Marengo Cave National Landmark
Location: 400 E State Road 64, Marengo, IN
Price: Tours start at 18/adult and 10/kid 3-12
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, located in the gift shop
Marengo is about an hour and half East of Evansville and about 45 minutes West of Louisville, KY. Marengo Caves is just outside of town and is part of the larger Indiana Caverns system. The park has two guided cave tours, a nature trail, a crawl maze (it’s supposed to simulate cave exploring minus the dirt), a gift shop/snack bar, camp grounds and picnic areas. The surrounding area also offers several state parks, two additional caves and other outdoor recreation such as canoeing.
They offer two tours of the cave one is about 40 minutes long and the other is about 60 minutes long. The caves are not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers and you cannot bring a backpack carrier (I would think you could probably do a front pack) so if you are bringing a little one in you’ll have to carry them or they have to walk.
We opted for the 60-minute tour. Tours depart the gift shop about every 30 minutes during the summer season so we had about a 20-minute wait. We used the time to get a bathroom break, look around the gift shop and relax in the rocking chairs on the covered porch. There is a short 5-minute hike on a paved path from the gift shop to the entrance of the cave.
The interior of the cave is damp (this was a very wet cave with several puddles that you needed to step over) and cool (about 52-degree year round). I found the interior temp refreshing with how hot and humid it was outside but little ones might need a light jacket. Most of the tour is very well-lit but there are two parts of this tour that little ones that have fears of the dark might have issues (there was one part that was lit by “lanterns” so you could see how the early cave explorers would have come through and then at another point they turn off the lights so you can see how dark the cave really is). The actual walk is not hard but you are on your feet for the full hour there is nowhere to sit. Some spots have fairly low ceilings so anyone over 5’7” may have to duck but these were not frequent. Also to exit the cave you must walk up a flight of uneven stone stairs little ones may need help.
The tour guide was fairly informative about the history of the cave and a little bit about the geology of the cave. He did say he had only been working at the cave a few months. A more experienced tour guide probably would have added a little more to the experience but the tour was fine. The tour ends on the back side of the gift shop.
Overall it was a good tour and a nice stop. If you did both tours and explored the gift shop, I would say you would need to plan about 2.5 to 3 hours. We were there about 2 hours (our tour ran a little longer than 60 minutes and we were about 20 minutes early for our tour). There were dining options in Marengo (about 5 minutes from the cave) or Leavenworth (about 15 minutes from the cave). If you are driving through the area or are looking for an easy day trip. We spent about 3 hours in the area (not counting a 5K race we had run that morning) including a late lunch at the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth (it’s a small sit down restaurant that overlooks the Ohio River, mid-priced, home-cooking style food).