The cave’s entrance gives off a delightful secret garden vibe, with stone steps, mossy surround and perfectly patinaed iron gates. (Fun fact: The gates came from the original Springfield jail house.) Once inside, I was swept away from Springfield and eager to climb farther into the geological landmark.
Each tour is led by one of Crystal Cave’s expert guides who’s quick to point out the cave’s unique features like carvings, upside down wells, rare helictites and the formation referred to as “The Washington Monument.” (Fun fact No. 2: This formation was so popular that in the early part of the 20th century, representatives from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. visited the cave and eventually created a replica, which was displayed in their Museum of Natural History for years).
Most of the cave’s rooms are quite spacious and easy to move through. I wore chunky outdoor boots assuming I’d be sludging through mud, so I was pleasantly surprised by the newly paved walkways making most spaces easy to navigate.
Since reopening, the guides have seen visitors of all ages, many of whom visited the cave as children decades ago. But with that said, there are areas of the cave with low clearance (the shortest being 39 inches high), which require bit of crouching. While few and brief, if you aren’t comfortable with moments of enclosed spaces or struggle with mobility, this may not be the tour for you. Tours last between 45 and 55 minutes depending on your number of questions and the amount of photos you want to take. The tour ends in The Cathedral Chamber, which is large, ornate and practically begging to be your next Instagram post.
For me, the tour was the perfect mix of adventure, geology and local history—making my long-awaited return to the Missouri cave scene a highly enjoyable one. But what I really left thinking about was the number of older guests I saw taking young children with them along the tours. I imagined grandparents sharing with their grandchildren a bit of their childhood history and in turn, helping inspire the next generation of 417-land explorers. And for that, I’d say we’re pretty lucky to have this piece of Springfield history reopened and ready for the next hundred-plus years of memory making.