When you travel, there’s so much more than initially meets the eye—sometimes, you have to dive a little deeper. In some instances, you literally can’t see what’s going on unless you go underneath. Underground destinations don’t get enough attention, but the United States is actually full of all kinds of incredible underground wonders. In addition to the thrill of exploring worlds unknown, the majority of these destinations are at a consistent temperature throughout the year, and weather problems don’t affect them.
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The City Market Catacombs
WHERE: Indianapolis, Indiana
Underneath the vibrant city market of Indianapolis are the underground catacombs. They were once used to store fresh produce sold at the city market, but now all that remains is 20,000 square feet of archways. The catacombs are only accessible through official tours or private events, which include everything from weddings to concerts.
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The Mega Cavern
WHERE: Louisville, Kentucky
While underground destinations are usually great for those afraid of heights, the Mega Cavern stands out as the first (and so far, only) fully underground zipline and aerial ropes course. The zipline is over 70 feet above the ground and the ropes course is 25 feet above the ground, all within the cave. But for those who don’t want to go up in the air, there are also tram and walking tours available.
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The Forestiere Underground Gardens
WHERE: Fresno, California
Built by the Italian architect Baldassare Forestiere, this underground home of Forestiere and elaborate tunnels show his creative workaround for his dream of having a citrus garden. Forestiere carved the entire structure out of hardpan with rudimentary tools more than a hundred years ago and planted all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. Now, more than 100 years later, the thriving garden still provides a cool oasis to tourists.
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The Florida Caverns State Park
WHERE: Tallahassee, Florida
Just outside of Tallahassee is Florida Caverns State Park, where large underground limestone caves are open for exploration and guided tours. This state park is great for those who want to do some outdoor adventures when not exploring the underground world, with campgrounds as well as hiking and equestrian trails.
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WHERE: Chattanooga, Tennessee
The tallest and deepest underground waterfall, Ruby Falls in Chattanooga is worth a visit. It’s 1,120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, and visitors can explore it through a cave walk or an after-hours lantern tour. Outside the cave, there is a zip line course you can do before or after your cavern adventure.
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WHERE: Cincinnati, Ohio
This recently-opened underground bar rests four stories below street level in what used to be a brewery tunnel from more than a hundred years ago. Revitalized with sparkling chandeliers, plush velvet seats, and dark lighting, the bar feels like a secret hideaway reminiscent of the roaring ’20s and the affluent ’80s.
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The City Hall Subway Station
WHERE: New York City
It’s no surprise that New York City has a secret or two hiding underneath its streets. The City Hall Subway Station was once deemed the most beautiful subway station, but because its curved design couldn’t accommodate the longer, newer subway cars, the station was shut down. Now, it’s available to tour through the New York Transit Museum.
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The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library
This library at the University of Chicago has an incredible dome roof that allows a 360-view of the surrounding environment. But what’s even cooler is below the surface, where more than three million books are stored in an underground structure where they’re kept at a constant low temperature and humidity. When library-goers need a book, robotic cranes underground find and deliver it to them.
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The Greenbrier Bunker
WHERE: Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Originally built in the 1960s to house members of Congress in case of a nuclear war, the Greenbrier Bunker was decommissioned in 1995 after a Washington Post article exposed its location. Now, visitors can explore the Bunker in a group or on a private tour to see the hideaway built to hold more than 1,000 people. If you’re hoping to get a selfie in the Bunkers, you can forget about it. No electronic equipment is allowed on the tour, including cell phones and cameras.
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The Underground Mine
WHERE: Butte, Montana
Butte is one of the only places in the United States where you can see an exposed vein in an underground mine through their Mining Museum underground tour. One hundred feet underground, you can see the original shaft station, equipment from the mining days, as well as that rare exposed Orphan Girl vein.
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The Brewery Tunnels
WHERE: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati was once home to hundreds of breweries where underground tunnels were dug to keep beer cool as it fermented. These tunnels, called lagering tunnels, would keep alcohol at the perfect temperature regardless of the day or season. The tunnels were abandoned in the late 1800s when modern refrigeration rendered them useless. Only recently have they been found again and opened for tours.
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The Bank Vault
WHERE: Jacksonville, Florida
You can step into a real underground bank vault through the secret tunnels beneath Jacksonville with the Jacksonville Walking Tours. As part of the tour, you’ll be able to access otherwise inaccessible areas, getting up close and personal with the vault that has been restored to its early 1900s glory.
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The Lost Canyon Cave
WHERE: Ridgedale, Missouri
The Lost Canyon Cave is part of Big Cedar Lodge, a resort where you can enjoy the outdoors in luxury. This cave is great for those who can’t partake in a lot of walking tours, as there are electric carts available to go into the cave. You’ll see waterfalls and rock formations, and deep within the caves is the Bat Bar, where you can enjoy a boozy beverage or two.
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Bube’s Brewery and Catacombs
WHERE: Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
Forty-three feet underground you can get the fine dining experience of a lifetime at Bube’s Brewery and Catacombs Restaurant. Surrounded by stone-lined vaults, it’s quite a twist to your usual romantic dinner. Depending on the day, you might even be able to make reservations for one of the theatrical feasts, where live actors dressed in period costumes serve as dinner entertainment.