Travel With Kids: Ark Encounter

Travel With Kids: Ark Encounter 1

Have you ever wondered: How BIG was Noah's Ark? Now, thanks to the team at Answers in Genesis, you can see a replica of the Ark for yourself in Williamstown, Kentucky. Spanning 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, the giant ark was built using the dimensions outlined in the Bible and sits perched on a large property that also has a zoo, a playground, multiple dining venues and gift shops, and a state-of-the-art auditorium. Visitors to the Ark Encounter enter the ark and are immersed in both fact and fiction related to what it may have been like to be onboard the ark with Noah and his family.

TICKETS TO ARK ENCOUNTER

One day tickets to the Ark Encounter are $54.95 for adults (ages 18-59), $44.95 for seniors (ages 60 and up), $24.95 for youth (ages 11-17), and $14.95 for children* (ages 5-10). Young children (ages 4 and under) are free. BUY TICKETS.

Ticket bundles are also available for multiple days or for admittance into both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.

* Note that children are currently free at the Ark Encounter through the remainder of 2022. Only one adult or senior ticket needs to be purchased for all child tickets in your party to be free. A maximum of ten free child tickets are available per online order (additional free child tickets may be obtained on site with proof of paid adult or senior ticket).

PARKING AT ARK ENCOUNTER

The Ark Encounter has a HUGE parking lot, which accommodates cars, trucks, buses, and RVs of all kinds and is easy to navigate. It's important to note, though, that the parking lot is some distance from the Ark. After parking, you go through ticket lines (which can sometimes be long) and wait to board a chartered bus, which takes you up the hill to the Ark Encounter attraction.

There is no free parking at the Ark Encounter. Parking is $15 (standard vehicle) or $20 (oversized vehicle) per day.

INSIDE THE ARK

The Ark itself is massive - an incredible and imaginative architectural marvel. In fact, the ark is the largest timber-frame structure in the world, built in part by Amish craftsmen from standing dead timber.

When you walk inside, you will be immersed in the Biblical accounts of creation and the flood with a number of state-of-the-art interactive exhibits - including the living quarters of Noah's family, cages with lifelike sculpted animals inside, and displays that demonstrate various engineering models related to how the family may have lived and worked inside the boat (Some of the questions that experts attempt to answer are: How did they get water? How did they feed the animals? etc). There are also context exhibits, which show what the world may have been like pre-flood, a godless world when "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5).

There are also excellent exhibits that showcase missionary stories, various Biblical characters, and also a very well-done room that outlines the dangers of viewing Noah's Ark as a cute fairy tale with cuddly animals and a smiling, bushy-bearded Noah. We were impressed by the quality of the artwork and would love to learn more about the artists behind the exhibits.

Our family all greatly enjoyed the graphic novel exhibit on the top floor (at the every end of the Ark Encounter - don't walk by it or miss it!). Entitled Is the Bible True?, the exhibit follows three college students as they go through hardships and discover who God is and why the Bible matters for their lives. A beautiful Gospel presentation, which was done in a moving and modern way.

* It is important to note that the aspect that we appreciated the most about the Ark Encounter was that the Gospel could be found at every turn. The entire attraction obviously was built for a purpose ("to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world") and it is wonderfully executed. Although Answers in Genesis is sometimes characterized as a a "creation versus evolution" organization, it was clear from this attraction that their primary mission is spreading the good news of salvation and hope through Jesus.

FACT & FICTION IN THE ARK

As is expected in an educational attraction of this size, some of the elements are indeed imagined. For example, Noah's wife and Noah's daughter-in-laws all have names and are given personas, despite the fact that the Bible does not explicitly name them. Another example would be that there are some sculpted animals that we cannot know with certainty if they existed inside the ark (or at all!). We felt that these additions were well-done and did not distract from the overall message of truth presented. In all of these cases, there are corresponding displays where you can read more about the theories and conclusions of historians, scientists, and Biblical scholars.

SHOWS, LECTURES, AND CONCERTS AT ARK ENCOUNTER

Our top tip for visiting the Ark Encounter is - Don't miss the Answers Center!!! The Answers Center is an adjacent building - which is home to a 2,400-seat state-of-the-art auditorium, a gift shop, a coffee shop, and a small grab-and-go cafe. You can attend lectures, concerts, and video presentations inside the Answers Center during your visit. These presentations (included with the standard ticket) were one of the most interesting and educational aspects of our visit.

