You've probably been to the Louisville Zoo, but do you know that most of the zoo sits on top of the Louisville Mega Cavern? It’s a man-made cavern, originally a limestone quarry, and has been open to tourists since 2009. For the adventurous there are zip line tours, an underground bike park with over 320,000 square feet of trails (the only underground bike park in the world), an aerial ropes challenge course, and for the history buffs, there are historic tram tours.
How to join a Mega Cavern tour:
The entrance to the Mega Cavern is just south of the Louisville Zoo and north of the Watterson Expressway. The whole place was once the Louisville Crushed Stone Mine and is located right in the city. Directions can be found here. There is ample parking and a clearly marked doorway leads visitors down a hallway filled with facts about the cavern.
• The mine was mined from the early 30s to the early 70s.
• The average temperature in the Mega Cavern is a consistent 58 degrees.
• Most of the roads and warehouses in the underground have motion sensors that control the lights and conserve energy.
• Louisville Mega Cavern is the largest building in Kentucky.
• A 10-ton heater dehumidifies 50,000 square feet of space.
The hallway leads visitors to a gift shop where you can buy tickets for both the historic tour or for an adventurous day on the zip lines.
After getting our tickets we perused the snacks, rocks and t-shirts for sale. Once our tour was called, we loaded into small open-topped cars pulled by a vehicle resembling an off-road Jeep. Our tour guide was humorous and informative. He began the tour with jokes and his ability to jest on the possibility of the cavern being spooky helped to keep the mood light.
What is in the Louisville Mega Cavern:
Starting with a tour of the city’s salt reserves (for wintry weather), the tram descends into former mining areas. Using mannequins to illustrate where and how rock was mined, the guide gave us a lot of history on the mine, Louisville, and the jobs the mine provided during past economic lulls.
Continuing on, visitors learn of the space being outfitted as an atomic bomb shelter during the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War. Introduced with an antique film to set the scene, visitors travel through an area with dummies in survival mode (with industrial-sized cans of water) and learn the underground bunker had room for 50,000 individuals. The cavern itself, as well as who was on the list, was top secret information.
Rounding out the tour, spectators learn of all of Mega Cavern’s current uses. It is heavily used in the city’s recycling program, there are worm farms cultivating fantastic fertilizer, storage for various businesses in the city (including art for 21c), and during the holiday season, Mega Cavern hosts “Lights Under Louisville,” an enormous holiday light show that can be viewed from individual vehicles.
A summary of the historic tram tour:
The historic tram tour is educational, entertaining and you'll leave with new insights into the history of Louisville. The tour can be a nice introduction to the cavern for you and your family before you take on the bike trails or zip lines. It is amazing the Mega Cavern exists under an urban center. That said, after spending a chunk of time underground (and seeing eerie displays of mannequins posed to illustrate a fallout shelter scenario) you'll be glad to emerge and see the sun again, too.
1841 Taylor Ave.
Louisville, KY 40213
As is common in the industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tickets for reviewing purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.