This is a big weekend for Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, WI. It's about a 2 hour drive from Milwaukee and yet so very different than anything you'll find here in our own backyard. This weekend they are celebrating the founding of the caves at a celebration called Discovery Days. We were there yesterday and it was a great day for the whole family. No matter what the temperature outdoors, it's always a cool 50 degrees inside the cave, which makes it a great choice for a hot summer day...or a rainy day for that matter. Just bring a jacket.
The tour takes about 45 minutes and is led by someone knowledgeable about the caves. You start the tour with a movie, and then your group is led through the cave, with lights being turned on as you approach certain features. This weekend, they are doing flashlight tours too, which is quite a twist. Contrary to what you may have heard about caves, there are no bats inside. This cave has no above ground entrances, other than the one through the building entrance.
At the end of the tour, you are left in the gift shop where you can find lots of gems for sale, although none of them are actually from the cave, and in fact many come from very far away. You can step outside and dig for treasures, gems, fossils, in 3 large sandboxes. Stay as long as you like. You only need to pay if you decide to take any of them home with you. There's also a place where you can "pan for gold", where you buy a bag of sand with rocks or fossils inside. You put the sand in a sluicing trough with running water and see what you get. Normally you have to buy these, but this weekend they are giving them away.
Admission is $16 adults/$8 children, plus tax. Ages 3 and under are free. You can prepurchase your tickets online at their website, but there is no discount. For about $5 more per person, you can purchase an annual pass that allows multiple entries during a year.
The summer flowers are in full bloom right now, and you can hike the grounds either alone or on a guided tour this weekend. Pack your own lunch and drinks and make a picnic on the grounds. I might also mention, there is only one bathroom. If there is a bus or large group, it could mean waiting in line for a very long time. You may want to find a rest stop on the way here. The buses were there in full force yesterday, but most were finished with tours by 12:30. A visit later in the day might be better. You can always call ahead to find out what the tour situation is for the day, and plan accordingly.
We also stopped in Mt. Horeb to look at the carved wooden trolls on the troll way, and then had an early dinner in Madison at Ella's Deli- another magical place for kids. Make a day of it and have fun!