A few highlights:

  • Every member of our family (ages 5-42) agreed that Unbelievable: Stories of Faith was one of our top experiences at the Ark Encounter! This dramatic presentation, performed by a four student cast of students from Bob Jones University, was very well-done and held huge appeal to us all. The combination of a talented cast, the latest technology used in a creative manner, and a well-thought-out script was powerful and engaging for all ages. Plus, teenagers who attend are offered a free BJU t-shirt after the performance if they fill out a communication card!
  • The Building of the Ark Encounter video typically plays multiple times daily (check your schedule) and offers a fascinating glimpse of not only the building process, but also the heart of the various stakeholders. The Ark Encounter was truly created to bring the Gospel message and to win people over to the truth of the Bible. The video's message was an encouraging reminder of what God can do with a wild dream and a lot of faith.

ARARAT RIDGE ZOO AT ARK ENCOUNTER

A small outdoor zoo is on-site at the Ark Encounter, which includes binturongs, camels, cranes, giraffes, kangaroos, lemurs, ostriches, sheep, sloths, tortoise, and zebras. There is also a petting area (popular among preschoolers and young children!) where you can interact with goats up-close.

* The zoo and its corresponding presentations (Keeper Chats and Animal Encounters) are included with your admission ticket, but note that camel rides and camel encounters are an additional fee.

PLAYGROUND AT ARK ENCOUNTER

There is a large, well-designed playground at the Ark Encounter - which is a very popular place for kids of all ages to play throughout the day. There are areas that are cleverly designed for toddlers as well as taller structures for older children. The playground also has a mini zipline, which kids can use themselves.

* Use of the playground is included with your admission ticket.

BUFFET AT EMZARA'S KITCHEN

There are a number of places inside the Ark Encounter where you can dine, but the most notable one is Emzara's Kitchen. This two-story, 1500-seat restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet that is pricey - but surprisingly good with a variety of foods to ensure that every family member will leave satisfied. The impressive selection includes roasted vegetables, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and breadsticks, among many other dishes. Included desserts on the day of our visit were cakes, butterscotch pudding, chocolate pudding, and blueberry donut holes. A drink is included with unlimited self-serve refills of soda, coffee, and tea.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • The cost for the all-you-can-eat buffet at Emzara's Kitchen is $16.99 for youth and adults (ages 11-59), $14.99 for seniors (ages 50+), $8.99 for children (ages 5-10), and free for young children (ages 4 and under).
  • Emzara's Kitchen is open from 1:00pm to 6:00pm on Sunday and 11:00am to 6:00pm on Monday-Saturday.
  • Common allergens are noted and displayed on every single dish (a thoughtful and helpful gesture that will aid you significantly if you are on a dairy-free, gluten-free, or vegetarian diet).
  • Seating on the second floor is far less crowded, although access to the buffet is not as good since the buffet is entirely on the first floor. That being said, we recommend choosing seats on the upstairs balcony if the weather is nice.

OTHER DINING OPTIONS AT THE ARK ENCOUNTER

There are a number of snack bars and casual dining options at the Ark Encounter, including:

  • Olive Leaf Cafe (grab-and-go inside the Answers Center)
  • Noah's Coffee (coffee, tea, and smoothies inside the Answers Center)
  • Snack Stands on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd decks inside the Ark
  • Southwest Grill (tacos and taco bowls)
  • The Village Smokehouse (pulled pork and brisket sandwiches)
  • Zofar's (burgers, pizza, hot dogs)

Although there are many picnic tables around the property, the website states that outside food and drinks are not permitted.

ARK ENCOUNTER WITH A BABY OR TODDLER

If you are visiting with a baby or toddler, consider these tips:

  • You are welcome to bring or rent a stroller, but it may be tricky to navigate inside the ark if there are crowds. If you have a small infant, you may want to opt for a baby carrier instead.
  • The Ark Encounter has nursing mother’s rooms (pictured above) on all three decks of the Ark as well as changing tables in all women’s and family restrooms.
  • The playground at the Ark Encounter has an area that is well-suited for toddlers.
  • Little ones will also enjoy meeting the goats at the petting zoo.
  • Young children (ages 4 and under) eat free at the buffet at Emzara's Kitchen.

