Tucked away in Lincoln, Nebraska, there’s a cave that’s been part of a brewery, brothel, shooting range, and daycare – not at the same time. Robber’s Cave has a rowdy past. Take a tour to learn all about it.
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What’s Robber’s Cave?
Robber’s Cave is a mostly man-made sandstone cave that opened in 1864. I’ve heard of it when there was a brewery there in recent years, but I never visited. It’s WILD that I’ve never visited it, though, because it’s fascinating. It’s for the “Goonies” generation (A cave under a bar…what?!).
As a side note: Yes, it’s man-made, but I rate a visit to this cave is way better cave than the other well-known Nebraska cave, Indian Cave.
It’s had many names, but the one that has stuck is Robber’s Cave. It got the name because the darkened tunnels were known to be sites for gamblers and horse thieves.
Over the years, it’s been used as a storage space for Lincoln’s first brewery, The Pioneer Brewery; a concert venue with a dance floor; a gun shooting range; and a site for keggers held be University of Nebraska-Lincoln students.
My favorite story, though, is how an older lady once had a daycare down there. And she’s not just a regular old lady. This one had pet coyotes. Presumably, they were not in the caves with the kids.
It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places. It gained attention with travelers passing through Nebraska when it was published in “Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders.”
You’ll learn all about the colorful history on the tour, or you can buy the book “Robber’s Cave: Truths, Legends, Recollections.”
Before you go – things to know about the tour
Robber’s Cave is privately owned, so it’s not a drop-in-whenever kinda of place. The first thing you should do is reserve a tour day and time.
While there is a website, you’ll need to call to make a reservation. Don’t try to show up without one because the tour capacity is limited to 30 people.
There’s no need to show up extra early for your tour. The door will not be unlocked until 5 minutes before the tour. Once inside, you can order a drink at the bar and take a restroom break before the tour begins.
You’ll pay for your tour at the end. Cards are accepted. Admission is $16 per adult, $8 for kids (ages 6-12), and $4 for kids 1-5.
First-timer cave tips
- The cave is 55 degrees year-round, making it absolutely wonderful to visit in the summer. Wear layers, because it gets cold.
- Wear close-toed shoes. First, it’s dusty and rocky and uneven terrain. Second, it’s 55 degrees down there.
- Your tour concludes with a short tale of a paranormal experience. If you or your kiddo gets spooked by that sort of thing, just head upstairs. He’ll give you warnings beforehand.
- You’re asked to not touch the cave walls, though it’s oh so tempting. There are names and dates and drawings all over the walls.
- There is one place you can touch the wall, and that will be pointed out to you. It’s made of ore, which will interest any kid who’s ever played Minecraft. I can vouch for this.
Is the cave tour kid-friendly?
There is nothing scary about the cave, nor dangerous holes to fall into. The ground is uneven in some parts, so perhaps there’s a chance of tripping.
The tour guide, Joel Green, is a middle school teacher, so he has a great way to keep a crowd’s attention with interesting facts, quirky stories, and knowing went move on.
There’s one caveat: Tours aren’t for everyone, especially active kids. You know your kid best. Will he or she get bored on an hour-long tour? Will they want to touch the walls?
Where’s Robber’s Cave?
It’s forgivable if you’ve never noticed the entrance to Robber’s Cave. It’s definitely not on a main road. Robber’s Cave is located at 925 Robbers Cave Road in Lincoln. There is a paved parking lot there.
The building above the cave doubles as an event venue.