Things are definitely cooler when they’re underground. Underground lakes, underground cities, underground music….there’s just something undeniably compelling about what lies beneath the surface. Check out these incredible subterranean spots across the U.S. – they’ll make you want to remodel the basement as soon as possible.
1. Dakota's Steakhouse, Texas
This subterranean seafood & steakhouse has an interesting history. The site was once occupied by the First Dallas Baptist Church, who put a legally binding clause in the property’s deed that prohibited any future owner from selling alcohol on former church grounds. When Lincoln Property Company bought the site, they were determined to open a restaurant. Cleverly, they discovered that “on the grounds” does not include “below ground,” so the land was excavated and Dakota’s Steakhouse was built 18 feet below street level. With a garden waterfall view and luxe New Orleans-style ambiance, this restaurant feels anything but claustrophobic.
2. Vault, Cleveland, Ohio
These former bank vaults of Cleveland's elite have been transformed into private cocktail rooms and prohibition-era bars. Originally constructed in 1906 as a series of high-security vaults, this nightlife venue is now one of the hottest destinations in Cleveland.
3. Asheville Salt Cave, North Carolina
This salt therapy cave in North Carolina is truly unique. The spa environment is made of 100-percent salt, is self-sustaining and continually growing. According to the spa’s owners, the micro-climate within the cave allows your body to experience into total relaxation and rejuvenation. Visitors can book 45-minute sessions in the cave to get in touch with their salty side.
4. Bube's Brewery, Pennsylvannia
Bube's Brewery is a historic 19th-century brewery, restaurant and entertainment complex. Their subterranean dining space, The Catacombs Restaurant, is a surprisingly romantic candlelit space. They also offer ghost tours and mystery dinners, both of which sound like they’d be a million times cooler underground.
5. Mega Cavern, Kentucky
The Mega Cavern is former limestone mine in Louisville that has been transformed into a zip-ling and aerial ropes complex. This man-made cavern features 17 miles of underground tunnels and is the world’s only underground zip lining facility. It’s about 58 degrees inside the caves and you’ll need 2.5 hours to complete the tour, but don’t worry about getting tired – you’ll basically be flying through the caverns like a bat.
6. Forestiere Underground Gardens, California
Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere wanted a home that reminded him of the underground catacombs of his native country, so he built one himself. Construction on his incredible Fresno underground complex went on from 1906 to 1946 and involved the excavation of more than 10,000 square feet of space. The home includes a chapel, an underground fishing pond, and blooming fruit trees that stretch to the skylights.
7. Nevada National Security Site, Nevada
Spread out over 1,375 square miles of desert just 65 miles from Las Vegas is the Nevada National Security Site. It is an otherworldly landscape of liquified rocks (they look like glass bubbles), crumbling craters, and an eerie stillness. This is the site where the U.S. government tested nuclear bombs from the Cold War era up through the 1990s. The underground museum portion of the test site offers monthly public tours, often fully booked months in advance. Visitors are not allowed to bring in cameras, binoculars, or cell phones, nor are they permitted to pick up rocks for souvenirs. Although radioactivity levels in the water continue to decline over time, the longer-lived isotopes like plutonium or uranium could pose risks to workers or future settlers on the NNSS for tens of thousands of years.
8. The Cavern Suite at Grand Canyon Caverns Inn, Arizona
The Cavern Suite boasts that is the darkest and quietest motel room in the world, and we believe it. Located 220 feet underground, this suite has room for six and is fed clean air from the Grand Canyon through a series of limestone caves, which is a whopping 65 miles away. A stay in this underground lair will run you $800 per night for two, plus $100 for every additional person.
9. Bluegrass Underground, Tennessee
Bluegrass Underground is a monthly concert series inside the Volcano Room of the Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville. Staged 333 feet underground, these shows offer incredible acoustics and an otherworldly natural cave venue. When you’re done rocking out to the music, you can explore the breathtaking beauty of the rocky venue.
10. City Hall Subway Station, New York
This beautiful station was unveiled in 1904 and was meant to be the darling of NYC’s new subway system, but was closed in 1945 due to low usage and safety concerns, the station was closed in 1945. The and eerie beauty of this subterranean architectural jewel is well worth a visit. Simply get on the 6 train and ride on past the Brooklyn Bridge stop. You’ll pass lovely stained-glass skylights, graceful stone arches, and colorful mosaics.
11. Little Serow, Washington DC
The “little” part is no understatement – this underground Thai restaurant is tiny. It’s sort of dark, pretty intimate, and really yummy. This is definitely one spot to which you’ll have to bring an open mind and palate. The kitchen won’t make any substitutions and their authentic dishes definitely aren’t Americanized. If you can locate the unassuming entrance to this hidden gem, you’re in for the underground meal of your life.
12. Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, Illinois
Opened in 2011, this underground library is a blast from the future. Situated beneath a stunning 35-foot high glass dome and approximately a million times cooler than your local library, this place is pretty much run by robots. Rather than forcing you to comb through the shelves for a particular tome, the library has an automatic retrieval system that will locate your book, pluck it from its resting place and drop it into your waiting arms. It’s the largest such system in North America and the building has enough storage capacity to house new acquisitions for another 20 years.
13. Havre Beneath The Streets, Montana
In January of 1904, a devastating fire wiped out a large amount of the town of Havre’s businesses. Facing a lack of building materials, the business people of Havre moved their trade to the old steam tunnels running beneath the city. The tunnels were eventually abandoned and rediscovered, eventually opening in 1994 as one of the finest museums of Montana history. The hour-long tour will take you through a preserved post office, saloon, dental office, sausage shop, game room, bakery, laundry shop, barber shop, opium den, and even a brothel.
14. The Greenbrier Bunker, West Virginia
Created by the government at the Greenbrier hotel in 1961, this underground bunker features a 25-ton blast door, decontamination chambers, a hospital clinic, power plant, and a 6-month supply of food and pharmaceuticals. It was meant to shelter the U.S. government’s elite in the event of a nuclear disaster. On May 31, 1992, The Washington Post published an article which exposed the facility. As a direct result, the U.S. government began de-commissioning The Bunker and ended the lease agreement with The Greenbrier in 1995. Today, you can take a tour through the bunker and explore the top-secret underground complex meant to shelter 1,100 of the nation’s most important politicians.
15. Kokopelli's Cave, New Mexico
So you want to hang out in a cave, but you don’t like the idea of being totally shut in underground. This place strikes a perfect balance between subterranean living and access to fresh air. Set 70 feet down into the sandstone cliffs near Farmington, these luxury accommodations feature waterfall showers, Jacuzzi tubs, and cooking facilities. When you need to see a bit of sunlight, just walk out onto one of two porches that overlook the La Plata river valley…around 300 feet below.
Have you visited any of these fantastic places? Do you like being underground or do you prefer to stay topside?