Just north of Columbus, Ohio lies a small, elaborate series of caves, natural passages and rooms called Olentangy Indian Caverns. They’re a one of a kind cave system with a rich Native American history, and are a fun, family-friendly place to visit. (also fun to visit sans kiddos)
The cave doesn’t have a whole lotta impressive formations, but don’t let that discourage you. There are activities for people of all ages on the property, including a petting zoo, gem mining station, and more. It’s a fun and relatively inexpensive place to spend a few hours.
Before you go though, there are some things you should know. If you go unprepared, your trip may not be as enjoyable, and who wants that? I’ve put together a list of the most important information, and hopefully it’ll help you plan and make the most of your trip!
1. Cavern Tours
The most common reason people visit Olentangy Indian Caverns is for the caverns themselves. The area of the cave that visitors are allowed to tour is quite small compared to many other commercial caves, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm. It’s a beautiful cave system, and on the bright side, the smaller cave might actually be a good thing when it comes to self-guided tours. (less likely to get lost)
The caverns were formed millions of years ago by the immense force of an underground river, and are filled with winding turns and underground rooms. At one point in time, the caverns were a safe haven for Wyandotte Indians seeking refuge from inclement weather and other rival Native American tribes.
You have two different cave tour options – you can either go on a guided tour, or a self-guided tour. Both have their advantages. On the self-guided tour, you’ll be able to take as much time as you’d like, and really observe the cavern. The guided tour will be given by a live guide, who will lead you through the cave, tell you its history, and answer any of your questions. The guided tour lasts approximately 40 minutes, and the self-guided tour lasts as long as you want it to. Strollers are prohibited in the caverns, so instead you’ll have to take a baby carrier.
On an interesting side note, there are many miles, sections, and passages of the caverns that have yet to be explored. There’s even an entire fourth floor that is inaccessible to the public, that houses a lake formed by an underground river.
2. Admissions & Fees
The admission fee to tour the caverns is a relatively small amount of money. (especially when compared to the price of other cave tours) That being said, the price will start adding up if you’re keen on enjoying the other activities offered. Prices are as follows:
Adults (13 years old and up) – $9.95
Children (3 – 12 years old) – $6.95
Children (2 and under) – FREE
Petting Zoo – $4.00 (aside from the entrance fee, a small bag of food can be purchased for $1, and a large bag for $3)
Treasure Hunt Maze – $5.00
Mini Golf – $3.00
Gem Mining – $6.99 – $24.99 (depending on chosen bag size)
3. When to Go
Typical daily cavern hours are: Monday – Sunday 9:30am – 5:00pm. While the caverns are open almost year-round, depending on what type of tour you want to take, you may only be able to visit during certain months of the year. The schedule is as follows:
Guided Tour Season:
June 1st – August 4th
(Guided Tours run from 11am – 4pm)
Self Guided Tour Seasons:
April 2nd – May 31st
August 5th – October 31st
4. What to Wear
The caverns will be dirty, muddy, and real slippery. For safety purposes, it would be best to wear non-slip, waterproof, closed-toed shoes. (think hiking boots, or running shoes in a pinch) Make sure to be cautious of slippery rocks and pathways.
You also might want to bring a jacket. The caves are a constant 54°F year-round.
5. Petting Zoo
One of the more popular activities on the property is the 50,000 square foot petting zoo. There are multiple sections, some enclosed, others wide open. There’s quite a variety of animals – Goats, Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, Whitetail Deer, Fallow Deer, and Zebu (which are one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world, and are endangered by habitat loss). Most of the animals will gladly eat of your hand, and some will even beg.
The property is also home to rabbits and chicken, but they are not for petting, only observing.
6. Gem Mining
An option that would be especially fun for kids is the gem mining station. The setup is elaborate, and you get a nice bang for your buck. A bag of sand/gems/fossils will be provided to you upon purchase, and you’ll use a mining sifter and a small stream to find the stones. There is a variety of bag sizes available, with prices ranging from $5.99 – $9.99 a bag. Individual prices are:
- Small Mining Bag – $6.99
Contains a variety of precious and semi-precious uncut gems.
- Arrowhead Bag – $10.99
Contains gems, plus at least one handcrafted arrowhead.