WHAT TO WEAR TO ARK ENCOUNTER

The interior of the ark is air-conditioned in hot weather and heated in cold weather so you will be comfortable inside. That being said, many parts of the experience are outdoors (zoo, playground, zipline, etc) so we recommend that you dress for the weather.

WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE ARK ENCOUNTER

We stayed in our RV at Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown, Kentucky, which is about 30 minutes directly south on I-75. Whispering Hills was a great RV campground near the Ark Encounter. Among the amenities were a swimming pool with waterslide, a playground, a DVD and lending library, and a lake for fishing.

If we return in the future without our RV, I would likely consider Riverside Inn Bed & Breakfast (Warsaw, Kentucky - 42 minutes away) or Comfort Suites (Dry Ridge, Kentucky - 13 minutes away), both of which are highly rated.

TIPS FOR VISITING ARK ENCOUNTER

  • Choose to visit on a weekday if you have flexibility in your schedule.
  • Arrive early to get ahead of the crowds.
  • If you go through the ark and it is busy in the morning, come back again for a second walkthrough in the afternoon.
  • Bring water bottles with you. (Guests can also request a free cup of ice water at any food or snack venue where fountain drinks are sold.)
  • It is cumbersome to get to and from your car so it is best to plan ahead to eat on-site (we recommend Emzara's Kitchen!). Grilled cheese sandwiches ($5.99) and salads ($8.99) are also available for purchase as a grab-and-go option at the Olive Leaf inside the Answers Center.
  • Be sure to catch some of the shows, concerts, and lectures inside the Answers Center - which are well worth your while. As a bonus, the Answers Center is temperature-controlled and rarely crowded.
  • Take time for photos! The Ark Encounter offers many fun photo cut-outs and photo spots around the property.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR ARK ENCOUNTER

The Ark Encounter is about an hour north of Lexington, KY and 45-60 minutes south of Cincinnati, OH.

On our next trip to this area, we hope to:

ARK ENCOUNTER VERSUS CREATION MUSEUM

The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are both attractions which are owned and operated by Answers in Genesis. In fact, you can buy 2-day ticket bundles to visit both attractions.

Here is a very quick overview/comparison:

  • The Creation Museum opened in 2007 and is 75,000 square feet. The project cost $27 million to build. In addition to the main collection, the facility has a special effects theater, a planetarium, an Allosaurus skeleton, and an insect collection. The Creation Museum also serves as the headquarters for Answers in Genesis.
  • The Ark Encounter opened in 2016 and is 120,000 square feet. The project cost $102 million to build. Besides the ark itself, there are a handful of other attractions on the property, including Emzara's Kitchen, a zipline, a virtual reality theater, the Ararat Ridge zoo, and a playground.

The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter are approximately a 45-minute drive from each other.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ARK ENCOUNTER

Can our school or church bring a group to the Ark Encounter?

Absolutely! 2022 is a great year to do it since children ten and under are currently free!

Ark Encounter also offers Overnight Adventures where youth groups can spend the night inside the Ark.

How much does the zipline cost and is it worth it?

There are several options:

  • The zipline course ranges in price from $59-$139, depending on the level you choose.
  • The aerial course ranges in price from $39-$79, depending on the tier you choose.
  • Free fall options are $17.95-$29.95

We did not do the zipline on our recent one-day visit and, truth be told, we barely noticed it was even there. I'm sure it would be fun if you have a multi-day ticket, but we had plenty to do inside our one day window.

Will I have enough to do if I don't pay for the extras?

There are a lot of add-ons at the Ark Encounter - including the zipline, virtual reality, camel rides, camel encounters, a mining sluice and fossil find, an all-you-can-eat buffet, ice cream cones, snacks and sundries of all kinds, and gift shop souvenirs.

Rest assured, you can still have fun on your standard ticket alone since it includes the ark itself, shows at the Answers Center, the zoo, and the playground. It would be a good idea to budget in spending money for food though since everyone has a better time on a full stomach.

How much time should we plan to spend at the Ark Encounter?

The one-day day was perfect for our family, but we did maximize our day - arriving right on time and staying all the way until closing. If you plan to add-on the zipline, virtual reality, or other attractions, two days would be better.


Have a wonderful time at the Ark Encounter!

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