the stalactites and stalagmites created with just water and rock over hundreds of years were incredible. What was even more amazing were all the different formations that they formed. It seemed that every room had something different, all created from the same process. My favorite was the Dream Lake. The Dream Lake is an optical illusion created with the stalactites and a body of water below it. The stalactites are reflected creating an image where you are not sure what’s real and what’s a reflection. I stood there for several minutes, trying to figure out where reality ended and reflection started.
Another one of my favorites was the Wooley Mammoth, which is what our tour guide called it, but could also be a dog. It’s also one of the oldest formations in the caverns. It was giant!
The coolest thing about the caverns though was the organ. The organ was located in the ‘Cathedral’ which was the name for one of the rooms that had large vaulted ceilings. You could actually get married there if you wanted! The organ used the stalactites and stalagmites to make the music, it was incredibly beautiful to listen to. I, of course, did not get a good video of it so I guess you have to go see it in person!
Lastly, one that was a crowd favorite was the Eggs. The formations were no longer growing so people were able to touch them. It was a fun end to the cavern tour.
Attractions Besides the Caverns
The caverns are great and everything, but what else is there to do in Luray you may ask. The town itself has several cute stores, including a country shop/antique store, an art gallery, a bead store, and a very eclectic antique store that had at least 15 rooms filled with stuff. For entertainment, there was a very cute old-fashioned theater, where we saw a movie one night and a little community theater. We went one of the nights to go see a murder mystery play put on by the locals. Plenty of entertainment for those nights where you just want to sit back and watch something.
If you want more nature, there’s plenty of that too! There is, of course, the Shenandoah Mountains and Skyline Drive, but Luray has beautiful scenery as well. Inside Luray is Hawksbill Greenway, a little trail right by a river. It was a nice peaceful stroll, complete with some ducks! A nice little walk for when you don’t feel like taking a long hike. It even goes under an overpass that had a pretty mural on it.
My favorite part of sight-seeing was the Storybook trail. The trail was a short distance from the town and was a great hike. It was a short trail, not too difficult, and ended with an amazing view. The trail was paved, which is my favorite type, but a little steep at parts. The top had a little deck of sorts overlooking the valley, as well as some sections where you could look off jutting rocks. This trail is a serious must to any Luray visitor
Overall, Luray is a beautiful little town right by the gorgeous Shenandoah mountains, full of small-town charm and natural wonders. I highly suggest adding it to your list of stops next time you’re in Virginia.