‘It’s a completely different world:’ Morgan Dean explores the Grand Caverns

GROTTOES, Va. (WRIC) — 8News Daytrippers takes us up into the mountains and then down below ground. Anchor Morgan Dean explored an attraction that has been in business for more than two centuries.

“It’s a completely different world,” says Grottoes’ Tourism and Park Director, Nathan Garrison. “Huge room, very well-lit and highly decorated with formations.”

Grand Caverns, under the town of Grottoes, was discovered in 1804 and the cave has been open for tours since 1806.

Visitors will see thousands of stalactites, stalagmites and rare shield formations throughout the gigantic cave. They were created when water rushing through the cave, washed away the softer rock. Minerals in the dripping water are left behind, creating the dramatic formations during a very slow process

“Stalacmite or stalagtite, average is it takes 125 years for one inch to grow.” Garrison said.

During the roughly 70 minute tour, visitors will travel down about 200 feet below ground and see the Chapel, the Ballroom, the Rainbow Room and the centerpiece: Cathedral Hall.

At 280 feet long and 70 feet high, it’s the one of largest cave rooms in the east.

Inside Grand Caverns you will also find a zoo but it’s not your traditional one with live animals. There’s a crocodile, an elephant with its trunk hanging down and a bird in flight you can all see in these formations.

Visitors will even get to experience what it must have been like in the early 1800’s when folks first explored it by candlelight.

The tour guides light a candle and then extinguish it to show you how all encompassing the darkness can be. If you’re looking for something a little more thrilling and strenuous, Grand Caverns also offers an adventure tour where you can do some actual caving in nearby Fountain Cave; you will get dirty.

“We suit you up with helmet, knee pads, gloves, lights, we go in and explore, find the fountains, climb and crawl into deep crevices,” Garrison said.

No matter which of the two caves you hit, you’re in for a refreshing experience.

“All year long, it’s 54 degrees inside Grand Caverns. When it’s 100 outside, always a way to beat the heat,” Garrison said.

The caverns saw both Union and Confederate troops visit during the Civil War, some of the soldiers actually signed the walls and you can still see those signatures today.

Anchor Morgan Dean’s favorite formation was where a shield used to be attached. It fell a long time ago, creating an imprint that looks like the Millenium Falcon from “Star Wars.” Plan your trip to Grand Caverns right here. 

Morgan’s 11 year-old son tagged along for the story. Morgan says he had a great time. Afterwards, they hit nearby Harrisonburg for lunch at the Union Station Restaurant and Bar.

Morgan had the Yardbird Chicken sandwich. He says the havarti cheese gave it a nice, hearty flavor. His son enjoyed the grilled cheese and the homemade BBQ potato chips. Check the restaurant out for yourself here. 

For dessert, they hit one of Morgan’s all time favorite ice cream spots: Kline’s. The Shenandoah Valley has been enjoying the stand’s sweet treats since 1943.

The ice cream, which tastes more like old fashioned custard, is made fresh daily at each of the four locations. They only serve three flavors at a time: vanilla, chocolate and the special flavor of the week because of the production time involved in making the ice cream.

Morgan tried the vanilla in a waffle cone and he said he was in heaven. His son dug into the chocolate fudge sundae and said it was one of the best he’d ever had. You can learn more about the ice cream shop and the flavor of the week here. 

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