- Emerald Bag – $11.99
Contains several uncut, unpolished emeralds, and other gems.
- Fossil Bag – $11.99
Contains several varieties of real fossils, such as amber and shark teeth.
7. Miniature Golf
Another activity available is the caverns 18-hole mini golf course. It’s something that would be fun for people of all ages. Having said that, the course is pretty run down, and in need of a new paint job, along with some other sprucing up. You may very well see some free range chickens roaming about the course, so that might be fun!
8. Treasure Hunt Maze
Olentangy Indian Caverns is also home to Central Ohio’s first treasure hunt maze. It features three different treasure stops, that you’ll find as you navigate your way through the maze. It’s challenging enough to have everyone in your group being engaged (even adults), but easy enough to not be considered difficult.
Upon purchasing admission, you’ll receive 3 tokens per person. You’ll then enter and wander through the maze, stopping to unlock treasures such as gems and arrowheads with your provided tokens.
9. Summer Camps
If your kiddos are interested in animals, science, or art, I’d recommend you check out the summer camps provided by Olentangy Indian Caverns. They are a fun, engaging way for kids to spend time learning, and a great way to make friends. All campers will have opportunities to visit the animals in the petting zoo, and explore the caverns. There are eight different camps, four of them being single day camps, the others being four days long. Kids must be 5-14 years of age to participate. Here’s a list of the different camps, along with brief descriptions of each one:
Four Day Camps:
This camp is for those interested in animal care, and gives plenty of opportunities to observe and interact with various animal species. It’s scheduled for June 3rd – 7th, and costs $225 per child.
Activities included are:
Bottle Feed Baby Animals
Animal Care Basics
Land Before Time
This would be a great camp for those interested in history, archeology, and paleontology. It focuses on the Native American history of the caverns, and includes many activities geared toward learning about prehistoric times. It’s scheduled for June 17th – 21st, and costs $225 per child.
Activities included are:
Dig for Fossils
Make Cave Drawings
Imagine Prehistoric Times
Rockin’ Geology Camp
Focusing mostly on rocks, fossils, and the cave formation itself, this camp would be perfect for those interested in geology. It’s scheduled for July 8th – 12th, and costs $225 per child.
Activities included are:
Find and Identify Fossils in the Cave
Science Experiments that “Rock”
Rock Collection Basics
Art in Nature
If your kids are artistic, and enjoy working with their hands, this might be the camp for them. It focuses mostly on creating things. It’s scheduled for July 22nd – 26th, and costs $225 per child.
Activities included are:
Jewelry from gems mined in our Sluice
Turn Everyday Items into Masterpieces
Eco Friendly Projects that Help Nature
The single day summer camps are replicas of these previous four, squeezed into a single day. They cost $45 per child, and are from 10am – 4pm. Schedules are:
Barnyard Palooza – June 25th
Land Before Time – June 13th or July 16th
Rockin’ Geology – June 11th or July 18th
Art in Nature – June 27th
You can find more information about the summer camps, a list of what to bring, and the registration form here.
10. Handicap Accessibility
The caverns are not handicap accessible due to a flight of 54 stairs. Keep this in mind if you or anyone you’re traveling with has impaired mobility.
Pets aren’t allowed at Olentangy Indian Caverns. This is for the safety of your pets, and the petting zoo inhabitants.
12. Leave No Trace
Just as you should when traveling anywhere, respect the environment and practice the principles of Leave No Trace. This includes leaving nothing behind, including biodegradable material such as apple cores and orange peels. These items may seem harmless, but they can affect the ecosystem in many ways, so remember to pack it in, pack it out, or dispose of responsibly.
You’re free to take as many photos as you’d like. Be mindful of other visitors though, and use common sense. If someone doesn’t want to be photographed, honor that. No one wants to cause a potential privacy issue.
Visiting Olentangy Indian Caverns is a fun experience for people of all ages, and is something you shouldn’t miss out on.
With a beautiful cave to explore and plenty of other activities to take part in, it’s a great way to spend a day. Hopefully this list has helped you prepare for your visit to the caverns. Now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, I have no doubt you’ll have an exciting trip.
Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.