Our family had a great vacation this fall to Kentucky for our annual state trip. Each year for our anniversary we visit a new state to celebrate, hoping for my husband and I to get to all 50 eventually.
Some years we go alone, but this year we road-tripped with the kids down to KY, we stayed at a KY State Park (Natural Bridge State Park) and we visited the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. I didn't research much about either museum but went in blind, so I want to share with you our experience.
We visited on a weekday just after Labor Day weekend, so it was very quiet. We hardly saw any other school aged kids and I really enjoyed being there when it was less full. I would highly recommend going at an off time if you can, and no matter when you go I would recommend going early in the morning. It's much cooler and less crowded!
We spent about five hours there in total and wish we would have done the outdoor stuff first, because by late afternoon it was very hot and there was no shade anywhere in the zoo or other outdoor areas.
It was so cool to pull up to the parking lot and see the ark up on the hillside. Truly, it is an awesome sight. We payed for parking and our tickets ahead of time and checking in electronically was really smooth.
You have to park ($10) and take a shuttle to the ark, so be prepared to bring with you anything you need. The shuttles felt like they were constantly moving so we didn't wait long. When we shuttled back at the end of the day, the bus did not have any air conditioning, so it was an oven, but luckily it only took a few minutes to get back.
Arriving at the Ark
When you arrive, they shuffle you through a gift shop and cafe that also has a theater in it. We didn't spend much time there, other than looking at the books (of course)! We went straight to the carousel because we knew we wanted to do that and everyone from our shuttle was heading to the ark.
We were the only ones on the carousel! I don't do well with spinning rides but our four year old needed an adult to go with. I chose to sit on a stationary animal and it wasn't too spinny at all. The animals are all unique and they played epic music that made the whole experience really neat.
The staff was very kind and they offered for us to go around again, but we were eager to get inside. One of my children liked the carousel the best of anything we did that day!
Into Noah's Ark
If you want to take a family photo, the best spots are right before you head into the ark. There was a long, winding pathway that I could see could translate to a lot of waiting if we were there on a busy day. They do a great job of creating an ambiance (with rain and thunder noises) and having interesting facts to read as you're waiting.
Throughout the exhibit, there was a lot of reading. There is still a lot to see, but having even one child along who couldn't read changed the dynamic a bit. We read a lot aloud (which was easier to do since it wasn't packed) and spent a lot of time at any exhibits that had animatronic talking figures or videos.
The Main Exhibits
The whole ark experience is incredible. It is so cool to be inside a replica and I love how the exhibits take a look at the ark from all different perspectives--engineering, meteorology, genomics, etc. It was very thought provoking and fascinating! There was a lot to look at!
Throughout the three levels they address questions about food storage, building specifications, topography changes, animals (and dinosaurs), climate change, language development, creation, mythology, and more.
My favorite exhibits were these: one that showed the state of the world before the flood, one that looked at how Noah's Ark is presented in children's literature (as cutesy) vs. the reality of the event (a catastrophic, grievous event as a result of sin) and the exhibit that explained the symbolism of the door of the ark.
One Thing to Note
While there is a lot said about the ark in scripture, there is a lot that is not said. The information in the exhibits take an educated guess and scientific look at how things could have happened while remaining true to scripture.
With that said, there are things featured in the exhibits that some Christians debate about (such as the age of the earth) and nothing in the museum should be a replacement for God's word. So if you have strong feelings about dinosaurs, creation, age of the earth, etc. I would imagine not everyone will agree with everything represented. But it is fascinating!
For lunch we went to the buffet they have one site. Because of my Celiac Disease it is hard to find food but I knew ahead of time that the buffet had everything labeled, which was very nice. They don't allow outside food, so unless you want to bus back to your vehicle, eat in the hot parking lot and bus back, be prepared to spend a chunk of money on food.
All of the Extras
After the buffet we went to their zoo. They had very knowledgeable zoo handlers who were showing some of the animals. We saw wallabies, zebras, goats, a sloth, tortoises and many other animals! We made it through about 80% of the zoo when one of our children wasn't feeling well. I think it was the heat and lack of shade. So we made a bee-line back to the bus (with no air conditioning--yikes) and back to our car.
There are other extras you can pay for--a zip line, camel ride, a virtual reality experience--but we didn't do any of these. We would have loved to have made it to their playground, because we heard it was fun, but honestly we have playgrounds at home and weren't that interested in baking in direct sunlight. Is that how people roll in Kentucky; just straight sun all the time? I don't know, but in Minnesota everything is designed to incorporate shade and I was so surprised there were not more options for this.
There are at least three gift shops as well, so be forewarned that they make everything eye level enticing to kids. There were quite a few homeschool curriculum style books in the gift shops too, if you want to study this topic further.
It is a bit more expensive than it needs to be, in my opinion, but also unforgettable and very unique. I do think kids get more out of it if they can read, and kids 10 and under are free, so if you have a big family you may want to strategically plan a trip when it's least expensive.
I'm so glad we went. The Ark Encounter expanded my thinking in so many ways and was truly fascinating!
Since this is getting VERY long, so catch Part 2 for my review of the Creation Museum!